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Lexi's Wine List - May 2022

What is Orange Wine? Plus the Best Orange Wines to Try

Orange wine might just be the trendiest wine style right now, just behind the light pink, Provence-inspired rosé wines.

You might be wondering - is orange wine made from oranges? That is a good guess, considering wine can be made from pretty much any fruit; however, orange wine is just white wine that has been made in the same way as red wine. Keep reading to learn more about what that means.

While the hipsters may love orange wine, producing white wine in this way actually dates back thousands of years from a region that is now the country of Georgia. Trends always come back around, don’t they? Natural wine shops and hip restaurants are driving this new wave of orange wine, and I’m here for it. 

This post will help you gain a better understanding of what orange wine is, what it tastes like, and where to buy it. I’ve also included some of the best orange wines to try, whether you’re just starting out on your orange wine journey, or you’re ready for something funky.

Hand holding up a glass of frosty orange wine, against a cafe street backdrop

What is Orange Wine? Plus the Best Orange Wines to Try

This is your complete guide to orange wine, including how to serve orange wine and some food pairings to help you fall in love with this unique style of wine.

WHAT IS ORANGE WINE?

Orange wine is simply white wine that has been made in the same way as red wine. To understand this better, let’s go over the basics of white and red winemaking. 

There is, of course, some more sorcery that the winemakers/cellar workers do between these steps, but we’re sticking to the basics for this post. 

To make white wine, white grapes are harvested and brought into the cellar. They are then pressed to drain the juice off the skins and seeds. This juice is then fermented into wine. 

To make red wine, black grapes are harvested and brought into the cellar. They are then pressed, but here’s the key difference: the juice is left in contact with the skins and seeds and fermented into wine all together. This extra contact with the grape skins and seeds adds color, texture, tannins, flavors, and even antioxidants to the wine.

So when the juice of white wine grapes is fermented in contact with the skins and seeds (as a red wine is), the result is a white wine with more color, texture, tannins, and flavors, aka orange wine. 

This is why on some restaurant wine lists, you may see orange wine referred to as “skin contact” wine. Pro tip: if you ask for a skin contact wine at a restaurant (rather than calling it an orange wine), you’ll look like you know your stuff.

WHAT DOES ORANGE WINE TASTE LIKE?

Just like any style of wine, orange wine can vary in taste depending on many things, including the producer, region, grapes, and amount of skin contact, to name a few. Sometimes an orange wine can taste like a funky sour beer, and other times it might taste like a typical white wine. 

The intensity of flavor and texture of an orange wine depends on a lot of factors, but most importantly how long the juice was left in contact with the skins of the grapes. 

As mentioned above, all of the tannins, texture, color, and more concentrated flavors are extracted from the skins. So similar to rosé, the flavor profiles, structure, and color of an orange wine will depend on how long the skins and seeds are macerated, or soaked, in the juices. 

Orange wines with a lot of skin contact (you can tell by the darker shade) can often have notes of well, oranges. When made using aromatic varieties, they’ll be floral with aromas of orange blossoms or honeysuckle. Other times, they might be more nutty with almond flavors or honeyed notes. 

Most orange wines are fermented to be dry (meaning not sweet); however, I have come across some off-dry (slightly sweet) expressions. See my orange wine recommendations below for a range of styles to try.

A note: orange wines are often unfiltered, so you might see some sediment floating around the juice or settled at the bottom of the bottle. Fear not, this is not a sign of bad wine. Orange wines are often made in a natural way, with nothing added or taken away. So if you see some debris, know that it’s just a byproduct of fermentation and not harmful to consume.

WHERE TO BUY ORANGE WINE

With an increase in popularity lately, orange wine is popping up more and more. You’ll most likely find a few bottles at your local wine shop, or that trendy new restaurant. 

Specifically, if there’s a wine store or restaurant that focuses on natural wine near you, you’re sure to find at least a few orange wine options there.

And if you don’t live in the trendiest neighborhood, you can always order some bottles online. I’ve included links to purchase some of my favorite orange wines below.

HOW TO SERVE ORANGE WINE 

When serving orange wine, think of serving temperatures of white wine. Lighter-bodied orange wines can be served colder (around 45-50° F), while fuller orange wines can be served slightly warmer (around 50-55° F). 

You can serve orange wine on its own, but I always find most wines taste better with food. Try pairing lighter orange wines with light fare like soft cheeses, seafood, chicken dishes, or white sauce pastas. Fuller-bodied orange wines can stand up to foods like hard cheeses, roasted veggies, orange-glazed meats, or takeout Thai food (my personal favorite).

Be sure to pay attention to the acidity levels of your orange wine. Higher acid wines call for higher acid foods, while lower acid wines will be overpowered by acidity in food. Or you can pair your high acid orange wine with creamy or fatty foods like softer cheeses or fried chicken. 

And as always, if your wine is off-dry, you’ll benefit from pairing it with dessert or spicy food.

Bottle of Final Girl orange wine being held in front of an outdoor garden patio setting

BEST ORANGE WINES TO TRY

When you’re first exploring orange wine, start out easy. As I mentioned, orange wine can range in flavors, but sometimes it can taste like sour beer, so I’d suggest working your way up to the funkiest expressions. 

The easiest way to do this is research the wine and see how much skin contact it had. Typically, the less time on the skins, the less funky and characteristically “orange” the wine will be.

Remember that orange wine can come from all over the world and be made using a variety of grapes. Be sure to explore different regions, producers, and styles to get a better understanding of this category.

Stolpman Vineyards Love You Bunches Orange, Santa Barbara, CA

With only of 7 days skin contact, this is a great starting point. It’s a light-to-medium-bodied orange wine with expressive notes of orange blossom, orange rind, and minerality. This is a great crowd-pleaser wine and the perfect introduction to orange wine!

$26.99 on wine.com

Vinovore Safari Sunset Orange, Emilia-Romagna, Italy

With 22 days on skins, this wine has some more texture. It pairs magically with those frozen feta and carmelized onion bites from Trader Joe’s, or a citrus-forward salad. It’s still dry, light, and fruity - perfect for a spring or summer evening.

$22 on Vinovore

AmByth Estate Divinus, Paso Robles, CA

This is probably the closest to a traditional “orange wine” that you’re going to get, with nothing added and nothing taken away. The grape varieties are cofermented in Italian terracotta amphora, resulting in a rich wine with notes of citrus, apples, honey, and almonds.

$38 on winery website

Final Girl Viognier, Santa Barbara, CA

When you’re ready for a really ~orange~ wine, this Final Girl Viognier is a fun one. It’s dry and refreshing, with notes of tropical fruits, oranges, honeysuckle, and stone fruits. 

$35 on winery website

Les Vins Pirouettes Eros, Alsace, France

This wine is a product of an association built by Christian Binner in an effort to showcase some of Alsace’s best organic and biodynamic vineyards and winemakers. If you like floral or aromatic wines, this is a great one to try. It’s medium-bodied with medium tannins, high acidity, and notes of orange blossom, juicy tangerine, and apricot. 

Check Wine Searcher for availability

Domaine Glinavos Paleokerisio, Ioannina, Greece

For an off-dry orange wine, try this funky bottle. Made with local grape varieties, this slightly sweet wine is also a little bit sparkling. I find it delightful paired alongside spicy foods.

$14.99 for 500mL on wine.com


I hope this post inspires you to get out there and try some orange wine! As I mentioned, there are so many different forms of orange wine, so don’t feel discouraged if you don’t enjoy the first one you taste. Keep exploring, and I promise you’ll find one that you love! 

 

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