Friday, June 8, 2018

Iapetus 2016 Tectonic, Vermont

Can an orange wine made with hybrid grapes in Vermont win the hearts of critics? We say yes!

It Ain’t Easy Being Orange

We recently had an odd experience during our Wine Studio online education program. Typical fare for our online tasting is an upper echelon wine or two from a famous wine region.

On this night, however, we were given a curveball. Instead of sipping a Cabernet from Sonoma or Argentina, we had a wine from Vermont.

We actually have had wine from Vermont before, a nice honey-elderberry wine from Caledonia Winery. Honestly, though, Vermont isn’t a hotbed of wine production, ranked as the 26th state in this category. So, we weren’t expecting to be reviewing a wine from the Green Mountain State.

Iapetus Tectonic is a surprising wine in many regards, especially the color. It is a stunning orange color. Tectonic is, in fact, an “orange” wine – a wine style thought to have originated in the Republic of Georgia 5,000 years ago. Juice from white grapes spend significant time macerating with grape skins to extract tannin and color. Normally in white wine making, the skins and juice have minimal contact to keep the flavors fresh and yield a light, bright color.

Winemaker Ethan Joseph crafted Tectonic with 100% LaCrescent grapes. This is a cold-resistant hybrid grape, perfect for the cold Vermont winters. Many wine connoisseurs sniff at the mention of hybrid grapes – but we’ve tasted many and have several favorites. Tectonic shows just what magic can be made with hybrids.

A New Wine Dictionary

This is a micro-production wine. Only 132 cases were made – displaying the craftsmanship you might expect from a Vermont artisan. The grapes spent 50 days macerating on the skins. After that, three quarters of the wine was sent to neutral oak to age sur lee with weekly battonage (stirring) for three and a half months. The other quarter was aged in stainless steel. The lots were then blended prior to bottling.

Iapetus wines use wild fermentation and are unfiltered and unfined. The curiously attractive bottle looks like an orange lava lamp with swirling sediment creating a cloudy visage.

Sipping the wine, I remarked that a whole new dictionary was needed to describe the wine. This is not your usual bottle of vino. We had the wine chilled down as we typically do for whites. The first sip had a blast of brininess – salt-like. As we puzzled about that, the wine began to warm up and the prominent flavor was an explosion of tangerine rind with notes of clove.

Iapetus, named for an ancient ocean that once covered Lake Champlain, is a collection of experimental wines. Tectonic is engaging and fascinating and one of the most unique wines we’ve tasted in a while.

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