Orange wine isn’t what you think it is

"There's a pleasant, unexpected surprise waiting in those glasses of orange wine." - Robin Shreeves
“There’s a pleasant, unexpected surprise waiting in those glasses of orange wine.” – Robin Shreeves

Orange wines, or perhaps more accurately described as amber wines, have been gaining more and more popularity with wine consumers. Writer Robin Shreeves gives these wines a try with the help of Keith Beavers, wine educator and owner of New York City’s In Vino Restaurant & Wine Bar, for Mother Nature Network.

What is orange wine?
The simple way to explain orange wine is that it’s white wine made like red wine. For white wine, the skins of white or red grapes are separated from the juice immediately. When red wines are made, the juice and the skins are left together for a time, imparting the color and the tannins from the skins, seeds and stems into the wine.
Orange wine is made from the juice of white grapes that have contact with their skins for a time before fermenting, imparting an orange or amber tint to the wine.

See Robin’s notes on a few of the “orange” or “amber” wines we import:

Photo: Robin Shreeves
Photo: Robin Shreeves

Oil was what jumped out at me the first time I breathed in the scents of an orange wine — although I got motor oil, not linseed. Our host chose Piquentum Blanc’12 from Croatia made from the malvasia grape as our introduction, a wine he refers to as “Fisher Price My First Orange Wine.” The juice spends just a few days on the skins before fermentation, giving it more of a yellow-orange color than a deeper amber.

The wine confused me at first. I liked it, but there was no familiarity to the taste. My brain didn’t know what to do with it. There was a little sour apple, some earthiness and savoriness to it, and a hint of citrus. This wine was paired with roasted vegetables resting on toasted sour dough bread, all topped with plushy-on-the-inside burrata. It soon became clear this is a very good food wine.

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Next Beavers opened Rebula 2012 from Kabaj winery in Slovenia. The photo taken in the low light of the restaurant doesn’t do the beautiful color of this wine justice. It has contact with the skins for 30 days, giving it more of an orange hue than the Piquentum.

The time spent in contact with the skins gives the wine a heavy tannic structure, which was a surprise to me because, again, my brain didn’t know what to do with it. My eyes saw an orange wine, and my brain expected it to be more like a white or a rose instead of a red.

Read the whole article here.