Orange wine? What on earth is that? Well, it’s not wine that’s made from oranges, nor is it wine that is mixed with orange juice!
While most of us have probably never even heard of orange wine, it may well have been lurking on the wine menus of some of the trendiest wine menus at the most exclusive bars and restaurants for quite some time already.
Ask any experienced sommelier and they’ll tell you that orange wine actually used to be very common. Even though it has not yet become a mainstream drink, it has managed to build up something of a cult following over the past few decades.
The colour orange is where it gets its name from, not the flavour. This wine can range from beautiful shades of tangerine to more subdued golden colours – and of course, they all look good on Instagram!
Let’s take a closer look at what exactly orange wine is and why it’s coloured that way.
What Is Orange Wine?
First things first: the colour of orange wine is all natural. It is the result of leaving the skin of white grapes on during the fermentation process. While this might be the first time that you’ve heard about orange wines, they’ve actually been in existence for centuries already. In fact, scholars believe that orange wine was enjoyed back in Georgia, a country in Europe, as far back as 6000 B.C. Interestingly, it is believed that Georgia was the birthplace of wine.
During the course of a few thousand years, orange wine sort of fell into obscurity. However, about 20 years ago, we started to see a resurgence of this wine from all those years ago.
These days, the regions that produce the most popular orange wines include Georgia, Slovenia, Australia, South Africa and the United States. David A. Harvey, a British wine importer, coined the term “orange wine”. However, the technical term for orange wine is “skin-contact wine”, so-named because of how these beautiful wines are made.
Where Does Orange Wine Come From?
As mentioned, the process of making orange wine dates back thousands of years already. Most modern-day winemakers look back to Georgia as far as 6000 years. Back then, wines would be fermented in large, subterranean vessels more commonly known as “Qvevri” (pronounced “Kev-ree”). These vessels were closed with heavy stones and then sealed off with beeswax.
While skin-contact wines are quite rare these days, a number of the world’s winemaking capitals have started manufacturing them over the past two decades or so.
How Is Orange Wine Made?
Just like almost every other kind of wine, orange wine is made by pressing and fermenting grapes. The main difference between orange wine and other wines lies in when the grape is processed.
When making white wines, winemakers remove the grapes’ skins and pips before pressing them into a juice. This will take away many of the naturally occurring tannins and will make the wine appear much lighter. What this means is that many of the white wines that we drink are actually made from red grapes too!
On the other hand, when making red wine, the grape skins are left on. The result of this is wine that is higher in tannins and deep red in colour. Rose wine is also made this way, but the skins are left on for a much shorter length of time, turning the wine a lovely pink colour.
When it comes to orange wines, white grapes are used but their skins are left on. While they ferment, they take on a deeper colour, which is what gives the wine an orange glow.
What Does Orange Wine Taste Like?
It can be a bit tricky to pinpoint the exact flavour profile of skin-contact wines because these wines tend to be crafted from a wide range of different grapes. However, because of the presence of the grape skins in their production, orange wines are much higher in tannins, leading to more complex tastes.
Orange wines are typically described as being robust and full-bodied, much like red wines. However, they also have the qualities of a refreshing white wine. Some of the most common tasting notes include:
- Bruised fruit.
How To Drink Orange Wine
The way that you serve orange wine will depend entirely on the wine itself. Most of them can be served chilled, but if your orange wine is fuller-bodied, then serving it at a higher temperature is best. As a blanket rule, sparkling and dessert orange wines should always be served chilled.
What Food Does Orange Wine Pair With?
Grape varieties generally play quite a big role in determining how to pair your orange wines, mostly because of their complex, nutty flavours.
The boldness of your orange wine should be matched by an equally bold food. Orange wine does pair particularly well with Asian dishes like kimchi, wasabi and soy beans.
Is Orange Wine Expensive?
Orange wines are generally available across several budget ranges. However, slightly older wines tend to be more expensive. This is owing largely to the fact that orange wines are quite rare compared to their red and white counterparts.
How Long Can Orange Wines Age For?
Orange wines are typically aged for between one and three months but can be aged for up to a year. The wine’s taste will be determined by the ageing process.
Does Orange Wine Have More Alcohol?
Perhaps one of the most interesting features of skin-contact wine lies in the fact that it actually contains a lot less alcohol than traditionally produced wines. Some orange wines have an alcohol content of below 10%. These wines are quite balanced too, something which is also unusual for wines with low alcohol contents.
Should You Keep Orange Wine In The Fridge?
Whether or not you keep orange wine in the fridge will depend on the wine. However, as a rule of thumb, dessert and sparkling orange wines should be served chilled as this will best enhance their flavours.