I had a great lunch last week with two wine buyers I know and respect. One is based here in the Bay Area and the other based in New York. Among the many topics we talked about, we couldn’t help but turn to the recent column in Forbes titled, “Why Tecate is Greater Than Orange Wine.” We all agreed on two things:
One, Richard Betts is correct in stating many orange wines are not very good. Of course, we also talked about many other large groupings of wine that are not very good. (Sonoma Pinot was mentioned as another example – not by me.) That said, our second agreement was that there are many orange wines we love and that are delicious.
I reread the article on my ride home from the city and thought about my first logic class, specifically, (I had to look this up to remember) Aristotle’s 13 Sophistical Refutations. Whether Aristotle was a wine drinker or not, his logic pertains in defense of orange.
1. Petitio Principii (Begging the question) Mr. Betts provides a flawed, as well as pejorative definition of orange wines in which the definition entails the conclusion he makes about orange wines. (The widely accepted definition of orange wine is wine made from white grapes with skin contact. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orange_wine for example.) It is not required to allow oxidation nor volatile acidity development to create an orange wine. Kombucha, made from tea and sugar, is not made via extended skin contact with grapes. Perhaps the flavors from the Brettanomyces bruxellensis often found in Kombucha is what Betts got mixed up with.
2. Amphibology (Ambiguous from uncertainty) Another flaw in Mr. Betts argument is his insistence that orange wine diminish terroir. He feels one can make the same wine in Texas as Friuli. But he has not tested this theory, it is simply a “feeling.” I have a feeling I’ll win the lottery today – sadly this feeling doesn’t make it true.
One can argue the opposite point, that making orange wine increases terroir. Many wine writers think terroir characteristics are hidden by invasive and intensive winemaking. What could be less intensive then leaving the wine with their skins?
From my own experience, the Roussanne we make into Stonecrusher struggles to ferment when pressed before fermentation. Without skins, the nutrient deficit is so great, that fermentations lasted months on end. Allowing the wine to ferment on the skins solved this problem. For me, the terroir speaks most clearly though the skin contact.
3. Cum hoc, ergo propter hoc (With this, therefore because of this) Mr. Betts continues his argument with quotes from several influential wine personalities whom I admire. One person, as quoted, equates open top fermentation with oxidation issues. One can make oxidative wine in an open top fermentation vessel – one can also make it in a closed top fermentation vessel. Wine releases CO2 during fermentation. CO2 is heavier than nitrogen and oxygen, the main component of air, and thus the CO2 creates a protective layer on top of the grapes. (I do fully agree with Mr. Betts on recommending St. Vincent, David Lynch’s great wine bar/restaurant in the Mission. It’s a great place for wine and a bite to eat. And full disclosure, even a better place to try our Grenache Blanc.)
4. Equivocation (To call by the same name) The pairing example is an example of Ignoratio Elenchi (irrelevant conclusion). Suggesting that pairing a Radikon with a Petrale Sole makes you a “dipshit” doesn’t mean the Radikon is a bad wine. It solely means that it is a bad pairing. Similarly, pairing a young Barolo or a Napa Cabernet with Petrale Sole would also make you a “dipshit,” but it does not make either wine inherently bad.
Anyway, enough said. I am going to chill a bottle of Orange wine tonight and enjoy it!