You've probably noticed that Instagram has been awash with photos of #OrangeWine recently. Especially over the summer months, people trapped at home thanks to lockdown have been getting stuck into orange wine in their gardens, on their balconies, and, of course, in their paddling pools (let's be honest: summer 2020 has been a weird one). In fact, Sainsbury's recently revealed that there has been a huge increase in sales of orange wine - 468% to be precise.
Despite what a lot of people might think, orange wine isn't just a dark rosé. But in fact, a totally different creature, and one that we think you should be getting stuck into sooner rather than later.
We spoke to RAW WINE founder, Isabelle Legeron MW, to ask what orange wine actually is, and find out why she thinks it's becoming more and more popular, despite actually having been around for some 8,000 years...
What is orange wine?
An orange wine is simply a white wine made like a red wine, i.e the juice of white grapes is left in contact with its skins and pips in order to extract colour, flavour and structure. Ideally, the maceration time of orange wine is longer than just a few hours or a couple of days. It's actually more like several weeks or months. The result from this is unusual, as it results in an orange colour (sometimes even Fanta-coloured), and is probably unlike any wine you’ve tasted before.
What does orange wine taste like?
For many, an orange wine reflects autumn: fresh mushrooms, hazelnuts and walnuts. But they can also be wonderfully floral with hints of citrus peel. Think persimmon, for example.
Given the winemaking process and the skin contact involved, orange wines are tannic, much like a red wines, and show different flavour profiles compared to white wines. They are often a lot more savoury, broad and nutty, while also featuring aromas of citrus rind, dry Mediterranean herbs and floral notes, which are almost violet-like in intensity. The palate is structured, with a varying intensity of tannins (depending on the type of grape used and whether or not the stems were used during the maceration process), and often the tannins need time to soften and integrate.
What’s the difference between orange wine and rosé wine?
A rosé wine is made from red grapes that are only macerated for a few hours, whilst an orange wine is made using white grapes, which macerate for weeks or sometimes even months. That's where the rich orange colour comes from
Why has orange wine become so popular recently?
People seem to be more willing to experiment with different styles of wines nowadays, which is great. And orange wine has also benefited from the rise in popularity of natural wine, since lots of orange wines are made by natural wine producers. This is because the tannins and anti-oxidants extracted from the skins are an easy way of stabilising a white wine without using additives.
It might seem like a novelty drink given its current popularity, but it is actually a style that has always existed. When people first started making wine some 8,000 years ago, they made it all in much the same way - regardless of colour - so wines would have been mainly red or orange.
How do you store and serve orange wine?
All wines should be stored in cool conditions, but in regard to serving temperature, it really depends on the particular style of the wine. Generally speaking however, a proper skin-macerated, tannic white wine (i.e. an orange wine) is best enjoyed less chilled than regular white wines but slightly cooler than a reds. Somewhere in the middle is perfect.
They also seem to show their best out of large glasses as they need plenty of air in order to open up and reveal their full personalities. The key is to treat them more like reds than whites, and not to drink them too cold.
What foods do orange wines complement?
Orange wines work magically with food and given their unusual flavour and texture profiles, are incredibly versatile. Orange wines really do come into their own alongside food. Tannins soften - even disappear - with food, and the versatility of their extraordinary flavour profile becomes apparent. They work well with a wide range of dishes but are particularly suited to robust flavours like mature hard cheeses, spicy stews or - even better - walnut-based dishes. In fact, you could easily stick to an orange wine throughout your entire meal as it can match starters, mains and often works brilliantly with cheese (although beware of using it alongside sweet dishes).
Where is the best orange wine from?
Excellent examples exist in places as diverse as Sicily, Spain and Switzerland, but Slovenia and its neighbouring Italian Collio make some of the most profound orange wines in the world. The main hotbed of production, however, is undoubtedly Georgia (in the Caucasus), which has amazing examples that are usually fermented in large clay pots buried underground, known as qvevri (kvevri). Georgia has actually been making orange wines continuously for 8,000 years so it is definitely a good place to start if you're trying orange wine for the first time.
Head to RAW WINE to find out more about orange wines and other natural wines.
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