Orange wines are dividing wine-lovers into two camps: Those who find orange wine thrilling and complex, and those who say it is the wine of trendy sommeliers and hipsters.
David Harvey of Raeburn Fine Wines coined the term ‘orange wine’ in 2004 to describe a white wine where the grapes were left in contact with their skins for days, weeks, or even months. Essentially, orange wine is white wine made as if it were a red. However, the trend of orange wine may be new, but winemaking that produces orange wine is the oldest in the world. The wine has a unique color and is more intense on the nose and palate, and may possess significant tannins. Good orange wines balance the right amount of juiciness and acid, with hints of herbs, bruised stone fruits, or burnt orange. Orange wines also go by the name ‘amber wines.’ Many mistakenly think the amber color signals oxidation or that the skin contact spoils the wine. The color does not come from oxidation, but rather the grapes’ skins.
Orange wines have been described as very approachable and well balanced with a fresh, fruity core. The combination of freshness with tannin makes for a versatile food wine. Levi Dalton, former sommelier at New York Italian restaurant Convivio and current writer/broadcaster explains, “Orange wines were my get-out-of-jail-free card. We had a chef who would switch from fish to meat and back again on a tasting menu and orange wines paired effortlessly with every course.”
Morgan Calcote, general manager and beverage director of the renowned restaurant FIG in Charleston, South Carolina, states, “The dining public is savvier than ever, and they are willing to make leaps of faith based on the recommendations of knowledgeable servers or sommeliers.”
Vineyards from California to Slovenia are making orange wines, and restaurants across the country are adding orange wines to their wine lists. Boutique wine shops are having difficulty keeping the wine in stock.
“There’s novelty to orange wines right now,” Calcote says. “Not quite a white, not quite a red, they occupy this ambiguous place in between. Orange wines are their own unique thing.”
Fast Company (2015). The Rise Of Orange Wine. Retrieved September 24, 2015, from http://www.fastcodesign.com/3049731/the-rise-of-orange-wine.
Woolf, S. (2015). Orange Wines: It’s Time To Get In Touch. Retrieved September 24, 2015, from http://www.decanter.com/features/orange-wines-it-s-time-to-get-in-touch-245524/.