Let me take a wild guess here…you’ve heard of rosé. I mean between all of the #roséallday #drinkpink and #yeswayrosé, how could you have missed it? Rosé has been hotter than hot for a few years now and with summer in full-swing it’s in it’s glory days. But something you may not have heard about just yet…something I personally think deserves just as much love as rosé…has been lurking in the shadows for far too long. Let me introduce you to Orange Wine! No, no…this isn’t yet another jab at our current commander-in-chief. Orange wines, are the real deal. Delicious, surprising, and sure to catapult you to the top of your wino-loving friend circle as the one who introduced them to the next big thing. Your welcome.
So first things first. Let’s explain both rosés and orange wines. Need a refresher on winemaking in general? We have you covered here. For today’s topic, we’ll start with rosé since it’s likely a more familiar starting point. And honestly, once you understand rosé it’s pretty easy to turn that on it’s head to explain orange wines. We like to keep things simple here at The Crafty Cask!
In the simplest terms, rosé is a wine made from red wine grapes that have minimal skin contact. So going back to basics, the beautiful red colors you get in red wine is from the grape skins being in contact with the juice during fermentation. The longer you leave the skins in, the deeper red color you get. And also the more tannic bite you get, especially since the seeds are still in there too. Skin contact time is definitely a balancing act and part of the art of winemaking. Conversely the quicker you pull those skins out the lighter the color of your wine. This is how you make rosé. Now, to be clear there are a few different ways to make rosé…but we’re going to keep it at this simplest level. Red wine grapes with minimal skin contact makes rosé.
Orange Wine 101
So, now to turn that on its head. How do you make orange wines? Again, precise production methods aside, orange wine is almost the inverse of rosé. So instead of red wine grapes, you use white wine grapes. And instead of minimal skin contact time, you have increased skin contact time. Orange wine is simply white wine grapes all mashed up and allowed sit and soak in the juice for as little as 4 days to as long as over a year. Now, as we said since the skins and seeds can impart more tannic bite, orange wines tend to have quite a bit more personality than their white wine parents or rosé cousins. Intrigued? We thought so…
Another unique element to orange wine is the fact that they are often inextricably tied to natural wine. While certainly not all orange wines are natural, many of them are. That means minimal winemaker intervention, no additives and usually spontaneous fermentation (using the yeasts naturally occurring in the air/location instead of adding in commercial yeast with specified characteristics). The combination of longer skin contact and natural methods leads to commonly experienced profiles of sourdough, cheese, hay, bruised or slightly rotting fruit, nuttiness and, at times, even varnish.
Feeling Skeptical…Orange ‘Ya Glad You Trusted Us?!
I know, I know! You’re like, wait – why are you introducing me to orange wines? None of those sound like things I want to drink! But think about all the wines you’ve had where the smell was weird or off-putting and there might even be something a little weird in the taste but you totally fell in love with that glass of wine. This is where orange wine shines! For me, orange wines are the intellectual’s wine of the moment. They challenge you, surprise you and ultimately romance you. Well, at least they do for me…let’s figure out if they will for you too.
My almost foolproof indicator that you’ll like orange wines? If you like sour beers or Spanish cider (Sidra) I’d bet good money that you’ll also be delighted by orange wines. But what if you don’t love those things? Well, orange wines are a delightful twist from the whites and rosés that are taking over your sips this summer. Let’s walk through a few scenarios where I’d urge you to give orange wines a try. Craving a glass of red wine full of complexity but it’s a little too warm out? Orange wine is perfect for those moments! Or having a summer steak but not in the mood for red? Yup – orange wine would be great with that meal…especially if you throw some blue cheese on it (I know, twist your arm!). Rustic, hearty foods are also perfect pairings once we get out of the summer heat. And since many credit orange wines to the country of Georgia (this is a good region to focus on as you jump into orange wines) any food from that part of the world is a natural fit.
And, of course…talk to the experts while ordering. Tell them you’re intrigued by orange wines but explain what you typically drink and what elements of wines you know you don’t like. Then, let the journey begin!
We’re All Winners: #RoseAllDay & #OrangeObsession
Rosé is lovely, don’t get me wrong. This is not an OR situation. It’s an AND situation! I love sipping pink as much as the next gal. But I also love the alternative that orange wines give me when I’m craving a lighter wine with a bit more weight, complexity and personality. And I want to share that joy with all of you. So keep your eye out at your local bottle shops and wine bars to start trying some orange wines. And like I said, make friends!
Speaking of friends, later this week I’ll be sitting down with Jenny from The Punchdown in Oakland to talk all about orange wines. Make sure you’ve subscribed to our YouTube channel so you don’t miss it! We’ll taste through three and give you some concrete tips on how to find an orange wine that you’ll love. They’re not currently super easy to find, but I think you’ll thank us when you do!
Have you tried orange wines? Already have some favorites? Spill the beans in the comments below and let’s make orange wines the next big thing!