In the past decade, skin contact white wine, or amber wine / white wine with maceration, has gained increasing attention by media, sommeliers and wine lovers. In November 2020, the prestigious International Organisation for Vine and Wine (OIV) added an 8th category to their official list of wine styles: white wine with maceration.
HK IWSC Skin Contact White Wine Category is a celebration of this global trend, and a recognition for winemakers who embrace this traditional winemaking technique and promote the wines to the world.
What is Skin Contact White Wine?
The term skin-contact wine refers to white wines that are fermented briefly – or entirely – with their grape skins hovering in the juice. Though the term is typically applied only to white wines, in truth, red and rosé wines are also skin-contact wines. The concept of skin-contact wines is ancient, but the terms used to describe the process are relatively new and include: skin-fermented wine, skin-maceration wines, orange wines, white wines with maceration, amber wines and a few more.
Like tea leaves in a teapot, the longer the grape skins rest with the juice, the deeper the colour, the more concentrated the flavour and the more tannic the texture of the final wine. A white wine's period of skin contact runs the gamut and depends upon the winemaker’s philosophy. For example, during Georgian traditional winemaking, grape skins mingle with the juice throughout fermentation and linger afterwards for 3-6 months. The period of contact between the juice, skins and seeds during maceration has a significant impact on the composition and sensory characters of the resulting wine.
Amber Wine Around the World
Georgia’s amber wines have influenced winemakers around the world, especially within natural wine community. We can now see more and more skin contact wines from almost every winemaking countries, such as Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Slovenia, Australia, South Africa, USA and Canada.
Definition by OIV
Below definition is quoted from OIV - International Organisation for Vine and Wine. It can be regarded as the official definition of the category for winemakers' reference, before submitting their wines to the competition.
White wine derived from alcoholic fermentation of a must with prolonged contact with grape pomace, including skins, pulp, seeds and eventually stems.
- Winemaking is conducted exclusively using white grapes varieties;
- the maceration is carried out in contact with grape pomace;
- the minimum duration of the maceration phase is 1 month;
- “White wine with maceration” can be characterised by an orange-amber colour and a tannic taste.
Why Should Wineries Participate in the Skin Contact Wine Wine Category?
Participating in the HK IWSC can provide wineries with valuable exposure to media and sommeliers in Asia. Winning the award or even being a trophy winner can help raise awareness of a winery's skin contact white wine offerings and attract new customers.
When wines are categorised into skin contact white wine category, experts in the area will be able to provide unbiased judgement to the wines. Wineries can use the feedbacks to refine their production techniques to make wines suitable for Asian palate.