Orange wine? Yes, orange wine. Just like the family of tastes (sweetness, sourness, saltiness and bitterness) has gained a new member – umami, orange wine became the fourth of the traditional wine colors – white, red and rosé.
The term “orange wine” is more or less new. It was formed by the Anglo-Saxons in order to exactly describe a group of wines made of white grapes which are left in contact with grape skins over a longer period of time (maceration). This is a procedure usually used for red wine production. At the same time it is a traditional procedure, for white wine used to be produced through prolonged maceration even long before.
This way more color pigments and tannins are eluted from the grape skins, which impart the wine with a deep color of old gold or amber. In some places, but mostly in Georgia, the term „amber wine“ is used for macerated white wine.
The sensory perception range with orange wines is large. The taste is typically tannic, with the primary aroma of grapes, but also fresh fruits, with exposed herbal notes.
The main characteristic of orange wine is prolonged maceration. Wine producers decide on different maceration times – depending on the type of grapes as well as the own wine production philosophy. The maceration time can be either short (a few days) or very long (up to half a year). The latter is concerning especially the fermentation in kvevris, the Georgian clay amphoras.
Orange wines are made of healthy grapes and by natural procedures: spontaneous fermentation, no adding wine yeasts, no cooling in the fermentation phase and long aging periods on lees in wooden barrels. Orange wines are usually not filtered before bottling which is done only after the wine has cleared up – also considering moon phases.
Due to the fact that orange wines are made from healthy grapes and by healthy production procedures they feature a supreme self-protection ability which is why only a small amount of sulfur is needed to keep them stable. Orange wine producers are committed to sustainable production. Many produce their wine according to the principles of organic agriculture and some of them even apply biodynamic methods. Crops are smaller than in conventional wine production and the time of aging in cellars is longer.
Orange wine producers are keepers of a healthy and orderly cultivated landscape. They are keepers of tradition, for through upkeeping of old wine production procedures also already forgotten grape varieties are being preserved.
Orange wines – where they come from…
One of the global epicenters of orange wine production is spreading across the wine growing regions at the northern Adriatic Sea – in Slovenia, Italy and Croatia. More and more wine producers are beginning to use traditional wine production procedures, combining old knowledge with new insights. One of the most exposed regions of orange wine production is stretching like an arch from Friuli over Collio, the valley of Vipava and the karst to Istria. Some globally established orange wine producers are coming from there.
In the original homeland of wine, Georgia, orange wine production represents a tradition which the Georgians build their reputation upon. The wine production in kvevris – clay amphoras buried in soil – in which the wine stays in contact with grape skins for a long time after fermentation, has spread beyond the borders of Georgia, mostly to the states of Central and Western Europe.
Orange wine is produced in almost all traditional wine growing regions of Europe – besides the ones stated those are Germany, France, Spain, Hungary, Serbia etc. Some producers are located also in new winegrowing regions, such as New Zealand and the USA.
Wines with a personal touch
The orange wines are generally produced on boutique wine-growing estates. The producers are mostly farmers and almost all orange wines come from small or medium family estates.
Orange wines are wines with a personal touch, for the processing of grapes as well as wine requires a lot of manual work, diligence as well as watching over the quality and aging of the product. The most exposed orange wines producers like to emphasize that their work doesn‘t allow for compromises.
Orange wines have character and feature the personal touch of the author which is why each tasting in the company of the wine producer becomes a special experience.
Orange wines and food
Due to their characteristics orange wines themselves can be considered food. They match traditional meals of the surrounding region, supremely. Due to the type of their production, they are fabulously supplementing meals one would normally suggest red wine with.
They develop extraordinary harmony in taste together with fish, especially raw fish or fish with more fat. This insight is coming from Japan, where they are convinced that orange wine is the best companion to the traditional sushi and sashimi.