We’ve been bringing in loads of new fun and funky wines to our range lately, and that has included several orange wines (much to Sophia’s delight). This style of wine was originally introduced to our blog in this post “Orange Peel Ain’t Real”. For more on the history of orange wine, give it a quick read.
To recap on the basics though, orange wine is usually white wine made like a red wine – sort of.
This will make more sense when I mention that another name for orange wine is ‘skin contact’ white wine. All red wine is made with skin contact; that is, the grape skins are left on during the fermentation/maceration process. This is what gives red wine its gorgeous colour. White wine, on the other hand, usually is processed with the skins removed, which is how its look is so light and clear. Following?
So, leave the skins on the white grapes for a bit (a few hours, days, or weeks depending on what vibe the winemaker is going for) and voila! You have a lovely orange wine. They range from a light gold to bright orange, amber, or even rosy pink. The range in flavour is even wider, so don’t expect a simple answer if you ask: “So what does orange wine taste like?”. It’s like asking how white wine or red wine taste: how much time do you have?
But here’s an overview of some tasty examples, and reasons why orange wine is often my go-to choice.
One box that I find orange wines tend to tick is for the people who want something chilled, but aren’t massive fans of how bright/light/acidic white wine is. The option for that is our skin contact Pinot Grigio, Lunaria Ramoro. As someone who has had too much bad Pinot Grigio in my life already, I can safely say the Ramoro is a cringe-free Pinot Grigio experience. It pours out a soft rosy colour, and maintains all of the usual freshness of the grape. Super smooth, this wine has lovely floral, fruity qualities, making it an excellent aperitif or a partner for some lighter seafood.
Or how about this dilemma: you only drink white wine, but your dining/drinking partner lives and dies by red wine (or vice versa). You’re splitting a bottle, and you’ve already ruled out rosé. The solution is orange wine. It has enough body, flavour and tannin to satisfy the red wine drinker, but not so much that it will put off the white wine fan (plus it’s chilled). My favourite for this scenario is our reverse orange wine, the Stapleton & Springer Orange Pinot Noir. Remember when I said orange ‘usually’ white wine made like a red, earlier? This is a red wine with the skins removed almost immediately, processed more like a white. You still get some creamy red fruit flavours from the Pinot Noir grapes, making it perfect for those who ‘only drink red wine/white wine’ and can’t agree.
Another group that tends to enjoy orange wines might come as a surprise: beer drinkers! Particularly for those who enjoy sours, tarts, saisons, lambics, etc. our Orange Riesling by Kloster Ebernach is for that person you know who claims to know nothing about wine, but wants to dip a toe in the wine pool for a break from their usual beer order. It’s got a decent body, with enough tartness and fragrance to keep your sour beer fan happy. I highly encourage you to have it with creamy cheeses, or that cut of dark meat you’ve been eyeing on the turkey at your next roast.
Orange wines are also stellar for pairing with really full-flavoured food: that is where I think they really shine.
If we’re talking major umami or anything really fatty, I would recommend our Italian Baglio Bianco, which has some serious cider flavours going on. Think apples and pears with the skins left on – perfect for your pork loin, smoky sausages, mushrooms or roast chicken. Alternatively, try the Liquid Skin from our South African friends at Mother Rock. It’s got a nice bite from being fermented whole-bunch (meaning all of the stems and twigs and tiny branch bits are in there with the grapes), making this peachy, chunky orange wine much more full and tart than some of our other offerings. It’ll cut right through the fatty meats or oily fish you’re cooking.
For anything with chilli, orange wine is my go-to for beating the heat. It’s chilled, keeping us refreshed when the heat levels get us sweating or excusing ourselves to blow our noses. And these wines often have so much texture, tannin, or body from the skin contact that they can really hold their own when drunk with foods that would have your dry Sav. Blanc or delicate Chenin tasting like water.
Honestly, I think any of the above would be delightful with your hotter, spicier meals. I would also add our Slovakian offering from Slobodne, the Cutis Deviner. The Cutis Deviner brings all of the perfume to the party: it is flowery, peachy, fresh, and clean. A serious contender for your pre-meal drinks, or better yet for something with a bit of chilli. However, of the aforementioned, I’d probably lean towards the following as my top picks:
Stapleton & Springer Orange Pinot Noir
Mother Rock Liquid Skin
Now, if all of this is sounding a bit overwhelming and you’re worried that you might need a more gradual introduction to orange wines, do not despair! We have some sneaky skin contact whites that you wouldn’t necessarily realise are orange wines without a bit of reading or chat about them.
For those orange wine beginners among us, we have the Fontanasanta, Manzoni Bianco by Foradori. With just a touch of a golden hue, this elegant blend brings some delicious stone fruit flavours and a slight nutty quality. Skin contact or no, it’s an exquisite white wine for any occasion. Another front runner in this category is the Grenache Gris by Albert Ahrens in South Africa. Silky and fragrant, this wine only has a few days of time on the skins, making it all the more complex and floral. The final option is our Little Bastard from Staffelter Hof in Germany, which is a blend of four different grapes – most of which only have a few hours with their skin. It’s tangy and bright, with a surprise of solid minerality despite its funky, fruity fragrance.
Feel free to come chat about orange wine in the shop – happy to gush about how delicious it is any day. And if you’re apprehensive about committing to a whole bottle without knowing what you’re in for, be on the lookout for it on the wine list next time you’re out for a meal! Our team next door at Forest Bar + Kitchen often rotate a skin contact option onto their offerings by the glass, and orange wines seem to be a staple on many lists in restaurants focusing on natural wines.
My suggestion? If you see it as an option by the glass somewhere, ask for a taste! They’ll almost always be happy to let you try a little bit before ordering, since they want you to enjoy whatever you order. Even if you don’t end up buying a glass (or a bottle) you can try new and exciting orange wines to get a feel for how different and tasty they can be.
If you’ve tried something new in the world of skin contact wines, let us know your thoughts next time you’re in the shop! We’d love to hear your orange wine stories.