Is Orange Wine the New Rosè?
Here's what you need to know about the newest (oldest) wine that's trending now.
Have you noticed a new category of wine—orange wine, to be exact—at your favorite wine bar or in your Instagram feed? This wine style may be new to you, but it's one of the oldest known wine styles that we know of today.
What is orange wine?
It's simply a white wine that's made like a red wine. When red wines are made, the grape skins are incorporated with the juice during fermentation, lending their pigment and structure to the finished wine. White wines do not make use of the grape skins: The fruit is pressed, the skins and stems are discarded right away, and only the clear juice is used to make the wine. Orange wine is what happens when the skins of white grapes are welcomed into the fermentation vessel along with the juice—this prolonged skin contact means the "white" wine now comes out in orange, amber, and copper tones.
It's not just color that gets infused from this production method, it's flavor and texture, too. The seeds and stems of the grapes contribute tannin—the compound that makes your tongue pucker up and makes your mouth feel dry—and most orange wines have some savory or nutty flavors as well.
All about orange wine's ancient origins—plus, why it's trending now.
Over the course of thousands of years, there was no sorting or destemming of grapes as is standard in modern winemaking. For both red and white wines, all the fruit was put whole-cluster into large clay vessels called qvevri (or amphorae, depending on your location) and left to ferment. By the 1800s, more sophisticated production methods had taken root in most wine regions and this more "primitive" way of making wine had fallen out of fashion—except in the Republic of Georgia wines were still produced in this traditional way. With the opening up of the Eastern Bloc in the early 2000s, winemakers from around the world were able to visit Georgia and once they tasted these fascinating wines, many were inspired to try this ancient method. Currently, orange wines are produced not only in Georgia but worldwide.
Why winter is the time to drink it.
For fall and winter, orange really is the new pink! The reason rosé wines are so popular in the summer is because they are lighter and fresher than their deeply toned red counterparts (Rosé is made from red grapes but the juice has contact with the skins very briefly, just until the wine starts to be tinted pink). Conversely, orange wines are a great way to enjoy Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, or Pinot Grigio in the fall and winter, because when these familiar grapes are fermented on their skins in the orange wine-style, they come out richer and heartier, all the more cozy to enjoy by the fire or paired with braised meats.
How to drink orange wine.
In order to learn more about orange wine, I went to Anfora in New York City: a charming wine bar that specializes in orange wine. On any given evening at least two or three orange wines are poured by the glass, with and an additional 20-30 by the bottle ranging from classic and approachable to highly funky and even smoky. I taste an array of orange wines with Dave Foss, Anfora's sommelier and wine buyer, and got his expert tips on how to serve them.
The first thing I learned is that there are no standard rules in terms of serving, storing, and pairing these wines with food. Dave recommends you treat each bottle on a "wine by wine basis... the fresher, lighter, more dainty orange wines can be served chilled, and the heavier more tannic orange wines with more skin contact—the ones that drink more like reds—can be served at cellar temperature." Dave's tip? Find a great wine shop where the staff can advise you on which style you're buying and the best way to drink it.
The same goes for food pairing. As with rosé, you want to match the intensity of the dish with the body of the wine. Try a subtler, fresher style of orange wine with roasted salmon or root vegetables. Orange wines with more oxidized, funky flavors can pair really well with game meats.
Orange wines to try right now.
Orange wine isn't widely available in the U.S. As it becomes more popular, it will be easier to find. American wineries experimenting with orange wines quite deliciously include Scholium Project, Donkey and Goat, Dirty and Rowdy, Thomas Fogarty, and Shaw Vineyards.
And here are three Old-World bottles that are currently widely available for a great introduction to the adventurous world of orange wine. First up is Kabaj Rebula 2015 ($24.99, astorwines.com). Not all orange wine is funky, and this Slovenian wine, made from Friulano grapes, is a fresh, delicate, and appealing example with notes of apricots and honey, and just a touch of hazelnut. It's a lovely served chilled.
Another good option is Domaine Glinavos Paleokerisio 2018 ($14.99, wine.com). Paleokerisio means "old fashioned" and this Greek sparkling wine gets that name because it revives the well-known traditional semi-sparkling wine of the northern Greece. Local grapes go through skin contact before fermentation, resulting in a light amber orange color and an off-dry sparkler with flavors of baked apple, orange peel, and mountain spices. It's a cult wine and for good reason.
Last is Sun Goddess by Mary J Blige Pinot Grigio Ramato 2019 ($19.99, wine.com). Yes, you read it right, this Italian skin contact pinot grigio is a collaboration between Mary J. Blige and the Fantinel winery. Ramato means copper in Italian and also refers to this style of wine where the grapes are macerated with pulp after being pressed to extract the intense color which ranges from pale pink to dark copper orange, depending on how long the wine was macerated. Silky smooth and light enough to be a winning pair with seafood, this a wine to start with if you're just easing into the world of orange wine.