With green beer nearly upon us as St. Patricks day draws nearer, I had orange wine on the mind. Why? I don’t know, especially because even I find it hard to understand what the big deal is with this newest trend in wine. So what is it and why is everyone talking about it?
I first came across this wine while living in Nothern Italy, where it’s nothing new nor trendy and is how many Nothern Italian producers have made white wine for thousands of years. I also came across it while in Australia, where it was secretly being poured behind bars of restaurants. One night I remember curiosity getting the better of me and I asked the bartender what he was pouring. He reached for an unlabelled bottle of wine and poured me a glass of this murky, copper coloured substance. To say I didn’t love it would be an understatement.
What is orange wine? It’s white wine fermented with grape skins. Normally, white wine is separated from the skins in order to avoid bitterness in the wine. On the other hand, red wine is always fermented with the skins. Red grapes, after all, don’t have red flesh and it’s the skin which makes red wine red. Alternatively, red wine which sits with skins for only a short period of time is one way of making rosé.
But orange wine is made from white grape varietals only and it results in a bigger and bolder style of white wine. As Winefolly’s Madeline Puckette says here, make sure you’re sitting down when you try your first glass.
I find it a bit “funky” depending on how the wine is finished and they’re typically very “au-natural”, often left unfiltered. Orange wine is not very fruit forward, instead, offering up aromas of bruised apple (slightly oxidative), honey, marmalade, wood varnish, nuttiness, and soughdough.
With all this said (can you tell it’s not my favourite!?) it’s always worth trying. I think of fashion trends when I think of orange wine. Just because it’s trendy doesn’t mean you have to wear it and the same goes for wine. If you come across it, however, it’s great opportunity to see what exactly grape skins do to a wine. So, experiment and don’t be afraid to try something a little out of the ordinary.