What is orange wine and what’s it made of?
I don’t know that I’ll ever understand wine trends. I remember 10 years ago when no one was drinking rosé. Everyone thought it all was going to taste like white zinfandel and wouldn’t be caught dead buying it, much less drinking it. Now, it’s everywhere. I still don’t understand why no one seems to get Riesling, even after Paul Greco flooded NYC with The Summer of Riesling. But, to my great surprise, the one thing that I’ve seen and been asked about more in the last year than any other new ‘wine thing’ is ‘orange wine.’
Orange wine not made from oranges
I am only a little bit ashamed to admit that when I first stumbled upon the words ‘orange wine’ on a wine list I assumed that it was made not from grapes but from oranges (or at least from orange blossoms). And I thought it sounded so fun! But, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The word ‘orange’ here is a reference merely to the color of the wine, not it’s fruit of origin. Well, if wine is made from either red or white grapes then how in the world do you make an orange wine?
Wine picks up its color not from the juice of the grapes but from the skins. Red wine stays in contact with the skins of the grapes the longest, giving it its red color. Rosé stays in contact with the skins for a limited amount of time to get its blush color. White wines, however, see very minimal skin contact.
With an orange wine white wine grapes are treated just like their red friends and left in contact with their skins for an extended period of time. This not only makes for a darker, more orange color but also a more tannic and bold wine.
What is Orange wine like?
Orange wines vary greatly in style, and in hue depending on both the grape and the length of skin contact. One of my favorite wine writers, Marissa A Ross, suggested that for this reason we not even call them ‘orange wines’ but rather ‘skin contact wines.’ A perfect example here is Pinot Grigio. Pinot Grigio grapes on the vine are not even a little bit like other white varietals. They actually vary from a dusty mauve to an almost blue-ish red..
Naturally, when left in contact with their skins during fermentation they pick up a bit of that red color and look pink. Scott Schultz, a winemaker of Jolie Laide wines does a great one that I used to love selling to people who were shocked when it hit the glass and was this gorgeous blush color. The latest release is all sun soaked stone fruit, wildflower perfume, and electric acidity. On the other end of the spectrum you have wines like Paleokerisio from Domaine Glivanos that is dark amber in color, off dry, and tastes like Christmas cookies, hard apple cider, and afternoon sunshine.
How to pair Orange wine with food?
While orange wine picks up significant tannic structure from the extended skin contact it sets itself apart from red wine by maintaining its acidity making it not only a great bridge wine but making it a great companion to food. They’re especially great with spicy food, (look Korean cusine),pickled vegetables, and really spice heavy cuisines – Georgia is a good example. Alternatively, try Wine Picker, a food and wine matching app, that helps to pair your meal with wine.
But, because they’re so versatile there really isn’t a wrong application. Shoot, I’d have that Paleokerisio with vanilla ice cream! They’re perfect for the whole meal and a great companion at dinner parties. It’s great with snacks and with dinner.
I love it with a good Italian hoagie or a charcuterie board. It’s great with fish, with beef, even roasted vegetables. It’s for red wine drinkers, and for white wine drinkers. It’s the everything wine. So, go find yourself a bottle already! You can thank us later.