Explained: What Is Orange Wine?
Image Credit: Instagram/avencdelgarraf

The first thought that might cross someone’s mind when they hear the phrase ‘orange wine’ might be that it’s a wine made with oranges. However, orange wine is orange only in colour—it is made from white wine grapes. The grape skin and seeds are left intact; they come in contact with the juice from macerated grapes during fermentation to produce amber-coloured wine, which is why It is also called skin-contact wine. This process is entirely natural and uses no additives and is why orange wine tastes slightly nutty and sour and different from regular white wine. The making of orange wine is centuries old but it only gained prominence in the last 20 years. 

The taste

Orange wine is bold and robust, with the aromatic notes of jackfruit, apple, hazelnut, Brazil nut, juniper and dried orange rind. It is dry and has tannins similar to red wine and a sourness like fruit beer. Orange wines can be quite strong. 

Where it comes from

Modern winemakers have traced the origins of orange wine to Caucus, 5000 years ago. Back then, wines were fermented in large vessels known as Qvevri. The qvevri were closed with stones and sealed with beeswax.

Italy makes a major portion of the world’s orange wine. Indigenous grapes in the Northeastern parts, bordering Slovenia, are used. These include Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Vert and Ribolla Gialla. The process of making orange wine became popular in Italy thanks to the winemaker Josko Gravner, who first experimented with the wine in 1997. 

Goriška Brda in Slovenia has a history of making orange wine, too. Orange wine is a part of everyday life in this region and is often poured into regular glasses, like beer. Other countries that have tried their hand at orange wine include Georgia, the US, Australia, France, Austria and South Africa. 

How it is made

Much like red, white and rose wine, the pressing and fermenting of grapes forms the basis of how orange wine is made. The difference between orange wine and other types of wine is that winemakers get rid of the skins and seeds when making white wine. This process decides the colour of the wine, which is white because the skins are not used. When red wine is made, the grape skins are left on. This results in wines with a higher tannin content and red colour. Orange wines are produced using white grapes with the skin on, which gives them a deeper colour. 

Serving orange wine

Most orange wines are best enjoyed cool but not too cold. Dessert orange wines are best served chilled.

While orange wines are higher in tannins than regular white wine, they still have a refreshing quality. They make an interesting alternative to red, white or rose wine.