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Orange Wines & The Natural Wine Connection

Orange Wines & The Natural Wine Connection

Over the past decade, orange wines have re-entered the wine space and gained a lot of momentum through natural wine lovers.

The natural wine movement emphasizes minimal intervention and authenticity - aligning perfectly with the processes for making orange wine. Whether it’s incorporating more of the grape (e.g., the grape skins) during fermentation or using oxygen to enhance the grape’s intrinsic flavors, orange wines allow winemakers to naturally create more expressive wines that highlight a grape’s origin and profile. 

What's old is new again!

Orange wines date back ~8000 years ago to the oldest archaeological evidence of winemaking in the country of Georgia!

Where does the orange color come from?

There are two common methods to influence the unique color in orange wines–
  1. ic: Georgian qvevri - clay vessels used for wine
    Oxidation: Historically winemakers made wine in amphora (large clay vessels) which were more porous than modern stainless steel and oak barrels. These allowed small amounts of oxygen to ‘oxidize’ the wine during the winemaking process. Similar to how an apple slice will turn brown/orange when exposed to oxygen, white wines undergo a similar process which creates their orangey coloring.
  2. Maceration (aka “skin-contact”): This technique is primarily used to make red wines, where grape skins (and often seeds and stems) are left in contact with the juice during fermentation. This extracts additional tannins, flavors, and color into the wine. For white wines, grape skins are typically discarded before fermentation. When white wines are fermented with their grape skins (typically pale yellow or brownish-green in color), the wines pick up an orange-ish hue.

What grapes are used in orange wine?

ic: Vermentino - a white wine grape

Orange wines are made with any white wine grape. The spectrum of orange hues (and flavors!) depends on the grape’s natural flavor profile, along with the amount of time it spends going through the above winemaking processes.

What do orange wines taste like?

ic: Some of our favorite orange wines

Unlike traditional white wines which may be described as light and crisp, orange wines are often described as bold or more robust.

Through skin-contact, orange wines extract more tannins, flavors, and color. Orange wines are often highly aromatic with more body and texture that can be both clean and gripping, like the fine grains of pear juice.

Oxidation can enhance some of the wine’s inherent flavors especially characteristics of dried fruits, honey, spices, and nuts. This process also introduces oxidative qualities that can be an acquired taste, and often more welcome amongst drinkers of kombucha or other fermented beverages.

Amber wines.. Skin-contact wines.. Orange wines..

There are quite a few different ways to describe 'orange wine' and here are the some of the most common:

  • Skin-contact or Macerated wines: Used to describe orange wines made via 'maceration' - the winemaking process that involves soaking the wine-to-be with its grape skins to extract color, tannins, and flavors. The orange coloring in these wine are primarily from the grape skins and not necessarily from oxidation.

  • Oxidative wines: Less commonly used, this term describes orange wines that get their coloring through oxidation, as opposed to using the maceration/skin-contact method.

  • Amber wines: Aside from describing wines with a richer orange hue, winemakers use 'amber wines' on their labels due to legal restrictions around the term 'orange wine.' The term 'orange wine' can be misleading for consumers in suggesting that oranges (the fruit) was used to make the wine.

  • Ramato: An Italian term, meaning 'copper-colored,' typically referring to Italian orange wines which are traditionally made from Pinot Grigio.

Do you sell orange wines?

We thought you'd never ask! 😉

Click here for the orange wines we're sipping through this season. Cheers!

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