Red, White, and…Orange

Novelty is something that avid wine drinkers constantly seek out. What’s the new hot grape? Where’s the next “go-to” region? If you’re looking to drink on the cutting edge, what you should have in your glass right now is not a red, nor a white, and not even a rosé, but an orange wine. That’s right, orange.

“Orange wine” has become the unofficial wine geek term to describe white wines that are left to macerate on their skins for extended periods of time, soaking up color and tannins from the skins and thus resulting in an amber shade of orange.

White wines are typically produced with minimal or no skin contact, since most winemakers prefer to keep the wine’s color light and keep astringent tannins (which originate in the grapes’ skins) out.  Letting the freshly pressed juice mingle with the skins for days or even months imparts intense color and tannic grip to the wine, yielding an entirely new product that is worlds away from the white wines you’re familiar with.

Orange wines were originally produced centuries ago in the country of Georgia and now the northern Italian region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia has become the world’s orange wine epicenter. Winemakers in other parts of Italy as well as in Slovenia, Croatia, France, Germany and even California have picked up on the trend.

Orange wines are made from a variety of different white grapes including delicious obscurities like Carricante, Coda di Volpe, Grechetto, Malvasia, Ribolla Gialla, Trebbiano, Verdicchio, and Vitovska. Many orange wines are also made in an oxidized style, having been aged in oak barrels or clay amphorae, which allow oxygen to come in contact with the wine. Most white wines, on the other hand, are aged in stainless steel tanks, which seal the oxygen out.

Hipster sommeliers across the country have become increasingly smitten with these enchanting wines. Here are a few producers to look out for:

  • Cornelissen
  • Radikon
  • Vodopivec
  • Paolo Bea
  • Monastero Suore Cistercensi
  • Ca’ de Noci
  • La Stoppa
  • Castello di Lispida
Etty Lewensztain

About the Author: Etty Lewensztain is the founder and owner of Plonk Wine Merchants, which features organic, biodynamic and natural wines, as well as some of the best cheap wine under $20. The curly-haired, food and wine obsessed Los Angeles native cut her teeth in the wine biz running a marketing campaign to promote Chilean wine in the United States, and is certified by the esteemed Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) and the American Sommelier Association. Plonk Wine Merchants specializes in hidden gems from around the globe and every bottle in the store is priced below $30.


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