new varietal orange wine

“Orange wine is the biggest thing in wine these days, replacing rosé in the hearts of hipsters and wine aficionados.” Newsweek

Orange wine is having a moment.  I keep reading about it so I thought I’d investigate.  It is not what I assumed.  Orange wine, contrary to what many people think, is not white wine flavored with orange.  It is made by leaving the white grape skins and seeds in contact with the juice.  That creates its flavor, pigment, tannins and unusual color.  Orange wine gets its name from the process of the wine making, not from the fruit.  To help understand the process, white wine is made from white grapes after the skins and seeds have been removed.  Orange and red wines are made with the skin-contact process. Orange wine is over 5,000 years old but has resurfaced only in the last 20 years.  Today, most orange wines are made in Italy and it was an Italian winemaker, Josko Gravner, who reintroduced orange wines to Europe and the U.S. in 1997.

Orange wine is considered to have a richer, deeper flavor than white wine, with a nutty taste.  The depth of the color depends on how long the juice ferments with the skins, which can be a few hours to months.  The color can be pale like straw yellow, to bright Princeton University orange.  The wine maintains the acidity of white wine, but the fermentation creates a stronger tasting wine, more like a red wine.  Some wine aficionados do not like the term ‘orange wine’ and wish it was called a ‘skin-contact’ wine because it is more descriptive.  These wines are natural with few if any additives.  I have been told that it is an acquired taste.

Because of their strong taste, orange wines are often paired with bold foods like curries, middle eastern dishes, and cuisines with lots of fermented foods like Korean and Japanese. One reviewer referred to orange wine as a ‘bizarre-but-wonderful beverage’.  When I stopped into my corner wine and liquor store to see if he had a bottle I could try, he had never heard of it, but he did tell me that I am always bringing great ideas to him, and he’s going to look into it.   He clearly does not read Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Real Simple or Newsweek, all of whom have had orange wine articles in the past 12 months.  Newsweek’s headline was “When it comes to wine, orange is the new white”, so my corner liquor store better get with it.

In forward-thinking food establishments, the rage for orange wine has become what the New YorkTimes called an “obsession.”  Midway through writing this article I bought a bottle, chilled it as recommended and tried a glass.  The acidity was stronger than the Chardonnay I like.  It is a deeper flavor, but I happily finished my glass.  I liked it!

What to look for? Most orange wines are made by independent wineries in small batches.  They are a little more expensive than regular Pinot Grigios.  The bottle I tried was from Channing Daughters winery and was a Ramato.

Here are a few links for articles with recommended orange wines.

PunchDrink

Real Simple

VinePair

Bloomberg.com

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