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Why is my wine orange?!

orange wine

Wine is one of those “established in ancient times” beverages that rarely (if ever) changes. New categories simply don’t come along. However, surprisingly, the world of wine has been graced with something “new” and rather lovely in color: Orange Wine. Don’t even think it! The color has nothing to do with citrus and it certainly doesn’t taste like it either.

So, what is orange wine?

Orange wine is the non-technical catchy term for a wine-making method that produces this lovely colored-wine; it is also referred to as “skin-contact” wine. It is a white wine that has been made without removing the skin on the grapes before fermenting them. With the skin on, the resulting wine is given a distinctive cloudy yellow-orange color. This variety is fermented in a natural way, with little to no additives, which gives it an unusual sour and nutty flavor.

What does it taste like?

The wine has been described as having a robust, bold, honeyed aroma with hints of jackfruit, apple, orange rind, hazelnut, brazil nut, juniper, sourdough, linseed oil, and wood varnish. On the palate, the flavor is bold and dry with a sourness similar to a fruity craft beer.

How is this wine made differently from other varieties?

Grapes are crushed during wine making process, or vinification, and the grape juice will then briefly come into contact with the grape seeds, stems, and skins. They are usually removed at this point to make white wine varieties. However, if the juice is allowed to soak with the skins, called maceration, the liquid will become colored by the skins.

This method of wine making is increasing in popularity now-a-days, particularly among artisan, organic, and all-natural wine makers all over the globe. The process or coloration isn’t all that new though. For example, in the Republic of Georgia some winemaking is still done according to their ancient traditions where the grape juice is aged in terracotta casks (called qvevri, pronounced kev-ree), closed with stones and sealed with beeswax, that are buried up to the openings of the casks in the ground to ferment.

Are all skins always removed?

Well, no. White wines are made without skin which is how it achieves the relatively clear and light color you expect. Red wines, on the other hand, are made with the skins included in the fermentation process. The tannins in the wine that contribute to the dark red color, astringency, taste, and “dry” sensation in the mouth all come from the juice’s contact with the skins.

Champagne is a blend of white grape chardonnay and red grape pinot noir – however, to create champagne the skins are removed from the pinot before fermentation to be sure that the champagne will have the distinctive light color.

Pink wines, such as rosé, are allowed a short period of skin contact as fermentation begins, then they are removed to complete the wine process. It is interesting that the term “pink wine” never caught on to describe these wines as the word rosé comes from the French word for pink (which is rose).

Here is an easy quick reference:

 Long contact with grape skinsShort contact with grape skinsNo contact with grape skins
Red grapesRed wineRoséWhite wine
White grapesOrange wineWhite wineWhite wine

What grape varietals are used to craft orange wines?

Orange wines are produced from white grape varieties however there are no fixed rules regarding the varietals, so vintners can use any white variety they would like to craft this wine.

Where is orange wine made?

Most orange winemaking going on right now is in northeastern Italy along the border of Slovenia. However, it is not limited to that region. You can find orange wine makers almost everywhere in the world – in California, Slovenia, France, Greece, Georgia (as mentioned above), and many other regions.

What orange wine do you recommend?

Honestly, try them all! However, here are a few specific recommendations to get you started:

  • Orange Pinot Grigio is known for tasting notes featuring honeysuckle, stone fruit, and citrus.
  • Orange Sauvignon Blanc is best when dry and features tasting notes of apricot, saffron, and orange peel.
  • Orange Riesling features complex sour and tart notes and is a unique delight.

What would you pair with orange wine?

Since this variety of wine is so bold in flavor it pairs really well with equally bold foods! The nuttiness and tartness also pairs well with a wide variety of meats and delicate fish.

Pair it with foods such as:

  • Curry
  • Beef
  • Fish
  • Sharp or strong cheeses
  • Ethiopian cuisine
  • Korean cusine
  • Japanese cuisine
  • Moroccan cuisine
  • And more

Is orange wine any better for you?

Orange wine and red wine share many characteristics and powerful plant compounds which can be beneficial health-wise. Compounds such as the antioxidants kaempferol, quercetin, catechins, and resveratrol which have been linked to certain health benefits such as reduced inflammation, a lower risk of heart disease, and more. Of course, orange wine is still alcohol and health benefits are negligible. Always consult a doctor for more specifics about your health and drinking any alcohol.

Have you tried an orange wine? What did you think? If you haven’t, would you be interested? Let us know in the comments!

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