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5218 Lawton Avenue
Oakland, CA 94114


Oliver McCrum Wines has been importing small production Italian wine and distributing to fine retail and restaurant establishes throughout California since 1994. Over time, our portfolio of producers has steadily grown to over 45 producers from 15 different regions of Italy. We look for typical Italian wines with clarity and freshness, usually made from indigenous Italian grape varieties using clean, transparent winemaking techniques and no obvious use of oak. 

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Sandi Skerk on orange wine

Michele Boscia

Sandi Skerk uses a lot of skin contact for his whites, but they aren't orange, they aren't oxidized, and they are lively and delicious. I asked Sandi why this was; why were his 'orange wines' not oxidized, and why were they not orange? He answered:

With regard to oxidation:

'When in 2000 I decided to go in the direction of natural wine, my main goal was to make natural wine but not to lose the elegance of the wine, which is to say not to neglect the aromas. I too have had wines in my cellar that were oxidized and that had unpleasant aromas, but if you make a mistake you just have to throw the wine away.

In any case, there are no secrets or magic. You must:

1) work well in the vineyard, and harvest grapes that are healthy, ripe, and balanced but above all free of any spraying residue (Bordeaux mixture only)
2) take great care not to oxidize the wine during and immediately after the primary fermentation, and while it is in the cellar

This means that:

a) during the first 10 days of fermentation the fermenters must not be more than 60% full, so as to leave a headspace full of CO2 that separates the grapes from the oxygen in the air
b) it is necessary to perform 5-6 punchdowns a day
c) one should use open-topped fermenters, so as to allow the heat from the fermentation to disperse, given particularly that wood is an insulator [Sandi uses open wooden vats for fermentation]

d) you should have the good luck to have a cold cellar [Sandi's cellar is entirely under the Karsk limestone, and very cold], so the heat of fermentation doesn't go above 30°C
e) as soon as the alcoholic fermentation is finished you should cover the fermenter, and fill to the rim
f) you should top the fermenters and aging barrels every week
g) you should keep all the wines on their lees until bottling

It is natural that cleaning the equipment is fundamentally important when you make natural wine. Microbial problems can throw off the fermentation.'

With regard to color:

'In my experience, color is not that affected by the time of maceration, but rather by:
a) the use of sulfur immediately after the fermentation (sulfur increases extraction from the skins)
b) contact with air during the maceration, which causes oxidation, increasing extraction from the skins
c) overly high temperatures during the fermentation (40 or 50°C)
We avoid doing all of these things.

However, in my 2010 and 2011 vintages where I have done macerations of 40 days, even of 4 months, I have noticed a drop in color. Sometimes the skins re-absorb the color during the maceration.'

It takes a gifted, meticulous winemaker to make clean, perfumed wine this way. 

-Oliver McCrum