All I Want for Valentine’s Day Is Some Skin Contact

All ‘orange wine’ is skin contact but not all skin contact wine is orange. Do you care? Whether you do or do not, this is Valentine’s Day I speak of, so if you are like me, you could use some skin contact. ‘Orange wine’ and ‘skin contact wine’ are both terms for white grapes that spend more time on their skins than most white grapes. I think of it as reverse rosé (red grapes that spend less time on their skins than usual) but with white grapes. With the rise of the natural wine movement has come a renewed interest in these wines at first (and still to some extent still) called ‘orange’ wine. I get the beef with calling them ‘orange’ seeing they are not all that color, and they are not made with oranges. Based on how stylish skin contact/orange wine has been in hip natty wine circles, I would like us to all start calling it ‘touché blanc’ because, like, it has touchéd the skins. Sure, touché has a different meaning than touch but a) I like word-play and b) a bartender trying me on yet another mousy natty skin contact wine informing me that ‘some people don’t like skin contact wine’ when I reject it makes me want to say ‘I like GOOD skin contact wine’ and in an ideal world the bartender would say ‘touché’ and serve me a wine that is not flawed. But yeah, I love good skin contact wines. Granted there are all shades and sorts and some have spent time in oak or eggs or amphorae or underground qvevri so…much as rosés run the gamut from close-your-eyes-you’ll-think-it’s-white to the rich nearly-a-red cerasuolos, so skin contact wine ranges from innocent kiss on the cheek gold to full on bondage burnished pumpkin. Omg what if we rebrand them as pumpkin spice wine? Mind exploded. Let’s not do that I need my mind. Shower skin contact? I’ve also heard eating oranges in the shower is a thing so I guess I HAVE to pick one. Skip to the end if you must know now. Otherwise read through and make your guesses. Now, I give you what to drink pending what sort of V-Day date you are having with skin contact (and if that skin contact involves another human not just a glass of wine, may I suggest pairing the date with a COVID test). Okay. YOU’RE OPEN TO KINK You’ve had skin contact wine. You are open to it not tasting like most ‘conventional wines’. You ready to be both surprised and pleased. 2018 La Ginestra Sant’Ellero Toscano Bianco My first notes were holy reductive or is that hella VA on the nose! I was a little alarmed and slightly turned on. It was alive (promising for a first date). In my mouth the kerosene, toner, and acetaldehyde—is that notes of bruised apple and golden hay?—revealed honeydew melon, more apples but greener those ones, and a bit of floral white pepper. This wine executes kinetic petit allegros not always graceful but enthralling. Its fine tannins (phenolic bitterness anyone?) both tickle and tantalize the roof of your mouth, and if you are the bottom and your wine is the top, you do want a wine with just the right level of grip. Relax into it. I did not see this coming. YOU WANT DEPENDIBILITY (WHICH DOESN’T NECESSARILY MEAN BOREDOM) I’ve come back to Union Sacré’s wines a few times in the last year. You can rely on it to be there, but also to be interesting. Marriage material? 2019 Union Sacré Belle de Nuit Central Coast Gewürztraminer What fun. A pleasant dependable walk you welcome into your life. The skin-contact is rather minimal, but it does show up. It surely is subtle, but you have the urge to take the journey with it, which is part of the fun. Classic Gewürtz markers like aromas of lychee and rose put a respectable hand on the small of your back and take you through the flower garden, and by the end of your introduction you’ll let this wine tickle you with ever-so-light tannins then spritz you in grapefruit bitters and you trust it to never overwhelm you, but playtime will happen if you pay attention. WHEN IT’S YOUR FIRST TIME WITH SKIN CONTACT If it is your first time with skin contact, you may want one with a gentle hand. I. Brand 2019 La Marea Albariño Alt Cut Kristy’s Vineyard As you might suspect this is the B-side equivalent of their regular Kristy’s Albariño. A mere 4 barrels were set aside and given three days of skin contact. Smells like golden raisins soaked in orange flower water and fig paste, tastes like orange and lemon rind plus white peach flesh marinated in a flower garden. Then there is a pinch of salt and white pepper. I have not had the regular Kristy’s but could it—would it top this? This is the innocent kiss on the cheek maybe even just-holding-hands skin contact. This is first base contact. There will be a second date. Maybe tomorrow. YOU WANT IT ROUGH, BUT OLD-FASHIONED You’re into well-honed wine that has enough experience in skin-contact to rough you in the right ways. Look to this offering from Georgia 2018 Shalouri Cellars Rkatsiteli-Mtsvane Georgia has been at it with the skin contact forever! Forever-ish at any rate not sure if when dinosaurs ruled the earth they were fermenting grapes (purposefully). And Georgian wines oft do a method of aging in qvevri, earthen vessels buried underground. It gives the wine the I-do-not-know-what-element. That is the lovely mystery of wine. The nose is wax, formed in an old cave. You hear water tricking down the stalactites in and taste bitter honey. Can honey be bitter? In this wine anything is okay as long as you know your safe word. Once in the mouth the tannins are not shy. But as they take control there is soothing incense burning in the background. There is bitterness, but it is doled out with orange flower care. You feel intense but also safe. Be in the right mood for this wine and you win. YOU HAVE BEEN THE SWITZERLAND OF ORANGE WINE FEELINGS BUT ARE FEELING OPEN You don’t know—could skin contact be the one? Or do you just want another date to get to know them further? You need a diplomatic skin contact. 2017 Paraschos Sauvignon Two years in Slavonian oak. It’s like hi I am totally natty, I look natty. But! I smell and taste like natty that has been to etiquette school. A polite natty. Skin contact sauvignon blanc from Friuli-Venezia Giulia, it looks quite orange-y and amber-y and packs a smell punch: amber, resin, and just a hint of asparagus… but tastes more subtle. At first I thought it…did not taste like sauvignon blanc to me in the slightest, but as I gave the wine some breathing room to express itself, I encountered a hint of gooseberry. And the tannins are nice! They carry all the flavors over your tongue in a concise way that neither is too quick, nor do they overstay their welcome. Now what you have all (maybe?) been waiting for—my shower skin contact wine! Baby, I’m taking the Shalouri with me. I haven’t tried it, but if it knows what it is doing underground in qvevri, I expect it to perform equally well in the shower. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Want to read more from Ellen? Check out her recent articles: Bridgerton, Beverage by Beverage Make Your Own Wine Winter Whites Wine For Kamala Women in Castles Down by the Loire River Whole Wine - Pairing Optional Goth Wines for the Perennially October Soul Back to School More Than Port You can also listen to Ellen's podcast , The Wine Situation here . Check out her recent transcripts of the Final Five questions: Wine Situation Final Five! With Lisa Warr-King Packer Wine Situation Final Five! With Rebecca Rose Phillips


Sauvignon 2017

It’s skin contact and you’ve taken the training wheels off but your dad may be trotting behind to make sure you don’t fall. It smells more...challenging? than it is on the palate. Interesting, complex, welcoming. — 3 years ago

Paul, Trixie and 15 others liked this

La Ginestra

Sant' Ellero Bianco Trebbiano - Chardonnay Blend 2018

It may lead with VA and reduction but that animal energy—it’s a turn on, particularly once I braced myself and sipped and the acetaldehyde (bruised apples and hay anyone?) gave way to white peppered honeydew melon. Those tannins borne of skin contact hold you down in just the right way. It is kinetic. It is not elegant but brutally graceful in its irreverence. It cares not about you, but is so compelling you care not, you’re along for the ride. — 3 years ago

Daniel, barak heller and 13 others liked this
Ellen Clifford

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@Max Conrad my next article will be filled with suggestions!
Max Conrad

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Loved it
Ellen Clifford

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@Max Conrad oh you got to try it? Yay! Glad I didn’t steer you wrong...

Union Sacré

Belle de Nuit Central Coast Gewürztraminer 2019

Chasing my chaotic self-administered pandemic hair chopping with a Gewurtz from Arroyo Seco which seems to me apropos as I imagine the region as wind-swept and tousled. This wine is not so much and that is a good thing. All is in harmony. There is just the right amount of everything and it hits you in order—the lychees are followed by a green lawn leading to the flower garden full of roses and gardenias all spirited along by a nice amount of acid and powered by a prickling tannin. I’m not normally the biggest Gewurtz fan but I’d reach for this a second time. I’d maybe even pair it with a “hard to pair” thing like artichoke. Something about the floral nature of both I think could line up. Is that crazy? Maybe. But this is coming from someone who just used her kitchen scissors to give herself an intentionally asymmetrical haircut. — 3 years ago

Paul, Trixie and 14 others liked this
Paul T- Huntington Beach

Paul T- Huntington Beach

Ellen Clifford

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@Paul T- Huntington Beach doing my best here! 😂

Shalauri Cellars

Kakheti Rkatsiteli Mtsvane 2018

When I say I want an orange wine—this is what I want. It is clean, it is tannic, it is complex and it conjures up the mystique rightfully accompanying a wine aged in qvevri buried in this crazy planet we call Earth. It tastes of bitters, but also honey, and an resinous substance—let’s call it myrhh. Note to self: replenish incense stocks and refresh sense memories of such things. The tannins may manhandle you a bit but think of them as leading the dance, not cutting in where they aren’t wanted. — 3 years ago

Trixie, Daniel P. and 12 others liked this

La Marea

Alternate Cut Albariño 2019

Hey hi hello. Experimenting is fun. This is the alt cut. I don’t know what the regular one is but am happy to stay with this one. Salted and white peppered golden raisins and orange flower water flowing over all, garnished with lemon rind. Playful and intentionally so. — 3 years ago

Paul, Trixie and 13 others liked this