Keltis - Sivi Pinot 2020

We're drinking a bottle of Keltis Sivi Pinot 2020 from Slovenia, an orange wine made from Pinot Gris.

Keep your eyes peeled when choosing wine. Somehow, my subconscious thought that this wine had to be red. Obviously, that’s not the case, and by now, I also know that ‘Sivi Pinot’ simply translates to Pinot Gris. At least, I unintentionally hit the mark in terms of winemaking style, as this Pinot Gris spends six days on the skins, making it closer to red wine than white. And since Pinot Gris naturally has relatively dark skins, ‘orange’ here describes not only the wine style but is also a wonderfully fitting color description for what you pour into your glass. Bizeljsko is a subregion in the Posavje wine region in eastern Slovenia, bordering Croatia. Marijan Kelhar has been making wine here since the 1980s, and now his son Miha is also on board. The family owns about 24 hectares of land, of which only five are planted with vines, the rest is forest and pasture for cows. The entire land is cultivated organically, and the vines for this wine grow on slate, clay, and sandstone soils. The grapes are naturally handpicked, in this case with a proportion of botrytis in the grapes. Then comes the mentioned six days on the skins, spontaneous fermentation without added yeast, followed by one year of aging in used 500-liter barrels before being bottled with a small amount of sulfur.

There’s honey on the nose, something earthy, but also red fruit, some smoke, and fresh wood. There’s also a hint of glue, but despite that, the wine feels very clean and somehow clear in an interesting way. That’s exactly how it tastes too. Lots of traction, fresh, with very fine tannins. All of this lingers on the palate for a long time, and even after the wine has disappeared from the mouth, it still tastes like forest honey. In fact, in terms of mouthfeel, it’s much closer to red than white, probably even unmistakably red if tasted blind. But as mentioned earlier, Pinot Gris with its dark skins is already halfway there. Although I enjoy orange wines, I don’t drink them very often. That’s simply because they often are exhausting or unclean. This, in a way, creates an inner hurdle that a bottle has to overcome. It requires a mental setting, an attitude that starts buffering in advance in case the wine doesn’t work again, and I’ve practically already mentally selected a replacement bottle. Alternatively, not knowing what’s in the bottle you’re opening seems to work just as well. However, nothing is exhausting here. The wine is naturally unusual and different, and of course, somewhat wild. But at the same time, it’s so clean, so clear, and drinkable, which is not something you often find in such a wine.

After a night in the refrigerator, the wine becomes even darker in color. It looks like when you haven’t drunk water for a long time and then… but let’s leave that aside. Now there’s black peach iced tea without sugar on the nose, juicy, fresh, and still very clear. I’m not so sure anymore where one would classify this blind, but actually, that’s not important at all. Another problem I have with orange wine, in particular, is that the tannin often feels out of place to me on the second evening, as if wine and tannin are no longer a unit. Natural red wines often have that too. But here’s some good news on that front as well. Everything stays together, dense, fresh, and now also equipped with pretty crisp acidity on the tip of the tongue. This might be the most ‘orange’ wine, and yet, I would recommend it to orange wine skeptics. This is one of those wines where I’m sure that even if you don’t like it, you’ll acknowledge how well-made the wine is. You feel like the winemaker knew exactly what he wanted to do and then made it happen. Regardless of low intervention or not, in the end, the winemaker still sets the course, decides, guides, and directs. The decision to not do anything at a certain moment is also a decision, and perhaps one that requires even more preparation than intervening correctively. And here, that worked extremely well.

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