First, a quick lesson on what makes orange wine different. Red wines are fermented along with the grape skins. In white wine production, the skins are removed before fermentation. Orange wines are something in-between; they’re made from the same grapes as white wines, but the skins are left in for varying lengths of time before and during fermentation. It’s this contact with the skin that gives orange wine its slightly amber colour.
It’s a process that’s commonly found in countries with ancient wine making traditions, such as Armenia and Georgia. More recently, the technique has become popular in some areas of Europe, particularly Friuli in Italy. The pioneer in this region was Josko Gravner, and prominent exponents today include Radikon, Skerk and Vodopivec.
An entry point into orange wine would be the Baglio Catarrato, L'Orange from Courbissac or 4 Caminos from Moraza. All these wines are made with shorter skin contact – about ten days to two weeks. More extreme versions would be Roditis Maceration from Ktima Ligas, Ageno from La Stoppa and the Ribolla Gialla from Radikon. These wines have spent much longer on the skins: in some cases, between three and six months.
It’s the flavour nuances that are seeing orange wines become increasingly popular. For example, they often feature a mature, savoury element which makes them fantastic partners for food and they are increasingly being used on tasting menus by many of the country’s top Sommeliers.