What is Orange wine?
Let me begin by answering the question, ‘What orange wine is not?’
It is not a wine made from oranges.
It is not a white wine with orange flavours.
It is not an orange juice and wine cocktail (that, as I’m sure you know, is called a mimosa!).
In fact, it has got nothing to do with the orange fruit.
It is simply a white wine that is macerated with the grape skin and pips that lends it a shade of orange or amber (ranging from light yellow to dark gold) and hence the name ‘orange wine’.
The juice from both red and white wine grapes is clear. It is the contact with the grape skin that adds the colour to a wine.
Usually while making white wine, the juice is pressed from the grapes and the skins and stems are discarded immediately. Only the clear juice is then fermented to make white wine.
Red wine, on the other hand uses the skin and pip of the grapes to extract colour and tannins.
In the case of Orange wines, the wine takes on the tannins and the colours from the white wine grape skin.
The intensity of the colour and flavours depends on the grape variety and the amount of time the grape skins are allowed to be in contact with the juice.
Since it is made with minimum intervention, some consider orange wines to be natural wines, too.
Complex, with a depth of flavour, orange wines have a tart and sour aroma and flavours of stone fruits, flowers, nuts along with firm tannins.
While you may have heard of orange wines in the past few years, they have existed for thousands of years. In fact, skin contact was and is a common method of making white wine in Georgia, Slovenia and parts of Northern Italy. I’ve had some wonderful wines from these regions where the grape juice, along with the skin and seeds, is put in clay amphoras and left for many, many months to ferment.
People have a very strong opinion about orange wines, given their distinct flavours. They either hate it or love it.
Have you tried it? If yes, what’s your take?