Orange is the Colour -
not of my true loves hair but of a wine style that is simultaneously a glimpse into the past and into the future of winemaking. One that has connections with cultural oppression and political upheaval. A style that has an increasing number of fans but equally has caused consternation, confusion and disdain in the traditional wine scene. One that has been dismissed as a fad but, increasingly it seems, is very much here to stay alongside the more familiar red, white and rosé.
Also known as amber or skin contact wines they are made by treating grapes normally used to make white wine as though making a red. (Very) briefly, to make a red you ferment the juice in contact with the grape skins to extract colour, flavour and structure. To make a white you press the grapes to extract the juice, ferment that and chuck away the skins. Orange wines are made by fermenting white grapes on the skins for days, weeks or even months.
Look back several millennia and the normal way to make wine was to ferment all grapes, whatever colour, on the skins. This tradition largely died out but was rediscovered only a couple of decades ago, initially in Slovenia, neighbouring Friuli and in Georgia but now producers around the world are trying it out.
The results range in colour from golden through, yes, orange, to tawny, even ochre. On the nose there is an unusual vibrancy and intensity. On the palate that continues with the added dimension of tannin - that structure you get in reds that gives balance and grip.
Orange wines vary in style as much as whites or reds do but almost always come into their own with food . Many top restaurants now include at least one in wine flights with tasting menus and have a well stocked orange section in their wine list.
They may not be to everyone’s taste but approached with an open mind they are an exciting new experience, enough to enliven even the most jaded palate.
Two to try:
Vinessens, Tragolargo Blanco - grown in the sandy soils of Alicante near the Mediterranean sea.
La Stoppa, Ageno - made by true wine revolutionary Elena Pantaleoni in Emila Romagna, northern Italy.
Available from Iron & Rose in Shrewsbury Market Hall and on the list by the bottle and by the glass at Glouglou Wine Bar | Shop, Castle Gates.
Read more about it:
in Simon J Woolf’s excellent recent book “Amber Revolution”.