Some love it while others simply consider it to be another confusing topic in the wine world. Once considered a passing trend, orange wines are gaining more attention, and offer an exciting new option for many wine drinkers.
I need to clear up one point about this wine: Orange wine is not made with oranges. It’s a style of wine made from white wine grapes.
Typically — in white winemaking — the skins are not used during fermentation, but for orange wines it will stay in contact with the skins for days or even months. Because the grape skins contain color pigment, tannin and phenols normally not used in white wines, these wines will begin to take on a spectrum of colors based on the time in contact and the grape variety. The style has been produced for centuries, the “orange” description was coined in 2004 by a U.K. wine importer who encountered a bottle in winemaker Frank Cornelissen’s cellar in Sicily.
It may help to think of orange wine as the white wine equivalent of rose. The technique and production are essentially the same — skins on juice — but tasting profile is not similar at all!
When you only describe this type of wine as “orange wines” it’s somewhat limiting you as a wine drinker. If you only choose your styles based on color it can be deceiving. Because skin contact wines can be made with any white grape and an array of winemaking techniques, flavor profiles vary widely. You may enjoy a brilliant bright orange pinot grigio but find the trebionno grape style much different in style and taste, even though they have the same color.
What is described as “orange” can actually range from a very light intensity to a dark amber. As with the color spectrum of choices the flavor profiles are also diverse. Most think the wines will taste along the profile of a rose wine style but keep in mind these wines are in a category of their own. You can expect the taste profile to range from medium to mouth gripping tannin (coming from the extra time on the grape skins) and aromas of dried fruits, nuts, toast and even honeysuckle.
So, if you haven’t explored the wine named after something that is actually not in the wine … it’s well worth exploring.
Orange wine is rather new to our market and selections at local shops are ever growing.
- 2017 Quady Muscat, California (about $20 retail)