Orange Wine: What is it?

All About Orange Wine

Is orange the new white? Orange wine is also known as amber wine. Orange wine seems to be the new wine fad and is gaining popularity in many New World wine countries.

If you frequent some larger wine shops, you may have noticed some orange wines. What is it? Should you try it? We think so.

Orange wine is very unique and is far from a new fad. In fact, its history dates back thousands of years and was made in Slovenia, Italy, Georgia, and other Old World Countries. Take a sip of what some of the earliest wine tasted like.

Some consumers tend to either love or hate orange wines. It’s encouraged that you try it with an open mind and understand the history behind this style of winemaking. It’s actually quite simple.

Here is a quote from Richard Kestenbaum in Forbes about why orange wine will become trendy in 2019-

Orange wine is a bit of a misnomer because it’s wine made from grapes, not oranges. It’s called “orange” because the grapes remain in contact with their skins during the fermentation process and that affects the color. Orange wine does not use additives so it appeals to consumers who are interested in more natural and less processed foods. It has been embraced by luxury venues like the Ritz in London as well as the food retailer ASDA (revenues in excess of $25 billion) which signals that it is gaining share at multiple levels of the market.”

Graphics courtesy of wakawakawinereviews.com

What is it?

Orange wine is the rose of white grapes. While roses are essentially red grapes made in the style of white wine; orange wine is the opposite: white grapes made in the style of red wine.

Instead of pressing and separating the juice from the skins right away like normal white wine, the juice sits in contact with the skin for days, months, or in some cases up to a year or two.

Because the skin and seeds of the grapes contain tannins and color pigment, it turns the wine an orange color. Colors can range from a very dark straw yellow to a deep orange, depending on the varietal of grape and the length of time the skin was left in contact with the juice.

While any white grape varietal can be made into an orange wine, traditionally a variety of indigenous varietals are used. These can include Sauvignon Vert, Ritovsk, Ribolla Gialla, Rkatsiteli, and the more familiar Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc.

Photo courtesy of Lodi Wines California

Orange Wine Profile

What exactly do orange wines taste like? We guarantee it will be one of the most unique wines you have tasted. If you are looking for a new wine to sip on Sunday afternoons, this is not it.

Color- Colors can range from a dark straw yellow to a deep orange color. This depends on the varietal of grape used and the length of time the skin was kept in contact with the juice. They can be in contact for days or even months, depending on the winemaker’s preference.

Aromas- Honey, hazelnut, baked apple, bread, and jackfruit.

Flavors- White grapefruit, lychee, ripe cantaloupe, hazelnut, ginger, butterscotch, sourdough bread, hay, and jackfruit. Keep in mind that this is not your typical white. If you are looking for a nice glass to sip on the porch, this isn’t it. Orange wines are typically meaty, oxidized, and tannic. If you are trying one for the first time, pair with food.

Body- Medium to full-bodied. The length of time that the juice is in contact with the skins and seeds can affect the body of the wine. Orange wines are typically fairly robust compared to the white wines you are used to.

Alcohol

Orange wines typically range from 11-13 % ABV

Acidity

Despite their sourness, orange wines are typically fairly low on the acidity scale.

Orange wine and food pairings

Orange wines pair with a large variety of dishes.

Salty and hard cheeses with cured meats is a safe bet.

Here is an ultimate cheese board recipe that is perfect for pairing with orange wines.

 

  • Variety of cured meats such as salami, proscuitto, and pepperoni.
  • Variety of soft and hard cheese such a brie, Havarti, smoked gouda, and blue cheese.
  • Cured olives, artichoke hearts, peppers.
  • Variety of crackers or toasted bread.
  • Spreads and fig jam
  • Dried fruit such as dried apricots and cherries
  • Variety of nuts such as almonds and pecans
  • Mint or rosemary sprigs

 

Thai curry, Indian, and Middle Eastern cuisine are also popular pairing choices.

Pair with a dish that is just as robust as the wine. Avoid any delicate dishes. Buy a bottle of orange wine on a night that you are craving your favorite Indian or Thai takeout.

Here is a personal favorite Indian curry recipe.

Where to buy orange wine

Orange wine is very unique and definitely worth trying. Try getting your hands on a traditional Old World orange wine from Georgia, Slovenia, or Italy if possible. Also look for “skin-contact” wines or amber wines, as orange wines can go by any of these names.

Wine Shops

You will most likely find orange wines in larger wine shops or those who specialize in Old World wines. While modern production of orange wine has been pretty small, it is making a comeback. If your favorite wine shop isn’t carrying any orange wine, you can sometimes request that they order some.

Online

For those of us who need to reach out beyond our local wine shops, try digging around online. Large online retailers such as wine.com would be your best bet.

For those lucky enough to live in select cities, try Saucey, a wine delivery service.

Order some and have a fun wine tasting at home with friends.

Photo courtesy of the Divine Wine Blog

History

We mentioned that orange wine dates back thousands of years. The history of this winemaking is actually quite cool. Around 6,000 years ago, the native people’s of what is now Georgia and the surrounding countries.

The wine was made and stored in huge casks called Qvevri’s. These casks were essentially large clay pots that were lined with beeswax and buried underground for the duration the wines fermenting and aging process. Similar concepts of early winemaking can be found throughout European history.

While burying huge casks of crushed grape may seem a bit primitive compared to the modern-day winemaking we are used to, it was actually quite advanced. The casks allowed the wine to receive enough oxygen to ferment and age, but not enough to oxidize the wine. The beeswax provided the perfect barrier between the wine and the clay cask.

Map courtesy of the Georgian Wine Agency

Wine Regions

Kakheti, Georgia

Strohmeier, Austria

Brda, Slovenia

Friuli- Venezia Giulia, Italy

Orange wine is also currently being produced in some wineries in the United States, Australia, and South Africa.

Here is a great resource for those wanting to learn more about Georgian wine.

Orange Wine Festival

Modern-day Orange Wine

So how is orange wine made today? Actually, not much has changed. There are many wineries in Georgia and parts of western Europe that still make orange wine the same way. However, the popularity of orange wine is spreading and getting a modern-day twist.

Originally winemakers obviously fermented the wine with the natural yeasts from the grapes. However, many modern winemakers are choosing to use commercial yeast in order to control the byproducts coming from the yeast and the fermentation process.

In terms of aging, many winemakers are choosing to age orange wine in oak barrels as opposed to burying clay casks. This allows winemakers to have more control over the winemaking process and be able to monitor the wine, as it won’t be buried underground.

Orange wine is simplistic and rustic. It is typically quite affordable because it does not cost much to make and it is not very labor intensive. Typically the most affordable aged wines will be from the original orange winemaking countries. Modern-day orange wines that use more labor, oak barrels, and products in their wines will cost more.

The most affordable option and what would give you the most variety to choose from is buying an orange wine online.

We hope your curiosity is peaked. If you are looking for a wine to get you out of your comfort zone, this is it. Bring a bottle of orange wine to your next get-together and have all of your friends try it. If your still not convinced, here are even more reasons to try orange wine.

Already tried it? Tell us what you think of orange wines in the comments!