Thursday, September 18, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

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Drink: Va La's La Prima Donna

La Prima Donna
La Prima Donna

'Orange" wines made from white grapes that spend extended contact time with their skins (as red wines do) have become a controversial dividing line within the wine world. On one side of this resurgent ancient method popularized in northeastern Italy are the cool-kid proponents of the natural wine movement.

On the other side are traditionalists like David Moore of Moore Bros. Wine Co., who call it a fad that allows flawed, oxidized wines to be masked by trendy style. It's no wonder that, somewhere in the middle (as in deep Chester Country), low-key Anthony Vietri of Avondale's Va La doesn't mention the word orange in association with his La Prima Donna.

It's simply the method he was taught by his Italian grandparents, and his signature white has gradually evolved from 10 percent to 100 percent skin-contact. The result? What was always a pretty, aromatic wine has developed compelling depth and grip (with no oxidized flaws.)

This brassy-hued blend of petit manseng, malvasia bianco, pinot grigio and tocai friuliano segues from a citrus-zest nose to ripe apricot fruit and a buttery mouthfeel, then dries quickly to a crisp apple-peel finish that clings, thanks to the surprising tannins, and begs another sip. It's even better a day later. The $42 price is steep, like all of Va La's bottles.

But I've not tasted a more complex and fascinating local wine, red, white or orange.

- Craig LaBan
La Prima Donna 2011, $42, Va La Vineyards, 8820 Gap Newport Pike (Route 41), Avondale, 610-268-2702.

Craig LaBan Inquirer Restaurant Critic
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