Orange wine, also known as amber wine or skin-contact wine, is a unique style of wine made from white grape varieties but produced with a winemaking technique more commonly associated with red wines. The defining characteristic of orange wine is the extended contact between the grape juice and the grape skins during fermentation.
Typically, in white wine production, the grape skins are separated from the juice before fermentation. However, in orange wine production, the grape skins remain in contact with the juice for an extended period, ranging from several days to even months. This prolonged skin contact allows the wine to extract more color, tannins, and flavors from the grape skins, resulting in an orange or amber hue and distinctive taste profile.
The key characteristics of orange wine are:
Color: As the name suggests, orange wines exhibit a range of hues from pale amber to deep orange, depending on the grape variety, winemaking techniques, and the length of skin contact.
Tannins: Orange wines often have tannins, which are compounds found in grape skins, seeds, and stems. Tannins add texture and structure to the wine, much like they do in red wines, giving orange wines a slightly grippy or astringent quality.
Complexity: The extended skin contact and fermentation with natural yeasts from the grape skins result in a wine with a broader range of flavors and aromas. You may find notes of dried fruits, spices, floral elements, and a distinct nutty character.
Natural Winemaking: Many orange wines are produced using natural winemaking principles, emphasizing minimal intervention and avoiding additives.
Often Dry: While some orange wines may have a hint of residual sugar, many are fermented to dryness, meaning they have little to no residual sweetness.
Orange wines have a long history dating back thousands of years, with roots in traditional winemaking regions such as Georgia and northeastern Italy (Friuli-Venezia Giulia). In recent years, orange wines have experienced a resurgence in popularity, attracting adventurous wine enthusiasts who appreciate their unique and expressive nature.
Due to the skin contact and tannins, orange wines can be quite versatile when it comes to food pairings. They can complement a range of dishes, including grilled meats, poultry, vegetarian cuisine, and dishes with bold and spicy flavors.