Orange wines are both old and new. They have returned to tables after a long absence as winemakers rediscover old methods of fermenting wine.
How Orange Wine is Made
Orange wine is made using methods similar to how red wines are made. It is worth taking a bit of a detour here to learn how white and red wines are made today.
All wines are fermented, allowed to sit while natural bacteria in the wine convert sugars to alcohols and change the flavour of the grape juice. It is worth noting here that the bacteria occur naturally on the skin of the grapes. Only in the very least expensive wines are yeasts and bacteria added to the mashed grapes.
Red wines are fermented with all of the solids in the vat. This means that they crush the grapes and put it all away to ferment.
With white wines, the solids are removed immediately after crushing and the wine is made by fermenting only the grape juice. There are few or no solids involved in the fermentation process.
Orange wines, which aren’t really orange, but we will get into that later, are made similarly to red wine. White grapes are crushed and fermented with the skins and solids left in the juice.
Another important feature of orange wines is that they are usually fermented in clay vessels or wooden barrels. These vessels impart their own flavours and change the texture of the wine. This wine making style comes from the Caucasus Mountains. The winemakers of Armenia and Georgia have been producing these wines for generations.
Today, this style is being embraced in Slovenia and Italy in an attempt to create a unique style of wine that will stand out on the shelves.
The Tastes of Orange Wine
Although orange wines are made from the same grapes as white wines, the prolonged contact with the skins and solids causes the wine to range in colour from bright gold to tawny brown.The fermentation process gives these wines the mouth feel of a red wine with many of the flavours of a white wine.
The fruitiness and minerality of white wine can be very pronounced. The toothsomeness, that feeling of drinking a beverage with substance, that reds have is one the major advantages of oranges wines.
Where are Orange Wines Being Produced?
The winemaking style left the Caucasus Mountains and headed to the Fruili-Veneizia Giulia region of Italy. Since then production of orange wines has spread to Slovenia, Croatia, France, Germany, New Zealand, and California.
Just a Fad?
The biggest question about orange wines is: Are these wines just a fad?Maybe. With the complex flavours and distinct cross-over between red and white, these wines are extremely suited to ‘making everyone happy’. The problem that they have is that distribution is not extensive and most of the wine drinking public hasn’t tried them yet.
As they regain popularity, they might be found in many more places, allowing the consumers around the world to decide if this is the wine that they want to drink long term.
A bit of an opinion
It is our opinion that these wines will likely be around for hundreds of years longer, but they will not be likely to supplement whites as the light tasting wines of choice.
People have become accustomed to their white wines being very filtered and clear. Orange wines will give white wine drinkers a new taste to enjoy.