We know about red wines, we know about white wines. We know about sparkling wines, we know about rose wines. But do we know about the hot new shade of wines – orange?
Today, 6 October, is the National Orange Wine Day. It is a special day celebrated in the US. It began being celebrated only recently in 2018. So, let’s celebrate by talking about this delicious, unique, refreshing
Well, honestly, the name orange wine could be a slight misnomer. Orange wine doesn’t mean the wine is made from oranges. It is not a mimosa cocktail (a blend of one part orange juice and two parts of sparkling wine) either.
What is Orange Wine?
Orange wine is a type of white wine that is produced by leaving the grape skins and seeds in contact with the juice, which gives it a deep orange-hued finished product. It is also sometimes called Amber Wine. It is also called skin-contact white wine and skin-fermented white wine.
How is Orange Wine made?
The white grapes are mashed and put in a large vessel. They are then left alone for somewhere between four days to about a year with skin and seeds attached. Little to no additives are attached, sometimes even yeast is not added in. This gives the orange wines a very different taste compared to the regular white wine. Orange wines have a sour taste and a characteristic nuttiness due to the oxidation process.
What does Orange Wine taste like?
Orange wines are generally described as having robust and bold flavors with honeyed aromas of jackfruit hazelnut, Brazil nut, bruised apple, wood varnish, linseed oil, juniper berries, sourdough, and dried orange rind.
Orange wines are big and dry on the palate. They have tannins like red wine and a characteristic sourness very akin to fruit beer.
It is a popular saying that one must be sitting down when they have their first glass of orange wine. This is because orange wines have really intense flavors and could be a little different from the usual wines they have had before.
What can I pair with Orange Wines?
Orange wines are bold and can be paired with equally bold food. Orange wines would go really well with curry dishes, Moroccan cuisine Ethiopian cuisine (especially pancakes called Injera), Korean cuisine (especially a Bibimbap with a side of fermented Kimchi), traditional Japanese cuisine (especially fermented soybeans called Natto).
Orange wines have high phenolic content (due to the tannins and the resultant bitterness) and a nutty tartness, due to which they pair well with a very wide range of meats from beef to fish.
Where did the Orange Wines originate?
You might be surprised to know that the process of making orange wines is quite ancient. However, the process was invigorated only about two decades ago. Modern-day winemakers look back as far as 5000 years in the Caucasus (where the modern-day country of Georgia lies) where wines were fermented in subterranean vessels called Qvevris which were closed off with stones and sealed with beeswax. The practice of making orange wines was re-popularized by Italian and Slovenian winemakers after visiting Georgia and importing these qvevris.
Orange wines aren’t widely manufactured yet. But some wineries are showing a growing interest in making them. Today, orange wines seem trendy, like a hipster fashion that has oenophiles bewitched from Tokyo to London and everywhere in between.
Orange wines are one of the oldest forms of white wines. In some parts of the world, like in the Republic of Georgia and Slovenia white wine never stopped being made by this skin contact method despite immense political and cultural pressure imposed by Russian domination to adopt more conventional methods of wine-making. In these countries, orange wines are celebrated as emblems of their cultural identity. Some people damn the orange wines for being just a trendy fad, for being flawed, being oxidized, being repetitive and dull. While there are many for whom orange wines are innovative expressions.
Well, some orange wines are actually insipid. But then aren’t there bad wines for every type of wine? But you can’t damn a wine because of its unfiltered haziness and high tannin content, generally uncharacteristic of white wines, can you?
The orange wines that have been successful and widely accepted are the wines not because they have this beautiful breathtaking tinge of amber, but because they express the nuances of beauty and culture in a profound and distinctive way.
What factors influence orange wines?
Like all wines, the terroir, the grape, and the intention influence orange wines as well, there is no exception there. But there is one more key factor that influences the orange wines – how long the grape juice has been macerated with the grape skins and seeds. The orange wines from Gravner and Radikon are macerated for many months, while the Topuridze wines from Georgia have only about six months of maceration. The Ageno orange wine is macerated only for four months. There are orange wines from California that are macerated for a mere three to five days.
What are some of the orange wines I must try?
Field Recordings 2019 SKINS Orange Wine
This wine has tasting notes of honey and white flowers with apricot and orange. This makes it an incredibly fun wine to have and would pair best with some funky cheeses or juicy meats.
Donkey & Goat 2018 Ramato Filigreen Farm Pinot Gris
Donkey & Goat are longtime natural wine producers in California. This orange wine is aromatic and citrusy. It has a perfect crispness with some earthiness and umami notes.
The Hermit Ram 2019 Skin Fermented Sauvignon Blanc
This is a New Zeland pét nat, a naturally sparkling wine. The tasting notes include lemongrass, clover honey, mandarin pith, and ripe grapefruit. It also offers a lovely textural contrast with a light sparkle.
Swick Wines Savignon Blanc
This wine comes highly recommended and anybody wanted go explore orange wines absolutely must try this. Sauvignon Blanc is a pretty common aromatic white wine. For this orange wine, the juice is kept in contact with the skins for 30 days and then engaged in a whole cluster fermentation with native yeast. The wine is described as grippy, acidic, and fresh with tropical and stone fruit qualities typical of a Sauvignon Blanc.
Yetti and the Kokonut Fruit Basket Block
This wine tastes like summer in a bottle. It has tasting notes of tangerine, pineapple, grapefruit, and orange blossoms. I feel refreshed even as I write this.
Montinore Estate L’Orange 2018
If there is ever a versatile orange wine that will pair with just about anything, the Montinore Estate L’Orange is it. The wine is made from biodynamic grapes and has equal parts of Pinot Gris and Muscat Ottonel. The Pinot Gris is left in contact with the skin for up to 36 hours. The fermentation takes place in a clay amphora giving the wine a bright, aromatic balanced, tannic, and structured flavor. The nose of the wine includes notes of apricot, fresh flowers, and honeydew with some citrus and baking spice notes.
Gotsa Wines Rkatsiteli Mtsvane
This delicious wine comes from Georgia and saying its name itself can be quite a handful for the uninitiated. This is an organic wine from the Kartli region and is made by the Gotsa, which is a family winery dating back to the mid-1800s. The wine is made by blending two native grape varieties – Rkatsiteli and Mtsvane. The wine is aged in a traditional Qvevri for six months resulting in a delicious aromatic wine with soft tannin sand subtle flavors. The Qvevris are subterranean and buried into the ground in the winery’s cellars.
Sound interesting, don’t they? Well, then its time to get your first glass of orange wine! Talk to your wine sommelier to help you pick one and take your first sip. Do share your experience of having the orange wines.