You thought this post was a joke, but seriously I get asked this question all the time. (By “all the time” I mean the one time I excitedly told all of my coworkers about my first Jura wine and was ostracized for the rest of the day.) Due to the prevalence of urine-colored chardonnays in most of the United States, people generally are turned off to the two opposite extremes of white wine: almost clear wines (like Pinot Gris and Muscadet) and the earwax to cider colored range of orange wines. Orange wines are having something of a moment right now, particularly as natural wine is moving beyond cult status. Your first and most important lesson when someone says “orange wine”: this is not wine made from oranges. (If you just sighed in relief, don’t look over your shoulder in embarrassment: this is a judgment-free zone.)
Orange wine is white wine where the skins and seeds of the grapes are left in the tank or vessel for a portion of the fermentation process. Typically, white wine is produced from (yep, you guessed it), white grapes with juice pressed from the fruit. In the orange wine process, everything is left up to Mother Nature. There are rarely any additives and the wine is fermented basically from magical wild yeast.
Orange wine is orange (or at least, dark yellow) because of the grape refuse left to stain the juice. This is what happens to produce red wine and rose. Also like red wine, the refuse gives orange wines tannic flavors. Some orange wines are outright sour, with flavors you might get from a Shock top beer: orange rind (quelle surprise), bread yeast, nuts, etc. As a result, you can pair orange wine with the heavier food you would normally pair with a medium-bodied red wine: beef ragu, tagine, hearty stews, curries, etc.
Everyone seems to be making orange wine these days, but some of the best bets for a first time orange wine drinker are:
Channing Daughters – “Ramato”. This is from Long Island, which shouldn’t put you off – these winemakers are making some radical wines (check out their “Lagrein” if you want to go red, you won’t be disappointed.) Made from Pinot Grigio grapes. ($23.99, Astor Wines & Spirits)
Domaine de Montbourgeau – “L’Etoile”. Holy shit is this wine incredible. This is a clutch your pearls wine. This is like drinking Christmas. Hazelnuts, hot apple cider, post-coital snuggling…this is basically everything. Made from Savagnin and Chardonnay grapes. ($26.96, Astor Wines & Spirits)
Monastero Suore Cistercensi – “Coenobium Bianco”. Made by nuns from vineyards atop of ancient volcanos. *Swish* Made with Verdicchio, Grachetto and Trebbiano grapes. ($21.99, Natural Wine Co.)
Featured image courtesy of Slovenia For You.