What is an Orange Wine?
It’s a type of white wine made by leaving the grape skins and seeds in contact with the juice, creating a deep orange-hued finished product.
To make an orange wine, you first take white grapes, mash them up, and then put them in a large vessel (often cement or ceramic). Then, you typically leave the fermenting grapes alone for four days to sometimes over a year with the skins and seeds still attached.
This is a 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.
Let’s thank Simon Woolf over at Decanter, who found out that British wine importer David Harvey coined the term “Orange Wine” Raeburn Fine Wine. He used it to describe this non-interventionist style of white winemaking.
You may also hear the term “Ramato,” which means “auburn,” in Italian, and typically refers to Italian Pinot Grigio made in an orange wine style.
What Does It Taste Like?
These wines have been described as robust and bold, with honeyed aromas of jackfruit (a fleshy tropical fruit), hazelnut, brazil nut, bruised apple, wood varnish, linseed oil, juniper, sourdough, and dried orange rind.
On the palate, they’re big, dry, and even have tannin like a red wine with a sourness similar to fruit beer. Often Orange wines are so intense that you might want to make sure you’re sitting down when you first taste them.
Food Pairing with Orange Wines
Because of their boldness, Orange wines pair well with equally bold foods, including curry dishes, Moroccan cuisine, Ethiopian cuisine (like those spongelike pancakes called Injera), Korean dishes with fermented kimchi (Bibimbap), and traditional Japanese cuisine, including fermented soybeans (Natto). Due to the high phenolic content (tannin and bitterness) and the nutty tartness they exhibit, orange wines pair with a wide variety of meats, ranging from beef to fish.
Where Does it Come From?
The process of making Orange wine is ancient, but the reinvigoration of this process has only resurfaced in the last 20 odd years. Many modern-day winemakers look as far back as 5000 years in Caucasus (modern-day Georgia,–not the state) where wines fermented in large subterranean vessels called Qvevri (“Kev-ree”) that were originally closed with stones and sealed with beeswax.
Orange wines are still rare, but many countries have a growing interest in this natural winemaking style.
Orange Wine in Italy
Most orange winemaking can be found in northeastern Italy, along the border of Slovenia in Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Here you can find orange wines produced with the indigenous grapes of the region, including Sauvignon Vert (Friulano), Ribolla Gialla, and Pinot Grigio. The orange wine process was popularized in Italy by winemaker Josko Gravner who first attempted an orange wine in 1997.
Image credits: Lucas Benjamin