Have you heard about orange wine or maybe even tried it? This is a style of wine that’s come back on the scene in recent years. If you are looking for a beverage that has the best of both white and red wines, then orange wine may be your jam. It has the acidity of white wine with the body and richness of a red.
What is Orange Wine?
The name is a bit of a misnomer because it’s not made with oranges. A better term for this type of wine is skin-contact. This is because the wine is made using white grapes that stay in contact with the skins and seeds during fermentation. It’s the skins that give the wine it’s orange color.
Typically, white wine is produced by fermenting juice from white grapes without their skins and seeds. This results in a color range of pale straw to deep gold. Orange wine is produced like red wine with the juice, skins, and seeds all fermenting together. The skins of red grapes add red color to the wine, and the skins of white grapes add an orange or amber hue to the wine.
The Effects of Skin Contact Wine
The wine color for orange wine actually ranges from golden to amber to deep orange, depending on how long the juice stays on the skins. This can span anywhere from a few hours to a few days to several months.
The skins and seeds not only give the wine its orange color, they also add tannin to the wine. Tannin gives a drying mouthfeel in wine. This method gives the wine a fuller body and richer flavor than a typical white wine.
Grapes Used in Orange Wine
Producers use a variety of white grapes to make skin-contact wine. This means the wine flavors can vary quite a bit. However, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, and Ribolla Gialla are often used to make skin contact wine.
Origins of Orange Wine
Orange wine has its roots in Northern Italy, Georgia (not the state), and Slovenia where they ferment the wine juice, skins, and seeds in a clay vessel that is buried in the ground. It’s an ancient method used for producing skin contact wine.
How to Serve Orange Wine
Orange wine is best served cool in the 50-55F range. This range is a bit warmer than white wine and cooler than red wine serving recommendations.
What to Pair with Orange Wine
Since orange wine has high acidity (a great characteristic for pairing wine with food) along with bold, rich flavors, it can handle a variety of foods and spices. Try pairing it with a charcuterie and cheese board, Asian, or Eastern European cuisine.
Orange Wine Recommendations
I recently conducted a tasting of Orange Wine with a couple of friends. We wanted to dive in and see what the fuss was all about. I lined up three different bottles. We tasted, compared, discussed, and developed a few tasting notes to share with you.
Orange Wine #1
Movia Ribolla 2016
This first one is from Slovenia, one of the country’s where orange wine originated and from an estate that has been in existence since the 1700s. To add to the fun, one of my friend’s tasting this line up is Slovenian and had never had a wine from that country. It was a first for all of us.
The Movia Ribolla is made with the Ribolla Gialla grape and has a deep golden color. The deepest color of the three we tasted. It’s dry, tart, and even sour with a medium body and soft tannins coming from the skins and seeds. It actually has a bit of zest or effervescence to it. We detected flavors of caramel and butterscotch, but it certainly is not sweet. We felt the wine would work best with food like fried or roasted chicken.
Orange Wine #2
Field Recordings SKINS 2019
Central Coast, CA
This skin contact wine is produced in California and is made with a blend of white grapes: 50% Chenin Blanc, 35% Riesling, 15% Pinot Gris. The color is light golden. It has floral aromas likely coming from the aromatic Riesling. This one is dry with tart acidity and medium body. We felt this one was smoother than the first, but with higher acidity.
Orange Wine #3
Angelo Negro Vino Bianco 2018
Angelo Negro is another historic winery dating back to the 1670’s. The white grape used in this wine is Arneis which originates in Piedmont, Italy. The wine’s color is a light straw. The lightest of the three selections and really not orange at all. It is unfiltered which is common for skin contact (orange) wines. It is definitely a dry, tart wine like the others. It is light-bodied and zesty with a lemony flavor to it. The winemaker’s notes say the wine has sour notes, but we did not detect the sourness like we did with the first wine. This is a nice, light sipping wine that doesn’t need food to pair with it and our favorite of the three.
Orange Wine Wrap Up
If you are looking for something different to try, check out an Orange Wine (aka Skin Contact). Be forewarned, there is no Orange Wine section at wine shops making it a bit challenging to find. You are better off asking someone to help you. They will likely take you all around the shop pointing out the different Orange Wines they have in stock. Have fun with it! Na Zdravie! (a.k.a. Cheers! in Slovak.)