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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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Filtering by Tag: Friuli

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

Italy 2014 mid-vintage report

Michele Boscia

I asked producers from various regions of Italy to answer a few questions related to the growing season thus far.

In summary, it seems that all across the North of Italy, the growing season started very early but cool rainy weather during the summer months slowed down the growth so they do not expect an earlier than normal harvest time. They had their work cut out for them in the vineyards because of the cool rainy weather and they are now anxiously awaiting some warm dry weather in September. The results of this difficult vintage remain to be seen. 

In Tuscany, they had a normal to late bud break but similarly cold rainy weather during the summer months and as such, they are expecting a later than normal harvest time. 

In Sicily, Ciro Biondi reports a normal bud break followed by some heavy rain and hail in June but little precipitation since leading to a relatively normal, less difficult growing season than they have seen in other parts of Italy. 

We will reach out to more producers in the South in the coming weeks and follow up with everyone again after the harvest for a full vintage report and expectations for the 2014 wines.

I asked the following 4 questions. Below are some of the more detailed responses I received. 

1. Did bud break happen early or late?

2. Temperatures/rainfall in May, June, July, August - anything abnormal or particular about this year?

3. Has the summer weather been similar to any other recent years you can remember?

4. Do you have a sense the harvest will be early/late?

I Clivi, Friuli, August 22nd

"To sum it up, In our region this year's vintage has had a weird development, but it's getting back to normal now; its final character will however be defined in the coming weeks, which will be decisive. 

To answer your queries:

1. Budding took place some three weeks in advance compared to last year - in fact, the earliest budding ever, a result of a warm winter up to early April. But such advance has since been wiped out by lower temperatures in the following months. The problem here has been the significantly higher temperatures in the period January to March, some 3° C higher than the average of the past 10 years.

2. May, June, July and - so far - August have been cool and rainy. This has slowed down growth, completely absorbing the initial advance.

3. Not quite. But for for low temperatures, 2010 and 2004; for rainfall 2002.

4. After dreading the most precocious harvest ever, we are now expecting a latish one, with picking in the second half of September."

Cristiano Garella, Northern Piedmont, August 22nd

"1) bud break around the first week of April, so 20 days before the normal day. This because the winter between 2013 and 2014 was very warm, without snow. We had around the same bud break in the 2011 and 2012 caused by a warm early spring. Instead in the 2013 we had a classic bud break so around the end of April. All speaking about the Nebbiolo.

2) We had a normal April and a beginning of May, than some very hot weeks until the first week of June. After that we had not a real summer, so June, July and August were very rainy and medium cold. We're having at least one storm every 2-3 days. And the month of July was the rainiest of the last 37 is an abnormal year and we're praying to have some weeks of sun for dry a little bit the grapes. At the moment just few top crus has a good grape's situation. Luckily the Prevostura and Pianelle are two of these...

3) I could say...for some reasons is similar to the 2004 and for others to the 2002.

4) we'll harvest late, I think. Or rotten or late..."

Germano, Serralunga d'Alba, August 25th

"The starting of growing (bud break) was almost 20-25 days early because march was not cold and before also january and february.

After the temperatures was lower and lower, specially may and June. Many storms , very frequent , but spread out in different intensity in the different villages.

Some places we had hail, some part of Monforte and Serralunga, but very localized.

We had only in 50% of  Vigna Rionda and 10% of Cerretta fortunately.

In Serralunga we had a lot of rain but not too dangerous.

Obviously we had to spray 3 or 4 time more than normal season, and cut the grass and the leafs 2 time more, 

Actually the grapes show well and in good time of evolution, of course in the good exposure and altitude.

I'm absolutely not worry but of course we hope and need 2 month of  sun and good temperature.

Today I made a sample of Alta Langa grapes( pinot and Chard) and they show in really nice timing and very tasty.

MAybe next week we will pick."

Ciro Biondi, Etna, August 26th

"1. Did bud break happen early or late? NO as usual in April 

2. Temperatures/rainfall in May, June, July, August - anything abnormal or particular about this year? In Trecastagni   in June, we had a  bit of hard rain  and hail storm ( not in our vineyards, this time luckly), and that was the last we had so far.

3. Has the summer weather been similar to any other recent years you can remember? So far is going prety well even if it was very humid we did't have any problems of oidio or preronospera 

4. Do you have a sense the harvest will be early/late? We have the impression that it will be, for the white, at the end of September and 15/10 days later the reds."

Alfio Cavallotto, Castiglione Falletto, August 26th

"1. The bud break was very very early this year; it was also 2 weeks earlier than average because the winter 2013/2014 was very worm.

2. We haven’t yet evaluated all temperatures and rainfall data but we can say that just a couple of weeks of June has been normal: in fact May was too warm and July and August were absolutely too cold and rainy. Additionally a hailstorm destroyed  20% of production in Bricco Boschis and also more all over around Barolo area.

3. summer 2014 could be similar to 2002.

4. even if the summer has been cold, the harvest will be early or in regolar time because the bud break was very early. This is a very particular and rare combination and nobody has a good experience in it; we will see if the quality of grapes will enough good or not. It is sure that the quantity will be 20-40% lower than average. 

NB) Even though the conditions were not so good to produce high quality and even though we grow vines in a very very organic style, the sanity of grapes is now perfect and just the quantity is too low."

Kuenhof, Valle Isarco, August 27th

1. Bud break happened in the end of April, that means for our climate to be a little bit earlier than normal.

2. April, May, June were very dry months, which is a little bit abnormal, usually in April we have more rainfall. July and August there was more rainfall than normally. Temperature was normal in May and June, but July and August were cooler than normal.

3. We cannot remember a year with a similar situation with regard to the above mentioned abnormal temperature and rainfall in July and August.

4. We expect the harvest to be at a normal date."

Florian Gojer, Santa Maddalena, August 30th

"Bud break was early this year. In St.Magdalena it happened about 10-14 days earlier than normally. Before flowering we had a rainy and cooler period, nevertheless flowering was early this year (around 10th may).

At the end of May and beginning of June we had a hotter season. The rest of the summer was untypically cold with many rainy days and very little sunshine.

So we had a very intense season in the vineyards to keep everything healthy. But Bolzano was still one of the hottest cities in middle-europe with 18 days above 30°C (usually 40-45 days).

In addition to the scarce weather conditions, we have problems with Drosophila suzukii on Schiava. It is a Japanese fruit fly, who is able to cut the skin of grapes and deposit their eggs inside the berries. All those berries turn acetic and need to be cut out. All the Schiava producers are worried about it and we probably have to harvest early to minimize the damage.

Now we hope for good weather conditions until harvest."

Shipping Shock

Michele Boscia

The 2013 Ribolla Gialla and Friulano San Pietro from Ferdinando and Mario Zanusso at I Clivi were shockingly good in April at Vinitaly, vivid and fresh and mouthwatering; when they arrived a few months ago, though, they had shut down completely. We re-tasted them every few weeks and just this week they came out of their shell. (In my experience, the wines that suffer the most from shipping shock are often the most interesting wines we import.) They are low in alcohol (the Friulano is 12%, the Ribolla 11%) but completely ripe, with mouthwatering fresh acidity. I am so glad we are working with these wines.