What you need to know about Orange Wine.
Whether you call it orange, amber, ramato or another name, there’s a fourth wine color coming to your wine glass. Orange is the new white (wine). The range of white wine and its many hues is rapidly taking over wine lists. As more winemakers wrap their arms around orange wine, these one-time oddities are becoming a thing.
So, what is orange wine? Nope, it’s not made from oranges, nor from any other citrus fruit – that wouldn’t be wine. Orange wine is made from white grapes fermented the same way as red wine, by leaving the grapes on their skins.
Leaving grapes in contact with their skins for a brief time is also one way to make rosé from red grapes. When peeling a grape – whether red or white or black – you can see the flesh is generally light-colored. When the grape is pressed the juice runs clear. Coloration, aroma and taste of wine comes from the time spent on the skins.
There are exceptions, but generally white wines are made without skin contact. However, the skins of white grapes have pigment to them, so if you soak skins of white grapes with the fresh pressed juices, you achieve a wine with a color ranging pale to deep orange/amber hue.
Along with Orange wine’s trend status, a few myths need to be busted.
- Orange wine smells funky. The aromas of this wine vary from dried fruits (fig, pear, peach, apricot, ripe apple) to minerality and slightly oxidative aromas (think Sherry). If wine smells funky or off, it could be a fault in the winemaking or corked.
- All Orange wines taste alike. That’s like saying all Chardonnay tastes the same. Orange wines have a broad range of aromas and flavors. Keep trying them until you find some that are appealing to your palate.
- Orange wines are hard to pair with food because they lack acidity. Actually, many of these wines have a both acidity (good for foods) and minerality. Depends on where they’re from, what grape and how the winemaker styled the wine.
Okay, what do I eat with Orange Wine?
It’s surprising how many foods pair with these wines. Start with charcuterie, olives and a variety of cheeses, mild to ripe – from fresh Farmer’s style to Blue to aged and wine washed rind, creamy or hard styles.
Spicy dishes take on these wines with a fervor! Think curries, jerks and Thai food. Recently, we paired the wine with my friend, Nina’s, Curried Corn Chowder* and it was absolutely perfect. We scraped the pot clean! Earthy vegetarian dishes containing lentils, mushrooms and eggplant and olives are a good foil.
I’m in. Where do I find these wines?
You’ll find them in first-rate wine bars, well-stocked wine shops (not big box) and online, easily. My favorites are from Italy, the Jura (France), California, New York and Georgia (Republic of), which is perhaps the world’s oldest winemaking territory. Ancient winemaking called for the wines to be fermented in qvevri (kwev-ree) which are large clay containers, buried underground – and this practice still prevails in Georgia. Contemporary winemaking is popular in other countries using stainless steel and oak.
Let’s get started. What wines shall I try first?
1. Kabaj Rebula Ramato (Pinot Grigio), Venezia $19.99 (Prima Wines online)
2. Iberiuli Kisi Qvevri (Kisi grape was almost extinct in 2000), Georgia $23.99 (Mission Wine, Burbank)
Winemakers are having loads of fun riffing with different methods and technologies, ancient and modern, to see what can be teased out of a white grape. For Orange wine we are on the cutting edge of ancient technology – and we can taste it!
*Nina’s Curried Corn Chowder
4 ears sweet corn
1 red bell pepper
4 C stock (chicken or vegetable)
4 slices of bacon or chorizo (optional)
1 russet potato, rough dice
Salt, Pepper, Tumeric and Curry Powder to taste
In a soup pot, sauté bacon or chorizo until done, then add all other ingredients. (If not using meat, sauté vegetables in olive oil).
Use a knife to scrape raw kernels off, then use back of knife squeeze out corn milk into pot. Then add all other ingredients and cook through until the potato is soft.
Taste for flavors and add salt, pepper, turmeric and curry powder.
Once cooked through, take out a few cups and blend, then add back to soup. You can also puree all of the soup, if that’s your preference for texture.
Adjust for flavor and heat through and serve. This soup is also delicious at cold or room temp.
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Contributor: Stacie Hunt, Certified Silver Pin Sommelier/AIS, Vice President National Association of Wine Retailers, International Wine Judge, Author, Spokesperson and Educator.