A Field Guide to Orange Wine
January 16, 2021 — It’s said that the best wine flirts with faults. This is certainly true of orange wine, which luxuriates in the flavors and textures that conventional white wines will do just about anything to avoid.
Orange wine is not so much its own category as it is a stylistic extension of white wine. It’s what happens when you treat white wine like red wine, allowing the grapes to soak on their skins for an extended period of time — weeks or even months — before pressing. The result is white wine at its most soulful, exuberant, and emotionally complex — imagine if Zorba the Greek were a Pinot Grigio.
But just as red wine can span from the lightest of Pinots to the boldest of Cabernets, orange wine comes in a range of styles, depending on grape variety, amount of skin contact, and regional practices.
The most reliable indicator of style is color: a light hue means fresh and accessible, while a deep amber tone suggests a complex array of dried fruit, earthy tea-like flavors, and gravelly tannins that can disorient as well as inspire.
When orange wine hits the mark, it offers the best of both red and white, a perfect combination of freshness and weight. For me, this makes it a superstar at the table, especially in winter: think scallops with sage butter or creamy mushroom risotto. My only suggestion would be to avoid anything with tomato sauce.
In addition to the country of Georgia, where the style originated many millennia ago, exciting orange wine frontiers include Italy’s Friuli region, where winemakers Josko Gravner and Stanko Radikon revived the concept in the 1990s, and western Sicily, where tropical ripeness is matched by a wild snap of tangy salinity.
But it should come as no surprise that our heart lies with the new wave of small, natural-leaning producers who are reinventing the genre in the U.S. Below are three of our favorites, all of which are currently available on our platform.
A version of this piece originally appeared in Edible Vineyard.