What the Heck is Orange Wine?
A Brief History:
Orange wine is certainly not a new thing. It’s history actually goes back thousands of years. In fact, orange wine is most likely what most white wines were until the advent of modern winemaking techniques. Most people believe that this style emanated from Eastern Europe; countries like Georgia and Slovenia. Today we still see these wines coming out of those countries, but Northern Italy has also become a major hub. In reality it has become so popular that you find it made just about everywhere now.
How it’s Made:
Orange wine is essentially white wine, made exactly how you make red wine: you let the juice sit on the skins to extract color. Historically this was not necessarily a conscious decision; you would just pick your grapes, stomp on them and stick them in some sort of vessel to ferment. Over time people time winemakers decided to press the grapes and separate the juice from the skins as it created cleaner, lighter wines. Nowadays people are choosing to bring the skins back into the picture and even still are using things like amphorae to ferment the wines as an ode to tradition.
What Do The Skins Do?
Like with red grapes the skins add color, texture, and tannins. That’s why a typical white can almost look like water while some orange wines are as dark as beer. The addition of skins can also add really unique aromas that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to get. Often darker fruits, nuttiness, a pleasant oxidized quality. Some even smell like cider.
Why Do People Love It?
Personally, I am not always the biggest fan, and it’s hard for me to speak for everybody, but I think orange wine offers a lot to the wine industry. They offer an incredibly broad range of styles and are generally something fun and different than what we are used to. They have gotten a lot of winemakers to look back at their roots and look at old traditions. They have brought once forgotten wine regions back into the equation, adding more diversity to our industry.
Whether you like it or not, orange wine like all other niche wines, is an inherently good thing for the industry. It gets more people drinking and interested. It gives smaller producers more opportunity on the world stage. And they can be very fun!
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