Fancy a glass of mischievous orange wine?
Updated: Mar 22, 2019
What kind of wine is your favourite? A cheeky red? A crisp white? A mischievous orange? Wait, what? Yes, that’s right. Orange wine is a very real thing and it’s a delicious one to boot. It’s also not a new thing. The first examples of it can be traced back to the Caucasus region of Georgia over 6000 years ago. Time for a recap.
Orange wine, despite its name, isn’t made from oranges (that would be orange juice) nor is it some sort of hybrid cocktail. Orange wine has its own identity, and it’s one we think you will really enjoy.
Orange wine is essentially a type of white wine. Like its paler cousin, it is made from white grapes but, the difference being that, during the fermentation process, the skins of the grapes and their seeds are left in, sometimes referred to as ‘skin contact’ wine. It’s a common process when making red wine, known in the trade as vinifying, but when using white grapes, it is unusual.
The grapes are fermented in a large vessel, usually one made from cement or ceramic, for anywhere from a few days to a whole year. Because the seeds and skins are in constant contact with the juice (which would normally be removed when making white wine), this creates an orange-tinted hue that continues and develops into the finished product.
The differences in the process doesn’t just extend to the colour. It’s a very natural, low intervention process using few, if any additives, and sometimes it doesn’t even contain yeast. Orange wine has a much more robust flavour than white, with an aroma that hints at honey, nuts and apples.
Orange wine delivers big when it glides over your palate. Usually they are dry and have tannin like a strong red (you know, tannin, those polyphenolic compounds that bind to and precipitate proteins). Orange wine has been described as having the taste of a sour, fruit beer or a strongly brewed iced tea.
Your choices of orange
If you’re looking to dip your toe in the growing market for orange wine (we don’t mean literally), then there are some fantastic producers out there. Given its origins, it’s no coincidence that some of the best orange wine comes from some of the former Soviet block countries such as Slovenia, particularly the Goriška Brda region, from producers like Klinic, Princic and Nando. In addition, in nearby Georgia, producers like Tbilvino and Pheasant’s Tears use the orange wine grapes of choice called Rkatsiteli, which gives their wine a deep red / orange hue. Maranuli have produced a beautiful orange wine from the grape called Kisi, which is cultivated in the region of Kakheti, located within Eastern Georgia. Maranuli Qvevri Kisi (2017) received an impressive Platinum medal in the Decanter 2018 award as Best Value Georgian Amber wine in Qvevri with 97 points.
Qvevri wine making technique
Whilst we’re in Georgia, it’s worth pointing out their use of the Qvevri-aged wines to create orange wine. A Qvevri (sometimes referred to as a ‘Kvevri’) were the very first egg-shaped, Earthenware vessels, lined with beeswax, used to ferment wine. The main difference to more modern techniques are that the Qvevri’s are buried underground. This allows the underground temperature to remain consistent throughout the year, by utilising the natural geological conditions of the Earth. Not only is Qvevri an incredibly high score in Scrabble if used correctly, it creates many of the bottles of beautiful orange wine we stock right here.
In fact, in recent years, the Georgians have started to revive this method causing excitement throughout the world for the quality of the wine they produce this way. Due to its very nature, the amount orange wine that can be produced is limited compared to more traditional methods, which means when you do open a bottle, you should savour every sip of its full-bodied flavour. Who knows, it may replace those cheeky reds and crisp whites as your new favourite tipple. If nothing else, it should brighten up your wine rack.