In a stunning moment of honesty, celebrated traditional winemaker Josko Gravner admitted to adulterating his famous amphorae-aged orange wines by adding significant amounts of the children’s “juice-like beverage” SunnyD.
Gravner has been recognized world-wide as the man who brought orange-hued wines to the “general” public. A few top sommeliers in a couple major cities now sell at least two bottles a year of this Caucasian specialty. In the Bay Area alone, diners can sample this curious beverage in as many as two wine bars. This is a marked jump in popularity from pre-Graver days (any time before 2009), when orange wine couldn’t be found anywhere outside of Georgia (the country) or Slovenia.
“It was too difficult to continue producing true orange wine in the classical tradition,” admitted Gravner through an Italian translator. Indeed, producing real orange wine is an art form, and the winemaker must know precisely how long to let the pressed juice ferment with the grape skins. “Literally one secondi too long and the wine is ruined,” sighed Gravner.
This risk translates to a high cost of production; hence the use of dirt-cheap orange “juice.” SunnyD costs approximately $0.02 per gallon in bulk, and has few duty taxes added when shipped oversees, explained international customs expert and health food junkie, Dan Smith. “The way I see it, the U.S. is itching to get more of its corn-based products sold oversees in order to gain more life-long ‘customers’ [note actual use of scarequotes]. They’re willing to ship just about any corn product dirt-cheap. Especially these semi-juices, as I like to call them, that are laden with high fructose corn syrup,” he explained.
While he wouldn’t give complete details, Gravner was able to hint at his new process: “The white wine, it tastes pretty good on its own. Then I add a little bit of orange color, a little bit of complexity from the juice. Voila! Orange.” Gravner does continue to age his SunnyD-filled wines for a couple of years to help mask the adulterant. “This process,” he said, “I knew it would work because I copied it from others in Georgia who have been making wine this way for years.”
Yes, that’s right folks. Most Georgian orange wines (and we suspect Solvenian) are also tainted, leading those of us in the wine world to sincerely question what we know as truth. What, in reality, is orange wine? Has it always been adulterated? Are those who produce the wine without adding “juice” actually following tradition? What is tradition, anyway?
Let’s grab a few glasses and think on it.