Here’s a hot tip for looking clever when you’re next browsing a wine list – forego the usual whites or reds and ask instead to see the “skin-contact” wines.
Made using an ancient winemaking technique that originated in Georgia, skin-contact wines have undergone a revival in Australia, starting out in edgy wine bars before going mainstream this year, popping up on the lists of Melbourne’s best restaurants.
The technique borrows from red winemaking, whereby juice from crushed grapes is left to sit on the skins, which impart aromas and texture, rather than the more traditional method of maturation in oak. This makes these wines incredibly versatile with food, which is why they’re the latest favourites for sommeliers.
Cutler & Co sommelier Liam O’Brien included skin-contact wines on the list when launching the restaurant’s cool sister wine bar, Marion, last year. It opened with a skin-contact white on pour by the glass, but interest grew so quickly it made sense to offer the wines at Cutler & Co.
The restaurant’s list now has three sections of skin-contact wines, categorised as light, medium and orange-coloured extended contact.
“Skin-contact wines are less about fruit and more about structure,” Liam says. He generally recommends the style when he thinks a dish is “white wine weight” but the flavours or cooking technique are pushing towards red wine.
“I like to use them when there’s contrast in the dish – fresh elements but also richer ones.”
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