“Orange Wine”

Before I get into this post, I’d just like to say I have very strong feelings on the term “Orange Wine.”  While it’s being used to describe and label certain wines these days, it’s completely wrong in my opinion.  The correct term for the wine is, “skin contact” or “skin fermented” wines.  “Orange Wine” is just a flashy way to bring a classic wine process to today’s click bait happy society.

Trending in the wine world is something called Orange Wine.  Orange Wine is white wine made using red wine techniques.  While it has found popularity today, it’s actually made with one of the oldest techniques in the wine making world.  It can be traced back centuries to certain regions of the world.

To make red wine, producers begin by macerating the juice of the grapes with their pigment-bearing skins.  This technique is used to add color, and tannins, which add to the texture and structure of the wine (the taste).  When fermentation is complete, the winemaker draws the skins away from the wine to begin the wine aging process.  Conventional white wines are made differently.  Winemakers sometimes allow the juice to soak with the skins for a few hours or a day so as to keep a pale almost pigment less color.  The juice is removed much quicker for fermentation, which leads to less color and undetectable tannins.

Now to make “Orange Wine,” this process is flipped.  The juice is allowed a prolonged time of contact with the skins of the grape.  Which adds to the orange pigment (sometimes even amber).  This process adds a whole new experience to the tasting of the wine, – introducing more character, tannins, and structure.  These wines are often unfiltered which means you will find more sediment in the wine (the wine skips the filtration process, instead allowing the yeast to naturally settle on its own).  Don’t be turned off by this, just decant it or filter it when you pour it.

This process was first crafted centuries ago in the Republic of Georgia before it made its way to Slovenia and Northern Italy.  Now it’s becoming a trendy wine across the globe.  However, the best so-called “Orange Wines” succeed because of the beautiful tasting characteristics they carry.  They express many nuances of beauty and culture in profound and distinctive ways.

The term “Orange Wine” is now trendy.  It’s similar to the hipster fashion trends that start in NYC and make their way across the globe.  The true terminology for it is “skin contact” or “skin fermented” wines.  So, what I’d suggest is you try a bottle or a couple.  I’ve only had a few bottles so far and they’ve been hit or miss.  I’ve found that the cheaper ones tend to be bad.  Well not bad, just not wines I personally enjoyed.  The ones that I’ve really enjoyed have been in the $15 to $30 range.  A couple of them have been just outstanding.  I’ll add those at the bottom. 

What I’ve found so far is that skin contact wines are much more robust than their “normal white wine” counterparts.  If you’re like me, someone who prefers red wine over white, this might be a good lead up to expanding your interests in white.  When you find the right bottle, they really do taste delicious and nothing like your “standard” white wine.  They’re refreshing, robust, crisp, dry, and just all around a fun tasting experience (excellent summer wines).  You really can taste the tannins that you’d generally find in red wines.

If you have a store that you frequent often and trust the manager or salesperson, ask them for their recommendation.  Skin contact whites are a little tricky to find so you may have to broaden your search a little more.  The two that I have thoroughly enjoyed so far are The Hermit Ram – Sauvignon Blanc 2019 and Field Recordings – Skins. These two have truly been superb.

This has been a slightly different post; however, I hope you enjoyed it!  Now you can go join the trend with a little more knowledge of the history of skin fermented wines for your next conversation.


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