About orange wines
Once there was just white, red and rosé. Now, orange wines are on the lips of trend-setting wine drinkers everywhere.
Whereas white wine is made by pressing grapes and immediately transferring the juice to a fermentation vessel, red wine ferments the juice, skins and seeds all together. This adds colour (most red grapes actually have white flesh) along with extra flavour and tannins – the bitter, astringent compounds that are also found in tea and which lend structure and texture. Orange wine, also known as amber or skin-contact wine, is essentially a white wine made the same way as a red.
But orange wine is nothing new; in fact, it is the original style of wine. In Georgia, evidence of wine-making dates back 8,000 years – the oldest in the world. Wine back then was made with whole bunches of grapes in huge clay pots. Called qvevri, they were the height of a man and were buried upright in the ground.
Qvevri are still commonly used in Georgia, and are increasingly adopted by winemakers across the world. But they are not essential to the making of orange wine. Some orange wine will stay in contact with the skins for only hours or days; some for weeks or even months. The longer the skin contact, the more pronounced the orange characteristics – a crunchy texture along with pleasing sourness, scents of apricots, peaches and/or quince, and a gentle, savoury spice.
This complexity means they appeal to those who, like me, generally prefer red to white wines, while white-wine drinkers enjoy them for their freshness (orange wine is best served slightly chilled).
Orange wine food pairings
What really makes these wines so user-friendly is their versatility with food. Orange wines are great with anything cheesy – a classic match is with khachapuri, an easy-to-make Georgian bread containing cooked cheese. The astringency in orange wine counters rich and fatty dishes (they are perfect with roast pork or anything deep-fried) while their depth of flavour sits really well with North African, Middle Eastern, Indian and Korean spices, as well as with Eastern European cuisines.
The best orange wines to buy…
The more extreme orange wines might contain mouth-puckering tannins and can smell quite funky, almost cidery, especially if they’ve been made with natural wine-making techniques (fermented with native yeasts and having little or no added sulphites or filtration). These are for the die-hard fans. Newcomers to orange wines should start with less challenging examples, such as those recommended here, and approach them with an open mind to be seduced by their charms.
This does what it says on the tin – a wine made with organic grapes left on their skins for 20 days, with no added yeasts or sulphur. Fantastic value from Romania’s most forward-thinking winery. A dream match for seared pork loin cutlets with harissa chickpeas.
Dimyat is the obscure local grape used in this lovely scented wine, with a backbone of peachy fruit and black pepper. Try it with our cauliflower mac ’n’ cheese.
Full marks to M&S for being the first supermarket to stock an orange wine, back in 2013. Made in Georgia in traditional qvevri, this would be great with Malaysian shrimp and pineapple curry with crispy onions.
A blend of welschriesling, pinot gris and traminer grapes from Austria, this comes with gorgeous floral notes along with a really appetising crunch and a trendy crown cap. It would be happy alongside this spiced squash, spinach and lentil soup or our paneer tikka masala.