Orange : The Other Wine

By Emma Bentley

Red, White and... Orange ..No, we are not talking about Donald Trump. We are talking about something far more intoxicating ... Wine. 

“Red or white?” is surely the most common question when deciding which type of wine to drink.

White wines are predominantly made from light-skinned grape varieties such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling. Yet it’s also possible to make a white wine from dark-skinned grapes. Did you know that many Champagnes are made from Pinot Noir grapes? These are called “Blanc de Noirs.” 
To make this kind of wine, when the grapes are taken to the winery at harvest, they are pressed straightaway. The clear juice is immediately taken off the skins and pumped into a separate barrel or tank so that none of that red colour is imparted. 

To make a rosé - or pink - wine, it’s very simple: you leave the liquid in contact with the skins for a short period of time - possibly just overnight, for example. This way, you get some of the colour but not as much as for a full-on red wine, for which it will stay on the skins for a week.

It is for this reason that, even though Zinfandel is a red-grape variety, you can also find Blush (another word for rosé) and White Zin.

However, a relatively new type of wine is this aforementioned orange wine.

As the name indicates, these wines can have a beautiful gold, apricot or toffee hue. Orange wines are made by leaving the freshly pressed grape juice in contact with the skins of white varieties. The technical term for this is “maceration.” Commonly for several days, the skin-contact stage can also last several months. This style of wine is particularly common in Georgian winemaking tradition (Georgia, as in the country near Russia... and yes, they've been making wine there for 8000 years!) You can occasionally find orange wines in Italy and France, especially in natural wine circles, from winemakers who are going against conventional winemaking practices.

Orange wines taste rather different to the other styles of wine and to the unaccustomed, they can seem rather strange at first. It’s not necessarily the flavours (typically very fruity and nutty) which are so unusual, it’s more the mouth feel. Orange wines are bone dry and they often have a slightly bitter taste towards the end. It’s not surprising to find an orange wine which is as tannic as a red wine. That being said, they can be fascinatingly complex and will often benefit further from ageing.

As a result, not only are orange wines delicious by themselves but they are versatile food-wines. In particular, they tend to go very well with spicy food and strong cheeses. So next time you’re making a curry and you don’t know which wine to pair with it, think about choosing an orange wine.

Producers of orange wines to look out for:

Pheasant’s Tears (Kakheti, Georgia)

Okro’s Wine (Kakheti, Georgia)

Radikon (Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy)

Dario Prinčič (Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy)



Emma Bentley is Deux's Wine Consultant. She is an english born, St.Andrews educated francophile who lives in Italy after spending years in Paris.