What we have here, people, is the absolute definition of a game changer
Even the most unenthusiastic wine guzzler knows that it comes in three colours: white, red and pink. Right? Wrong. There’s a fourth colour; it’s orange, and it’s having a massive moment right now. It’s also blowing our tiny little minds.
What on earth is it?
The first thing to get clear is that orange wine is not made from oranges. We know this because we talked to one of the world’s leading wine experts Isabelle Legeron, Master of Wine and author of Natural Wine: An Introduction To Organic and Biodynamic Wines Made Naturally (Hardcover, RRP £16.99, CICO Books). “The simplest way to understand orange wine is to describe it as a white wine that is made like a red wine,” says Legeron.
“The vast majority of white wine is made by direct pressing, so you bring in your white grapes, press them, then ferment the juice so you don’t get any colour. But an orange wine is fermented and matured on the grape skins and sometimes even on the stems of the bunch.”
Why are we only hearing about this now?
Like a lot of foodie trends doing the rounds at the moment, it looks like the resurgence of orange wine has a lot to do with people’s desire to get back to natural ‘craft’ production.
Plus, orange wine is fuller, richer and generally has a more intense flavour that appeals to a growing number of consumers who are looking for a bigger hit of flavour from their wine.
“There’s a section of wine drinkers looking for more experimental flavours and not stopping at the more standardised expression of grape varieties,” explains Legeron.
“The thing with the food and drink industry is that we’re getting into proper bread, proper beer, proper cider – and this is part of the same movement.”
And orange wine is about as authentic as it gets. Traditionally produced in Georgia, Slovenia and Friuli in northern Italy, it’s the most ancient wine there is with evidence of production more than 8,000 years ago. Check out Renaissance art and you’ll notice the wine they’re guzzling has a definite orange tint.
What should we be drinking?
If you’re thinking of trying out orange wine, there are a couple of things to note. Firstly, you won’t be able to swing by your local shop and pick up a £6 bottle on your way home from work; orange wine is generally made by smaller, more experimental producers which means the prices are still high and there are fewer stockists.
Secondly, it’s not going to taste like any wine you’ve ever had before, even if you have really put those beer garden hours in. “You have the tannic element which obviously is very unusual in white wine so you have to be prepared for experiencing a different sensation on your pallet,” says Legeron. “And the skins and stems introduce slightly dry, herby, nuttier, sometimes floral notes to the wine.”
Still brave enough? Here are some to try …
What we thought: it looks like sherry, it smells pungent but it tastes really good. It's intense (this word crops up a lot with orange wine)
Serve it with: a big bowl of rustic meaty Italian food
Worth the cash? Yes, but make sure you have people to share it with. This is worth the splurge to drink slowly over a long, hearty meal with friends
What we thought: 1. “Hmm, it’s a bit like port.” 2. “I’m not sure I could guzzle it from 7pm to 1am.” 3. “It’s growing on me.” 4. “I think I quite like it …”
Serve it with: an unpasteurised, aged hard cheese
Worth the cash? We’re on the fence. We didn’t love it, which for this price we probably should, but there is definitely something good there
What we thought: light, drinkable, with a slight fizz that would make a lovely alternative apéritif in the summer
Serve it with: Middle Eastern food with lots of oily dips
Worth the cash? If the three glasses that went down a little too easily for a Monday night are anything to go by, then yes …
What we thought: a spicy, intense wine that was different to anything we’ve ever tasted but really impressive
Serve it with: Asian dishes with lots of chilli; it'll stand up to it
Worth the cash? Absolutely. Only 300 bottles were made so we’re in the company of a special wine
What we thought: lots of florals, very aromatic and somehow just tastes super-natural and pure
Serve it with: it’s Italian so we’re back to the hearty pasta dish
Worth the cash? If you’re a person who spends £55 on wine, then sure!
Like this? Then try these:
- Rose wine: how to pick a good one
- This is how to turn water into wine
- How to open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew
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