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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Today I thought I’d share a few thoughts about one of the terms that we get the most questions about: Orange wine. First, what does this term mean? ‘Orange wine’ describes white wine that is skin-contact fermented, which involves macerating the wine on the skins for roughly the same amount of time as if you were making a red wine. However, because the skins are often white (or gold, or green) the wine becomes darker in color then a usual white. This technique is essentially the opposite of making a rosé; for rosé wines, red grapes are used and the wine is removed from the skins as quickly as possible.

This tradition comes from the region now called Georgia, where they’ve been using anfora (or qvevri) for fermenting and aging both red and white wines for many, many generations. In fact, Georgia is one of the oldest wine regions in the world. Very complex and interesting wines come from the unique grapes of this region, such as Chinuri from Pheasant’s Tears — a great example of orange wine.

Another region famous for orange wines is Friuli, where their Pinot Grigio is often made this way; when it is, it’s called Ramato. Many people in the United States may not be aware that the Pinot Grigio grape is actually a pinkish color — so when macerated on the skins, it becomes a dark, copper-hued wine. Try La Castellada, a wine with great color, interesting flavors, and a phenomenal textural ‘crunch.’ Brilliant!

A few winemakers are experimenting with this type of wine here in the United States. Hank Beckmeyer at California’s La Clarine Farm makes a great, blended orange wine; another is made here in New York City by Abe Schoener at Red Hook Winery. Both are very interesting wines, and both are great examples of the new thinking that is pushing American wine to forefront of the industry.

67 Wine carries several orange wines, and once you’re properly introduced to the style, it’s very easy to enjoy them.
-Ben Wood


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