FRIULI - ITALY
“Skerk exemplifies the magical, quiet presence of the region. His wines and personality both showcase a steady persistence, carried on fine frame, with elegant aromatics, and savoury delicate palate… It is hard to describe the stimulation and life found in a glass of Skerk wine — they are simultaneously clean, and unexpected; at once pretty and yet carrying notes of meat; the palate persists through delicate frame full of sapidity and Italian ‘salato'. These are wines designed to showcase tradition and elegance both.” - Elaine Chukan Brown
Sandi Skerk's property is only 500m from the border of Slovenia in the Carso appellation of Friuli in the far North Eastern corner of Italy. Tasted out of context it is difficult to know what to make of the wines. However, upon meeting Sandi, seeing his vineyards, his cellar, and listening to his winemaking philosophy, it becomes entirely clear how special the wines are and what Sandi is trying to achieve by making them.
Like many in the Carso, their production is very small, totally natural and involves skin contact with indigenous white varieties. Friuli is a veritable feast of natural, artisan wine production where orange wines are the norm and wild yeasts used without question. Sandi produces some of the regions best; delicious textural wines with great personality, plenty of depth and friendly richness which makes them more approachable than some of the wines of his contemporaries.
Skerk remains organically certified, as he has been for nearly 15 years, but still refuses to mention it on the bottle due to his dissatisfaction with the weak standards allowed by the certifying bodies.
His entire process is natural, not because it is the trendy thing to do, but because it does not make sense to Sandi to make wine any other way. When asked about the style of winemaking that seems to be the trend in the Carso DOC, ie. long skin contact for the whites, Sandi talks about the great respect he has for his grandfather, who also made wine on the family's property, and about wanting to follow his technique. Making wine before it was common to use SO2 as a preservative, Sandi's grandfather used the technique of extended skin contact for his white wines. The tannins in the skins protect the wines from oxidation, allowing Sandi to use very little SO2 in his winemaking. Making wine naturally requires great care in the vineyards and the winery. Sandi is one of the great winemakers making natural wine well; his wines show impressive clarity, balance, and depth on the palate.
Skerk Vitovska 2015
Ian D’Agata, vinous.com - “Medium dark golden-tinged yellow. Apple cider and chamomile complicate ripe apricot, orange zest and botanical herbs on the nose. Enters fresh and linear, then becomes more complex with a savory edge to the herbal and citrus peel flavors. Finishes long with hints of quinine and wet stone. Only 11.5% alcohol and plenty of flavor.”
Skerk Malvasia 2015
Ian D’Agata, vinous.com - “Bright medium orange-yellow. Slightly muted aromas of white flowers, bergamot, and candied orange. Then bright and fresh, with a laser-like precision to the lime, crystallized lemon peel, white peach and aromatic herb flavors thanks to a noteworthy but harmonious acid spine. Finishes with an aromatic note of pepper and tropical fruit, plus an intriguing touch of dry herbs and earth tones. Clocks in at 14% alcohol but manages to stay away from overdone and hot. Nice wine that grows on you, but of course, you have to like macerated orange-like wines.”
Skerk ‘Ograde’ 2015
Taking its name from the Slovenian word for 'fences' the Ograde draws its fruit from hills that lie along the old Iron Curtain, roughly 230 meters in altitude. A blend of Vitovska, Malvasia, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio, this is an outright orange wine that shines in the glass with copper and amber intensity. It delivers a unique bouquet with elements of candied fruit and caramel, alongside softer shadings of beeswax, apricot confit and even a distant touch of crushed stone, button mushroom and rosemary essence.
Ian D’Agata, vinous.com - “Bright dark orange. Very intense lavender, rose water, crystallized apricot and ginger on the perfumed nose. Clean fresh and long, with flavors similar to the aromas and a steely backbone of acidity and youthfully chewy tannins that keep the mouth clean and wanting to drink more. As far as Italian orange wines go, this is a work of art. Only 13% alcohol.”
Skerk Terrano 2015
Monica Larner - "A pure expression of the local Terrano grape. Representing its own unique set of aromas, the bouquet is equally fascinating and wild. This offbeat wine charms the senses with wild berry, rose and an ample supply of freshly milled white pepper. Your nose almost twitches in reaction to those pure pepper smells. I love it. This is precisely the wine I'd want to reach for when looking for new and exciting tastes. The mouthfeel is lean, tight and acidic, but you have enough fiber here to pair with homemade fried chicken."
Ian D’Agata, vinous.com - “Bright purple-ruby. Perfumed aromas and flavors of candied blackberry, blueberry syrup but also a floral reminders of rose and violet. Very clean and fresh with long laser-like acidity and a bright fruitiness.”