Brash Higgins Zibibbo 2018
We found this wine on our tour of McLaren Vale in the winter of 2019. It was among the first wines that we tried on the trip and it was the wine that eight, grizzled, hard-to-please wine merchants were still talking about two weeks later after a gruelling schedule during which we tasted hundreds of wines from dozens of winemakers. We dubbed it “sunshine in a glass” and imported it in partnership with a friend made on the trip. Only three merchants in the country carry this stunning wine and we count ourselves very lucky to be among that number.
It’s a soft entry to the world of “orange wines” (white wines that are made in a similar style to red wines leaving skins in contact with the wine during fermentation and aging – in this case all done in large clay amphora). It’s ridiculously moreish. In fact, in a tasting note that I really think is underused in the wine world, we declare it to be “extremely smashable”. I taste really bright citrus fruits, honey, beeswax and manderin oranges and the skin contact gives the wine a lovely texture. The wine’s unfiltered and has no added sulphites and, at just 11.8% abv, Zibibbo won’t punish you too much the next morning unless you break into a second bottle… which you just might.
You could pair it with some foods, and very interesting it would be too. We’ve sent a bottle to Fiona Beckett (the Guardian’s Food and Wine matching guru) for her view. But really this wine comes into it’s own as an aperitif or just forget the notion of food altogether and enjoy it in the sunshine.
Zibibbo is an ancient, aromatic white grape from the Muscat family grown in the warmth of the Mediterranean and South Australia. From fruit grown at Ricca Terra Farms in the sunny Riverland, the varietal was chosen for its potential to develop length and complexity from longer skin contact, the wine is fruity yet bone dry; reminiscent of something from Alice in Wonderland, where things aren’t always as they seem.
Hand picked, the golf ball sized, bronze fruit was destemmed into waiting terracotta amphorae. A wild ferment ensued with the caps hand plunged twice daily until the ferment finished and the skins sank into the wine. The skins, seeds and juice remained covered in situ for six months. A natural FLOR layer of yeast volunteers itself and covers and helps protect the wine. The ‘free run’ was siphoned off in spring and combined with the pressings. The wine settles before being racked and sent to bottle unfiltered and unfined.
‘Cloudy and a diaphanous, pale yellow in appearance. The wine is dry yet exudes tantalising herbal, spice and stone fruit aromas. Complex nose of peach, graphite/pencil shavings, cut ginger, cloves, elderflower, white pepper, Belgian white ale, and wild honey leaps from the glass. On the palate, the wine has a soft entry but with good grip, an earthy sweet chalk/clay element with notes of lemon oil, tangerines, tea and cinnamon apples.’
Brad Hickey, Vinitor, December 12, 2018.
Price per case (up to 12 bottles)
England and Wales £14
Scotland and Northern Ireland £20
Free delivery in Cornwall for orders over £80
Free delivery in England and Wales for case price over £250