Say hello to Orange Wine, the perfect drink for spring

In 2014, as the popularity of rosé (and the so-called “Millennial Pink”) was at its peak, bottles with cute pink labels and names like “Rosé All Day” and “Yes Way Rosé” saturated the market. Influencers posted pictures of themselves enjoying a picnic on the beach with a glass of rosé in hand purely for aesthetic reasons.

These days people still take photos of wine by the gram, but now more of these glasses are filled with orange wine rather than rosé wine. Though the drink is gaining traction on social media in much the same way rosé has in the past, it’s for a slightly different reason, according to sommelier Paige Flori, who owns boutique Wines, Spirits and Cider in Fishkill, NY.

Unlike rosé, the orange wine trend isn’t primarily being driven by its pretty color or because celebrities like Drew Barrymore have released one (although Dua Lipa is a documented fan). While the orange hue piques people’s interest, the appeal has more to do with the rise of the natural wine movement, as most orange wines fall under this umbrella. “Consumers have shown more interest in how the products they eat are made and are looking for simple, less processed options,” Flori explains. “The simplicity and straightforwardness of the orange wine process makes it easy to understand, and the lack of added sulfur makes it appealing.”

This, combined with the fact that it is a ‘new’ category of wine, gets people excited to try it. But what exactly is orange wine?

What is orange wine? Does it have oranges in it?

Orange wine may be new to many, but it’s certainly not a recent innovation, nor is it made from oranges. Instead, says Flori, it’s the product of an ancient winemaking technique that dates back several thousand years to the country of Georgia.

Orange Wine is made from white wine grapes; however, it is made like red wine, meaning the skin and pips are left on longer during fermentation. Prolonged contact with the skins and pips is enough for the wine to turn orange, increase tannins and develop flavor. Therefore, orange wine is often referred to as wine with skin contact. (Rosé, on the other hand, is made from red wine grapes, but in a similar way: it gets its color from contact with the skins of the grapes.)

The ancient Georgians were clearly ahead of their time. Orange wines from Georgia are still category leaders, but now a growing number of non-Georgian winemakers from larger wine-producing countries like France and the US are venturing outside of white, red and rosé wines, which Flori describes as “another crucial piece of the puzzle.” , which contributes to the trend.”

Are all orange wines considered natural wines?

Although all ancient orange wines were considered natural, the same cannot be said for all modern ones. Natural wines, as you can probably guess, are wines made without any artificial ingredients. But aside from not including the extra sulphites that are often added to wine as a preservative, “natural” also refers to the grapes and filtration. Natural wines are made from organic or biodynamic grapes and are not filtered before bottling. Basically, they are made following the earliest winemaking practices. Since the orange wine trend is a resurgence of an old style of wine, most orange wines also happen to be natural wines.

If your orange wine is natural, it will likely say so on the label, but it’s not always a given. In France, for example, wine must meet certain criteria in order to be labeled as natural wine or “vin methode nature”. But in the US, regulations only extend to whether or not the wine was produced at an organic or biodynamic winery — meaning a wine can be marketed as “natural” even if it doesn’t meet specific criteria.

Regardless of the official label, you can probably see and taste if an orange wine is natural. Because it’s unfiltered, it looks cloudy rather than clear, and because the filtration process removes yeast and microbes, it also has a distinct flavor. Mandy Naglich, an experienced taster with advanced Cicerone status and author of How to Taste, describes this taste as “similar to tart cider, sour beer and more funkiness like farm or mashed fruit”.

How to join the Orange Wine Trend

As with any wine, you can test different brands until you find what you like, but it also helps to know what to look for specifically on the bottle. Naglich says the first step is to check if it’s labeled natural or Pétillant Naturel, which means “natural sparkling wine” in French. Both terms signal that the orange wine is natural, but Pétillant Naturel indicates that it was bottled before fermentation and does not contain as much yeast or sugar.

Some Orange Wines are neither Natural nor Pétillant Naturel. “If you find funky wines intimidating, stick to labels that only describe the wine as ‘orange’ or ‘skin contact,'” advises Naglich.

You can also see bottles of “de-stemmed” orange wine. Because the presence of the grape stalk affects the flavor of the wine, this type of orange wine has “fewer nutty, earthy, or leathery flavors,” says Naglich. Look for destemmed on the label if you want a wine with a stone fruit or citrus flavor profile.

If you have no idea what you’ll end up liking, Flori has dropped these orange wine brands: Six Eighty Cellars Skin Fermented Riesling, Six Eighty Cellars Pinot Gris Ramato, Bizarra Extravaganza Orange, and Château de Cérons Coucher de Soleil. And in case you need more confirmation that Orange Wine has made it mainstream, apparently even Trader Joe’s has an Orange Wine selection.

The best way to enjoy orange wine

You’ve probably heard that red wine goes well with steak or that white wine goes well with fish, but what about orange wine? Naglich and Flori agree that grilled vegetables are among the best orange wines. “The char brings out some of the red wine characteristics of bowl wines, and the earthy sweetness of grilled root vegetables contrasts particularly well with the succulent stone fruit qualities,” explains Naglich.

If you’re making a charcuterie, stick to creamy cheeses like triple cream brie to contrast mouth-drying tannins. The same applies to desserts – Naglich recommends a creamy panna cotta.

Also, for optimal enjoyment, be mindful of how cold you serve your orange wine, as the ideal temperature varies by weight. “Lighter orange wines thrive better at temperatures of 45-50 degrees,” Flori specifies. “Heavier orange wines would do better at 50-60 degrees.” To determine the weight of your orange wine, simply look at the color. The darker the shade of orange, the longer the skin contact and the heavier the wine. The opposite is true for Light Orange Wines.

Of course, if food pairings and exact temperatures aren’t your style and you’re more of a casual wine drinker, there’s nothing wrong with simply pouring yourself a glass the next time you can’t decide between white or red. And if you still love your favorite rosé, don’t worry, you don’t have to give it up because orange wine has a niche of its own.

Image Source: Getty Images / Yana Iskayeva

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