Orange wine, also known as skin-contact wine, is basically a natural white wine made like a red. It’s often buttery, nutty and rich without being heavy, and takes on a golden hue that you wouldn’t expect to find pouring out from a bottle of vino… and we can’t keep the cork in this below-the-radar trend any longer.
As with all unexpectedly great things, the pro opinions are split: Helen Johannesen of Helen’s Wines called orange wine ‘the new rose’ during our awesome panel with her (check it out!), while Bon Appetit’s spunky wine editor and author, Marissa Ross, recently wrote a mini-manifesto against the orange wine trend.
We asked Brooke Matthias, wine director for Winc wine subscription service, to break down the trend for us in detail. Winc offers their own delicious raw and vegan version of skin-contact wine, Au-Delá Tocai Friulano. Here’s why we’ll be popping bottles of orange wine all spring…
What the heck is orange wine: Two words are important when it comes to describing orange wine: skin contact. For most white wines, the grapes go directly to the press, the juice is squeezed from them and then immediately separated from the skins. This means little color is extracted from the grape’s skins, which is where a wine’s color comes from. For orange wines, the juice is kept with the grape skins for the entirety of fermentation and sometimes longer, until the ‘must’ (combination of juice and skins) is ready to be pressed. This process is the same process we use for making red wines, and applying that process to white grapes is how we get orange wine!
Why do you think it’s having a moment? Rosé fatigue? I wouldn’t say it is a result of rose fatigue, but if you’re a rosé fan, you will likely appreciate the dryness and high acidity of orange wines! I think orange wine is having a moment because we are seeing consumers become more and more adventurous. This is especially true for millennials – they have the most varied tastes of any wine drinkers in history and are most likely to experiment with new and unique varietals.
What’s an average orange-wine tasting profile? With most orange wines, you can still expect to get some similar flavors that you’d find with white wines, like stone fruit, along with a plethora of secondary and tertiary flavors that have developed in the wine. These non-fruit flavors might include vanilla, caramel, nuttiness and herbal notes.
A younger orange wine may have more crispness and fruit flavors, while an older orange wine may have more oxidative characteristics. Depending on what sounds attractive to you, you can choose to try a wine that is a little older or new to the shelf. My advice is to approach orange wines with an open mind. Orange wine is typically made in small batches and there is a lot of variation depending on how much time the juice spent with the skins, what grape variety the wine is made from and how the wine was aged.
recommend any orange wines? Winc’s Au-Delá Tocai Friulano is made from an Italian grape varietal that is rarely found in California and will suit white and red wine drinkers alike. Our Au-Delà Pinot Gris is made from 50% skin-contact pinot gris and 50% from traditionally made pinot gris, so it’s a bit brighter and has an incredible color to it.
Anything else you’d like us to know? Orange wines are very versatile for food pairings, because they can stand up to heartier dishes more than most whites can. Orange wine goes great with a range of meat dishes, but is always fun to try with flavorful cuisine like Indian.