It’s Autumn, have you heard? Oranges and ambers are in their heyday — displacing red, white, and rosé hues, even in your wine glasses. It’s time to explore orange wines! They are the go-to rebel wines which thrive in the cooler months. Their bright notes as well as tannins and depth come together to enhance the richer foods of fall.
These wines have been described as robust and bold, with honeyed aromas of apricot, hazelnut, and bruised apple and with notes of wood and juniper, sourdough, and dried orange rind. On the palate, they’re big, dry, and have tannins like a red wine with a sourness similar to fruit beer.
Come to vomFASS Madison and discover orange wines!
No actual oranges were harmed in the making of orange wine—the name refers to the color only. To make orange wine, also known as amber wine or skin-contact wine, whole white grapes are crushed and then macerated (left to sit) with their skins and seeds for as little as a few hours and as long as up to one year. The process is similar to making red wine. The skin of the white grapes creates orangish hues ranging from a light gold to almost amber, depending on the length of maceration and type of grape. Eventually, winemakers separate out the fermented juice, at which point they may age the wine further.
Orange wine is like the sophisticated and flashy cousin of white wine—rocking a stylish orange, popped-collar shirt instead of a simple white tee. ‘Tis the season for orange wine to overthrow the reigning summer champs of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. While they can be made with the same grapes, orange wines generally have more body and the added complexities of tannins, nutty tanginess, and hints of piney herbs.
Archeology for Tastebuds
There is evidence the way orange wines are made may have been the original production method for making white grapes into wine. People in the what is now the modern-day country of Georgia have been making skin-contact wine for about 8000 years in large (some of them 2000L) underground earthenware urns called Kvevri (or qvevri). Filled with crushed grapes or berries, and sealed, the fruit fermented into wine.
Over time production methods changed and flavor profile preferences shifted. Orange wines were displaced by more modern white wines, leaving a lot of fun and funky wines to be “rediscovered” as the wine industry pendulum swings back to more natural production methods. Sipping orange wine is like taking a sip from a time machine. It's as if you're drinking a wine straight out of ancient amphoras, transporting your palate back to a bygone era. It's like archaeology for your tastebuds.
Skin to Skin
The growth of the natural wine industry has reinvigorated interest in skin-contact white wines. The natural wine industry relies on the skins of the grapes to provide native yeasts for fermentation and compounds which provide natural antioxidants to help preserve the wine with little to no added sulfites. While many orange wines can be natural, others may be made in a fusion of old and new methods.
Any kind of white grape can be used to make orange wine. The only rule is that there must be some grape skin contact during fermentation. Some orange wines are only macerated for a few hours, which lends a lighter color, and a brighter, fruit-forward flavor. On the opposite end of the spectrum, other orange wines can be macerated for several months. These wines have a deep, intense hue that verges on amber and deeper tannic structure.
Serving an Adventure
It's the beverage of choice for those who want to impress their friends with their esoteric tastes. If you've ever considered yourself an adventurous eater, orange wine is made to be your liquid sidekick. It pairs well with oysters, spicy seafood pastas, tacos, smoked pork, fermented pickles, and sriracha-infused sushi, as well as a vegan, gluten-free, organic, locally sourced charcuterie board. It's a wine that vegans and carnivores can bond over!
The correct temperature to serve an orange wine varies. The lighter hued varieties should be served at the same temperatures you serve white wine (approximately 45-50F) to enhance its innate fruitiness. The deeper amber wines may be enjoyed more at 50-55F. The wines themselves are not picky about what glasses they are served in, but purists recommend white wine glasses.
A Complex Character
Orange wine isn't just a beverage: it's a conversation starter, a trendsetter, and a ticket to the quirky side of the wine world. An orange wine is like the Shakespearean actor of the wine world, boasting a depth of complex flavors and aromas. One sip, and you might detect notes of dried apricots, Earl Grey tea, and a hint of camping in the woods.
The variety of grapes, the length of maceration, the fermentation yeasts, and methods of aging and storing provide an abundance of flavors as well as colors. So, the next time want a little more out of your wine, open a bottle of orange wine and let your taste buds embark on a enjoyable journey through the world of wine eccentricity. Cheers!
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