September 28, 2015
Wine of the Week: Orange Wine
Orange what? If you haven’t heard of orange wine yet, it’s okay. You will soon – its popularity has reached a crescendo in the past few years, and the wine has made its way through the wine list, often being referred to as “the hipster of the wine list”. No, it’s not fermented orange juice, and no, it’s not a bizarre blend of red and white. So what is orange wine? Find out below!
To put it simply, orange wine is made from white grapes, but is produced like a red wine. Instead of separating the pressed juices from the skins as for white wines, the grapes are left to macerate on their skins for days, weeks and sometimes even months. This is why orange wines are also known as contact wines or skin contact wines. This contact is what gives oranges wines their orange-amber hue and, more importantly, their impressive tannins. Orange wine is nothing you would expect. If you look forward to a refreshing and floral rosé, skip the orange wine, because it is the complete opposite: the wine shows similar texture to a red, with high tannins, complexity and depth of flavor.
What’s so fascinating about orange wine?
Believe or not, orange wine is not a brand new fad. Its history dates back to traditional winemaking – the practice originated thousands of years ago in the Caucasus. It has just recently regained popularity in Italy (the Friuli region), Georgia and Slovenia; France, California and Australia are jumping on the trend as well. It is intriguing to know that orange wine may be the oldest winemaking traditions, as well as the newest one!
Orange wines’ appearance and color – which actually ranges from bright gold to a tawny brown, amber rather than orange – are the least fascinating thing about them. Orange wine is like no other. Not quite a white, not quite a red, it is the best of both worlds: the wine is tannic and has a red’s grip, but less weighty and less dense; and has that mineral acidity we all love in a white wine. Like whites, orange wines are chilled but are more full flavored and can stand up to more complex dishes.
Six orange wines to try
Orange wine is risky – not all producers are successful with this trendy winemaking style. But these wines below pass the test:
2004 Gravner Breg Bianco, Venezia-Giulia IGT
2009 Monastero Suore Cisterencensi “Rusticum”
2011 Intellego Elementis, Swartland
2011 Pheasant's Tears, Rkatsiteli
2012 Weingut Sepp & Maria Muster Erde
2013 Dinavolino Bianco
Want to know how it all began? Read the story of Friulian Josko Gavner, who reintroduced orange wines in the modern wine industry.