What is “orange wine”?
First of all, it’s not made from oranges.
Sometimes referred to as “skin-contact wine”, it is a rare white wine made using an ancient winemaking method that just might blow your mind.
Your typical white wine …
is made from white grapes that are pressed, extracting the juice. Skin, seeds, and stems are separated from the juice prior to fermentation.
Orange wine is …
made like red wine. It is fermented with its skin and seeds and further macerated (soaked) for up to six months.
It has a distinct color, flavor, and texture
Through maceration, orange wine obtains a distinct color, flavor and texture that is unique. The color comes from the lignin in the seeds while the tannins and body come from the skin and seeds. Maceration also contributes to potential health benefits attributed to compounds from the skin and seeds, like what you’d find in red wine.
Orange wine has a long history dating back thousands of years to Caucasus (modern-day Georgia), and hundreds of years to Italy and Slovenia. The Georgians use a “kvevri” or “qvevri” clay vessel (see illustration) for fermentation and maceration.
Traditionally, it is lined with beeswax and buried underground for consistent temperature. After fermentation, the opening would be sealed with stones and clay for 5 months to a number of years before being decanted and bottled.
These are bold wines with the acidity of a white wine and the structure and tannins of a red wine.
Don’t assume this is a sweet wine … it’s not
You may assume this is a sweet or aged wine from the color, but in fact it is robust and dry. Flavors range from stone fruit (peaches), tropical fruit (jackfruit), bruised apple, sweet florals, sourdough, honey, dried orange rind, citrus, nuttiness (brazil nut or hazelnut) and spice (white pepper).
Don’t be afraid to pair this one with bold dishes including something spicy like Thai curry, a rich lamb stew, or just a simple seared salmon.
King Family Vineyard (Crozet, Virginia) 2017 Viognier small batch series made in the “orange wine” style. ($34.95) My friend, Courtney, from Blending Italy brought this over a couple weeks ago and it blew my mind.
Photos courtesy Stephanie Roberts
Stephanie Roberts, WSET® Certified, is passionate about educating people about wine and all its complexities. She believes that through education comes enlightenment and approachability—elevating the wine and food experience. Stephanie is the founder of Corks & Boards, offering unique and tailored wine experiences.
Furthermore, you can schedule your own virtual wine tasting with Stephanie that includes formal education about the wine subject (such as style, region or varietal) and instruction on how to follow a formal tasting methodology. It’s a fun event for a casual Zoom with friends, Father’s Day gift, birthday, etc. Message Stephanie through Facebook or IG (@corksandboards).