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Nov Advocate 2017

846 THE ADVOCATE VOL. 75 PART 6 NOVEMBER 2017 So why make this stuff? Well, historically, because it was the easiest way to make wine. The earliest evidence of grapes is of fossilized vines from 60 million years back, which means they pre-date man. Even on their more limited brain wattage, our prehistoric ancestors likely figured out that rotten grapes were more fun than fresh ones. As one wag has put it, the earliest recipe for wine probably went something like: “Put grapes in a pot and let it sit until the flies start to stagger. Drink the juice. Don’t move your head too fast the next morning.” While there are no written records of that recipe, pots with fossilized grape waste and flies have been found. Seven-thousand-year-old “presscake” (the flattened skins, seeds and stems left after pressing off the juice) has been found in areas like Iraq and Georgia, the “cradle” of winemaking. Viticultural evidence in these regions goes back to between 7,000 and 5,000 B.C. when the peoples of the South Caucasus found that jars of wild grape juice became wine if left over winter in a shallow pit. By 4,000 B.C. Georgians were cultivating grapes and crushing the fruit (probably with skins, seeds and clusters) in a type of clay jar called a kvevri, topped with a wooden lid and covered and sealed with earth and buried. Some remained entombed for up to 50 years before consumption, as the ground kept them cool and served a function akin to wine caves or cellars now. There was no distinction of varieties or colours. The end result was likely all a dull brown and hugely oxidized mélange (like modern Sherries or Madeira, but without the extra buzz from adding distilled alcohol). This tradition of making wine in buried kvevri continued in Georgia over the ages, but the product was consumed locally and the practice, until the last couple of decades, remained under the radar to the rest of the wine world. This tradition also finds a home in Friuli, Italy and neighbouring Brda in Slovenia, where “maceration of white grapes is as old as the Collio hills”. The following account appeared in a 2015 Decanter article exploring the history of orange-wine vinification: There’s a very practical basis: macerated white wines generally have increased longevity, due to the antioxidants in the tannins which act as a preservative. In 1844, Matija Vertovec, a priest from the nearby Vipava Valley, listed the benefits in his manual Vinoreja za Slovence (Winemaking for Slovenians). He recommends skin macerations ‘from 24 hours to 30 days’, noting ‘it improves the flavour and durability of the wine, and ensures it will ferment to dryness’. Nevertheless, this venerable method was largely forgotten as wineries industrialised in the 1970s—stainless steel tanks and cultured yeasts were the new religion and fresh, neutral water-white Pinot Grigio the holy grail. Fast forward to the mid-1990s: Stanislao ‘Stanko’ Radikon and Josko Gravner, two established producers from the village of Oslavia, were


Nov Advocate 2017
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