Orange wine: everything you need to know

What is orange wine and where can you buy it? Our wine expert Kate Hawkings knows, read on to find out more...

Kate Hawkings is a food and drink writer and consultant with a special interest in sniffing out wines from lesser-known regions and lesser-known grapes that give the most bang for the buck. She is also a restaurateur and is co-owner of Bellita in Bristol. @KateHawkings


When it comes to choosing wine, do you go for white, red or rosé? Or, like a growing number of adventurous drinkers, are you drawn to orange wines?

Also known as ‘skin contact’ wines, these are white wines made by leaving the grape skins in the juice for days or weeks during the fermentation, the same way red wine is made. This is how wine was made in ancient times, fermenting it in clay amphorae with natural yeasts borne in the air. The skins impart extra colour and flavour, along with tannins, which add a richness of texture and a pleasing savoury complexity, and so making it food-friendly.

The recent rise of interest in traditionally produced wines has led to orange wines appearing on restaurant lists across the country (from The Ritz to Lyle’s) and on the shelves of forward-thinking retailers. Actually more often amber than orange in colour, some are really elegant and very easy to drink while others are seriously funky with whiffs of farmyards and a taste that nods towards cider. This might explain why supermarkets have generally been slow to pick up on this trend (shout out to M&S for their progressive outlook) so they’re not the easiest wines to find, but anybody with an open mind and a thrill-seeking palate should sniff them out and give them a whirl. Forget orange is the new black, it’s the new white.

Drink this right now

Full-on flavours and robust spicing make Korean food notoriously hard to match with wine, especially if the distinctive sourness of kimchi is added to the mix.

De Martino Muscat Viejas Tinajas 2014 (£15.99, handford.net) makes a bullseye match. Classic floral muscat aromas give a touch of sweetness to balance the spice, while a zippy minerality keeps the richness of the food in check.
Cullen Amber 2014, too (around £24, thewinereserve.co.uk, nywines.co.uk), a semillon/sauvignon blanc blend, bursts with orange blossom, tropical fruit and sunshine. Very pure and breathtakingly delicious.

High Street Bottle

If you are a newcomer to orange wines then Tbilvino Qvevris 2013 (£9, M&S) makes a fine introduction. Produced in Georgia, where wine has been made for more than 8,000 years, and aged in qvevri (traditional clay jars buried in the ground), it has gorgeous honey- and quince-scented fruit and makes an ace pairing with hard cheeses.

You need to know this
Xavier Rousset was head sommelier at Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire before moving to London to open his Michelin-starred restaurant, Texture back in 2007, and 28˚-50˚ wine bars. May sees the much-awaited opening of his new venture, Blandford Comptoir in Marylebone. Expect small plates of Mediterranean-inspired food and, of course, a stonking wine list.

Book it
Head to the RAW wine fair on Brick Lane in London on 15-16 May to explore orange and other traditionally made wines from around the world. Hundreds of wines will be available to taste, from the challenging to those you couldn’t tell from ‘normal’. Leave your preconceptions at home. rawfair.com

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