Last Friday, we were sitting in a restaurant casually browsing through our menus, when I noted in delight that the wine list had two orange wines by the glass. My yelping was followed up by a brutally honest question – what is orange wine exactly? And to my “embarrassment” I could not respond. I have never stated that I am an expert in wine, but but seldom I am left speechless in front of a question. Yes, I kind of knew what orange wine was and I had tasted it, but I had not done my homework on how it is made. So to fix the gap in my knowledge, I had to take out google and do a check. As I have a tendency to share my silly little discoveries here on the blog, I have made a short summary on this one as well. Orange wine is not the same as a rosé. To make it really black and white, rosé is made from red wine grapes (skin contact before fermentation or by blending red and white wine) and orange wine is made from white wine grapes. The wine gets it’s orange color from skin contact in the maceration phase (when the grapes are crushed). In white wine production the winemaker would attempt to remove the skin from the grapes as fast as possible. However, when making an orange wine the skins are left to rest with the wine for a number of hours or days. This contact leaves its marks on both the color and the taste of the wine.
Orange wine making is typically a very natural process that uses little or no additives at all. Sometimes not even yeast. Orange wines taste different than white wines. The longer the skin contact, the more tannins in the flavor. Orange wine also have a sour character, mixed with notes honey and nuts. They tend to taste a bit funky (not in a negative sense). They are not as refreshing as white wines – not as clean and crisp. However, orange wines can handle some pretty awesome meat dishes, that white wines would just not have a chance with. It is really its own type of bold wine, just like red, white and rosé.
Orange wine is not a new invention. It has long roots in Eastern Europe (modern-day Georgia), ranging back more than 5000 years, to the Bronze age. The method has been revived in the past 20 years. Today, most of the orange wine production is in northern Italy, along (and over) the border to Slovenia. Orange wines are still pretty rare, but many countries have growing interest in the natural wine making style.
Reading about orange wine makes me even more curious, so I need to continue the study around this subject with some actual tastings!