Something old (world) is new again in the Michigan wine industry.
A couple of wineries in the state produce ramato, a northeastern Italian–style wine made by macerating Pinot Grigio/Gris grape skins with the juice. It falls under the orange wine umbrella, and its hue can be copper (ramato means “coppery” in Italian) or even pink or orange. (The longer the grape skins sit in the must, the darker the color.) In some cases, it ends up looking similar to rosé.
Ramato wines can be light, refreshing, and flexible with aromas of baking spices, herbs, and tropical fruits. Like other orange wines, it can also have some bitterness to it.
“The popularization of ramato comes from the trendiness of bitter flavors,” says Sean O’Keefe, winemaker at Mari Vineyards in Traverse City, who makes ramato. “When I started winemaking, there was an entire generation that wasn’t used to any bitter flavors; the most bitter thing they would experiment with was a sprig of parsley on their plate.”
That’s changed, he says: “IPAs, tea, kale — these have all Americanized the bitterness that was common when I trained in Germany.”
At Mari, the ramato process starts in the vineyard.
“We pick the Pinot Gris that is grown for white wine early, and then we let the ramato grapes sit a bit longer, typically a week to 10 days,” O’Keefe says.
Like many other European cool-climate grapes, Pinot Gris grows well in the Mitten.
“I’ve found that grapes from northern Italy are able to handle the colder winter months here in Michigan,” O’Keefe says.
Mari’s 2021 Bestiary Ramato — a blend made primarily from Pinot Grigio/Gris and rounded out with Sauvignon Blanc, Malvasia Bianca, and Tocai Friulano — has tasting notes of pomegranate, cloves, and tropical fruit. It pairs well with strongly flavored foods such as bitter green salads, Brussels sprouts, spicy curry, fermented kimchi, and Korean beef tacos.
Downstate from Mari Vineyards, award-winning St. Julian Winery produces its own pink-tinted wine. St. Julian’s ramato is a part of the Braganini Reserve Winemaker’s Series. Billed as “a white wine that drinks like a red wine but looks like a rosé,” this variation has aromas of cinnamon and currant and flavors of cranberry, strawberry, and lemon zest.