• Alexander Smith

What is Orange Wine?

Orange wine is not new, most don't realize this, but orange wine is probably how wine was made back in 3,000 B.C. The reason being is that maceration tended to be a lot more common instead of using free-run juice. This is simply since free-run juice is more susceptible to oxidize compared to having a protective layer of skins etc to prevent spoiling the juice. #factoftheday

Now back to the subject of what is orange wine, and before someone asks, orange wine is not produced from orange grapes :) When white wine is produced the skins tend to only spend a little time in contact with the juice. Traditionally this juice is quickly pressed and then pushed to the step of alcoholic fermentation. This is what made orange wines different. In orange wines, the skin is left in contact with the juice from a longer period of time, which changes the color to anywhere from a light to dark orange. This is known as maceration and can last anywhere from a few days to years, depending on the style of orange wine that is being produced.

The majority of orange wines are produced in Sicily, Northern Italy, Spain, Slovenia, and Austria. A few years ago nobody was talking about orange wine, today if you don't have orange wine on your menu, your restaurant is not hip! In terms of flavors and textures, unlike traditional white wines, there is a certain tannin structure to the wine, they also tend to have additional weight and red wine texture. Orange wine screams for food, especially those which have been macerated for months. Think more structured and robust foods such as curries and stews as a pairing.

My challenge with orange wines is that the terroir is often masked. Most of my readers understand the importance of terroir and its impact on the wine. I feel in general orange wines have a less distinct terroir aspect, there are of course exceptions, but in general, this assumption is true. There are some exceptions, however wine with a terroir aspect originates from the vineyard, yet these wines are produced in the cellar. This is a topic that I am sure there are many arguments either way, and there is nothing wrong with orange wines, it is a style yet please do not mention terroir and orange wine in the same sentence :). So this aside, I actually quite like orange wines and appreciate how it can work wonders in the restaurant and opens up another chapter in the Sommelier handbook.

So for this report, I was able to taste two orange wines:

Meinklang Kontakt 2019 - 90 points

So this orange wine is less heavy than other orange wines I have tasted with a fresh and clean palate, nearly rose like in texture. This is a blend of Welschriesling, Pinot Gris and Traminer and is left on the skins for 7 days. There is certainly a little funky note as I get with most natural wines, however is certainly refreshing and is well made with a simple yet easy-drinking palate. Offical notes include aromas of peaches, nectarines, nectarine and orange peel. The palate as mentioned is bright and clean yet with a certain mid-palate structure which is often lacking, ripe and nearly bruised orchard fruit fill the palate yet with adequate acidity to keep the palate alive, the finish is refreshing especially on a hot summers day. This makes you rethink orange wines!

Peter Lauer Ayler Riesling Faß 2 Trocken 2018 - 90 points

This maceration Fab 2 is described by Florian as an Orange wine, golden color with aromas of overripe peaches, yellow apple, pears and tea the palate was more layered than what I was expecting with a rich mouthfeel of bruised orchard fruits, tropical notes, crushed stones, and an easy straight finish.

Other producers to look out for include: Mlecnik, Cantina Giardino, Radikon and Calcarius.

Bottom Line

Orange wines are taking the wine world by storm, and even though I do not see myself switching entirely to this style of wine, I will no longer put my nose down to those who enjoy it, and will certainly order it when I am next in a restaurant!

What are your favorite producers? Have you tried orange wines before?

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