It’s Orange Wine Time: Orange Wine 101
For those of you who may not be aware, October 6th is National Orange Wine Day! It was established by a good friend of mine and Winetraveler team member, Amanda Claire Goodwin, who has a real passion for this style of wine production.
What is Orange Wine?
Orange wine is nothing new. It’s actually an ancient style of wine production and its origins can be traced back at least 6,000 years to Georgia (the country). In short, it involves producing white wines that have been allowed to ferment while still being in contact with the grape skins. This was done in ancient Europe within clay “amphorae.” These egg-shaped clay vessels would house the wine while it aged. Today, amphora are still used by some producers, but it can also be stainless-steel fermented, barrel fermented and aged.
Typically, after crushing, white wines have their skins removed while the juice ferments — yielding the common, non-tannic white wines that we know and love today. Orange wine deviates drastically from this method.
So what does leaving grape skins in contact with the juice do to a white wine?
By leveraging “skin-contact” with white wines, producers are able to extract additional color, tannins and flavor that would not normally be present. In some cases, skin-fermented white wines can show orange-colored hues, tannic-texture (such as the subtle feeling of chalkyness on the palate), and flavor profiles reminiscent of apricot, honey, hazelnut, orange rind, lemon spices, apples, baking spices and even chickenstock.
While any white wine grape variety can be used to produce Orange Wine, some grape varieties are utilized more than others. These include Chardonnay, Rkatsiteli (Georgian), Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Semillon.
Common Misconceptions About Orange Wine
Orange Wine is wine that tastes like oranges…
While not totally incorrect, orange wine does not always have an orange flavor. It’s more commonly given this attribution due to its color, and subtle orange rind tasting note.
Orange wine uses oranges during production…
The orange fruit itself is not used in traditional orange wine production. If it has been, then it’s not an orange wine. It would be referred to as a fruit wine.
Additional orange wine designations…
Other names are often used to describe orange wine in various wine regions, leading people to believe they are a different style of wine. In fact, “Amber” and “Ramato” are simply other names for Orange Wine.
Wine Regions Commonly Associated with Orange Wine Production
- Kakheti, Georgia
- Brda, Slovenia
- Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy
- Sicily, Italy
- Swartland Region Western Cape, South Africa
- Long Island, NY, USA
- Adelaide and Victoria, Australia
- Strohmeier, Austria
- Sierra Foothills and Napa Valley, CA, USA
- Finger Lakes Region, NY, USA
- Spain, Greece, Argentina, Chile, Oregon, Czech Republic, France, Croatia
- Other areas are beginning to experiment with Orange Wine making (ie; Maryland and Illinois)
Want to learn more about Orange Wine and stay up to date with what’s trending? Follow the official National Orange Wine Instagram account, @orangewinetime.
If you enjoyed this guide, consider joining the Winetraveler Facebook Group to connect with other Winetravelers and for additional travel inspiration around the world. We also highly recommend taking a look at some specific Orange Wines to try and what foods to pair them with.