Basics: Ramato, the Unexpected Rosé Alternative | Wine Enthusiast
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Ramato, the Unexpected Rosé Alternative

Rosés have become a strong player in the wine world, as have “orange” wines (skin-macerated white wines with an orange hue). But there’s a gorgeous, copper-colored wine that dances the line between orange and pink, and is gaining popularity among American wine consumers and producers alike: Ramato.

With origins in Italy’s northeastern province of Friuli Venezia Giulia, Ramato (Italian for “auburn” or “copper”) wines are produced by macerating Pinot Grigio grape must with its skins. The skins’ pink hue give the wines color from a semi-pale pink to dark orange, depending on maceration time.

Ramato wines are distinctive for their baking spice, dried fruit, tropical fruit and herbal aromas. On the palate, they offer more dried fruit with stone fruit skins and spice. The wines can display good structure and tannin, making them a match for diverse styles of cuisines and dishes.

James Christopher Tracy, partner and winemaker at Long Island-based Channing Daughters Winery, began to make skin-fermented white wines in 2004. Today, the winery boasts five Rosati in its portfolio.

“[Ramato wines] reflect our place and offer a unique perspective and drinking experience,” he says.

The Pinot Grigio that grows at both Channing Daughters’ home farm in Bridgehampton and at the Mudd West Vineyard on the Long Island’s North Fork are very well-situated for Ramato. “Our moderate maritime climate provides the growing conditions for ripe healthy grapes that have the analytical and organoleptic qualities needed,” says Tracy.

The winery harvests by hand, destems and stomps its Pinot Grigio by foot before the juice ferments with wild yeasts in small bins. It sees about three weeks of skin contact and is matured in large, old French and Slovenian oak puncheons for 18 months.

In Dundee, Oregon, Cameron Winery owner and winemaker, John Paul Cameron, creates a Ramato at his estate. “Since I had always disliked Pinot Grigio as a white wine, I decided to look into it further,” he says.

Cameron says that Pinot Grigio must hang on the vines longer to develop the color necessary to create a Ramato. In doing so, the skins begin to lose some of their bitter tannins, he says, which makes the wine more accessible and drinkable.

Cameron crushes the fruit and extracts the must for four to five hours before he presses. After fermentation in large barrels, the wine ages six to eight months in neutral oak barrels, which allows unstable proteins to separate from the wine in barrel.

“I have experienced great enthusiasm on the part of consumers with comments such as, ‘If I knew that Pinot Gris could taste like this, I’d like Pinot Gris.’ ” says Cameron.

Hardy Wallace, co-owner and winemaker at California-based Dirty & Rowdy, says that skin-contact wines made from the right varieties can amplify both varietal character and soil expression. Although Dirty & Rowdy doesn’t grow Pinot Grigio, it began to blend a portion of skin-contact wine into their Sémillon-based whites in 2011.

“We loved the bump we’d get from the skins, and the lower pH we’d get from the direct to press,” he says. “In a space where we are trying to make the most complete and distinctive expression of a place in space, a little bit of skins can go a long way.”

For rosé aficionados who seek something off the beaten path, or those a little over the rosé trend, Ramato could be your next obsession.

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