Orange wine sales are on the high in the UK but what some people do not know is that Orange wine is not made with oranges.
So, what is an Orange Wine? It’s a type of white wine made by leaving the grape skins and seeds in contact with the juice, creating a deep orange-colour liquid. Depending on how long the juice ferments with the skins, anywhere from a few hours to many months skin-contact wines can range in colour from golden-straw yellow to vibrant amber to light bronze orange. The time with the skins also gives these wines more red wine characteristics, like a bigger body and more tannin, while maintaining the acidity of a white wine. The longer the skins stay with the juice, the bigger and bolder the wine.
Many of the wine producers, mash the grapes up and then put them in a large vessel (often cement or ceramic). Typically leaving the fermenting grapes alone for four days to sometimes over a year with the skins and seeds still attached.
This is a natural process that uses little to no additives, sometimes not even yeast. Because of all this, they taste very different from regular white wines and have a sour taste and nuttiness from oxidation.
Orange wines are on the rise, possibly in place to be the new rosé. London-based online shop Purewines is among those leading the sales of this wine trend. Winemakers still produce low quantities of this type of wine, but many countries have a growing interest in this natural winemaking style.
How do orange wines taste?
Orange wines contain more structure or the relationship between the tannins, acidity and sugar that give them a fuller body compared with other white wines. The maceration of the skin also makes it more complex than your average white wine.
Here again, the colour might be misleading for the uninitiated. Don’t expect orange wines to taste like oranges or a boozy orangeade. While the flavours are as varied as any other style of wine, it’s helpful to think of orange wines as a dry white wine loaded with the tannins you expect from red wines. Brunello likens the flavour of some orange wines to a sour beer, or the tangy, umami flavour of his bar’s house-cured salami after the sugar and salt has fermented the meat.
Other orange wines, like Pinot Grigio grapes in Northeastern Italy, deliver a rich fruity flavour with mineral notes.
Many winemakers and distributors would characterise orange wines in that (natural wine) category. Wine drinkers who are keen to explore something different, wines with individuality, even to the point that others might consider flaws, are finding what they crave in orange wines.