The main question I want to answer in this post is what the hell is orange wine? First of all, let me assure you that orange wine is not made from oranges but from grapes!
I want to get a little technical first and talk about maceration. You’ll understand why as you read on. Then I will answer most of the questions that you may have about orange wine.
In winemaking, the formal term for skin contact is maceration. So, maceration is the time during winemaking when the grape skins and seeds stay in contact with the juice.
It might seem obvious then that red wines have longer maceration than say rosé (which has less than 12 hours on the skins). The length of time varies, but maceration can be long – days, weeks, months, depending on what style the winemaker wants to achieve.
But, if we have red, white and rosé why add an orange wine? To be honest it is down to tradition, geography and taste. More about those later.
Orange winemaking is a very natural process that uses little to no additives, sometimes not even yeast. Because of all this, they taste very different from regular white wines and have a sour taste and nuttiness from oxidation.
The aromas of this style of wine are bolder and more intense than the same grapes vinified as traditional white. It would be similar to say a rose v red. The texture is dry, tannic and intense. And the flavours might be like old apples or sourdough bread.
To explain by comparison – reds with skin contact are red wines, reds with little contact are rosés; whites without contact are whites and whites with skin contact are orange.
Frequently Asked Questions about Orange Wine
Is the wine actually coloured orange?
Well, because the grape juice is left in touch with the skins for a while it’s not pale, but I would suggest the colour is amber-hued rather than orange.
What style of wine is orange wine?
Stylistically it fits between red and white wine. White grapes are picked as usual but then they are processed in a way that is usually used for the production of red wines. Because of this they get more colour and substance than a typical white wine.
How is it made?
White wine is commonly produced by grape juice extraction followed by fermentation. In contrast, red and orange wines are created by the fermentation of whole bunch grapes – skin included.
Are orange wines natural wines?
Orange wine is not necessarily a natural wine. The fermentation of the grapes are not necessarily grown following organic practices or produced into wine using natural wine processes. That’s not to say that there aren’t natural orange wines out there.
How should you store orange wine and how long does it last?
All wines like to be kept in a cool, dark and fairly humid place – orange wine is no exception.
Which foods does it pair particularly well with?
Orange wines offer a large span of characteristics that match with varied food. Because of their boldness, orange wines pair well with equally bold foods, including curry dishes. It stands up very well to dishes with heavy fat and as such, pairs brilliantly with lamb. Also think of more pungent cheese, oven roasted vegetables or even charcuterie.
Should orange wine be decanted?
Right after opening, orange wines can sometimes seem a bit harsh, so don’t hesitate to use a decanter or glass jug to let the wine breath.
How do I serve orange wine?
Orange wine is probably best when you serve it a bit less cold than you would a typical white wine. There’s no need for an ice bucket. The warmer it is the more of the intended taste will shine through.
Where did it come from originally?
The practice of skin contact whites likely originated in Georgia, 6,000 or more years ago (the practice still goes on today). In Italy they make ramato (auburn) wines and Slovenia has a long history of skin contact wine.
Is it a trend or here to stay?
Well, orange wine has been around for more than 6,000 years so it won’t be going away. Is it a trend? One could argue that it fits the current all things authentic or natural, but I will say that it can be an acquired taste. Some wine drinkers, eager to try new styles of wine, will make skin-contact wines a regular fixture beyond just niche restaurants and bars.
Orange You Glad to See Me?
I couldn’t resist using that heading to conclude my post! So orange wine also called amber wine or skin-fermented white wine, has become increasingly popular in the last few years. Despite its current trendiness, there’s still a lot of mystery surrounding orange wine.
Hopefully this post will have addressed some of that mystery. Simply put, orange wine is a white wine made like a red wine. Rosé can be thought of as the inverse of orange wine (because it’s made from red grapes).
Many skin contact white wines are more rough than smooth, but the former are far from the rule. Depending on the winemaker and techniques like barrel and bottle aging, skin-contact wines can be well-structured and earn serious praise among traditional-style wine lovers.
My advice – although orange wine is not a ‘starter wine’ don’t let that put you off trying one. With the right food and friends to share with, you might just find your ideal wine.
#maskup – Talk Soon – James.