What Is Orange Wine? Exploring the World of Skin-Contact Whites

Orange wine, a term that has piqued the curiosity of wine enthusiasts around the globe, refers to a style of white wine made by a method traditionally used for reds. This ancient winemaking technique has experienced a remarkable revival in recent years, appealing to those seeking something unique and unconventional. Let’s peel back the layers and understand what orange wine is all about.

What is Orange Wine?

Contrary to what the name might suggest, orange wines are not made from oranges. The ‘orange’ in orange wine refers to the color, which can range from a deep amber to a vibrant copper hue. This distinctive color is the result of prolonged skin contact during the winemaking process.

The Winemaking Process

In typical white wine production, grapes are pressed, and the juice is quickly separated from the skins. However, in orange wine production, the skins are left in contact with the juice for an extended period, sometimes days, weeks, or even months.

This skin contact occurs during fermentation. The pigments and tannins from the skins seep into the wine, contributing to its unique color, flavor, and texture.

Many orange wines are made using ancient methods, with minimal intervention. It’s not uncommon for these wines to be fermented in clay vessels buried underground, although oak barrels, stainless steel tanks, or concrete vats are also used.

Flavor Profile and Characteristics

Orange wines are known for their robust and complex flavor profiles. They often exhibit a mix of fruity, nutty, and earthy notes, with a characteristic tannic structure more akin to red wines. The flavor can range from bold and assertive to rich and savory. Common flavor notes include dried fruit, honey, nuts, spices, and a pronounced minerality.

Pairing and Enjoyment

The bold nature of orange wines makes them exceptionally versatile with food. They can pair well with a wide range of dishes, from hard cheeses and charcuterie to rich, spicy, or savory foods that might overpower traditional whites.

Orange wines are best served lightly chilled, around 50-55°F (10-13°C). This temperature helps to highlight their unique aromas and flavors without muting the complexity.

A Revival of Ancient Traditions

While it seems like a new trend, the practice of making orange wines dates back thousands of years, particularly in regions like Georgia in the Caucasus.

Natural Wine Movement

Orange wines are often associated with the natural wine movement. Many producers adhere to organic and biodynamic practices, aiming for minimal intervention in the vineyard and winery.

Diversity and Experimentation

The world of orange wines is immensely diverse, with each wine reflecting the distinct terroir, grape variety, and winemaker’s style. This diversity makes them particularly appealing to those who love to explore and experiment.

Orange wine is more than just a color; it’s a fascinating bridge between white and red wines, offering an experience that challenges and delights the senses. It represents a blend of ancient tradition and modern innovation, appealing to both the adventurous wine drinker and those who appreciate the rich tapestry of winemaking history.

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Written by

Bernard Marr has a deep passion for wine. He has written hundreds of articles on wine, including features for Forbes, covering wine-making and industry trends. Away from the world of wine, Bernard is a world-renown business and technology futurist. He is the award winning author of over 20 best-selling books and has a combined audience of nearly 4 million people across his social media channels and newsletters.

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