The explosive popularity of so-called orange wines among trendsetting sommeliers has been questioned of late. Critics dismiss them as faddish, extolled for their novelty, rather than their quality. Yet, despite all of the hype (both pro and con), the jury’s still out for the majority of American wine drinkers, as they’ve never tasted them.
So what are Orange Wines?
To make most modern white wines, the grapes are crushed, and the solids are quickly separated from the juice to maintain the wine’s pale color. Orange wines are white wines produced more like reds, with prolonged maceration of crushed grape skins and seeds.
Often made in clay vessels or wooden barrels, they are relics of ancient winemaking traditions that trace back to the Caucasus. They’ve been popularized recently by Italians and Slovenians, and are produced today by enterprising winemakers worldwide.
Rather than being orange, these skin-fermented white wines range from bright gold to tawny brown. On the palate, they often possess the texture, body and tannins of red wines and the fruit and minerality of white wines. Stylistically unique, many offer earthiness, funk and a savory, richly textured mouth-feel.