Orange Wine: What Is It and What Does It Taste Like?
Orange wine is gaining popularity, and it’s now featured in wine lists worldwide. The wine style, often found under the name orange natural wine, is in its own category, and it’s delicious!
Here’s all you need to know about orange wine, its definition, production method and flavor. Most importantly, let’s find out how to pair orange natural wine with food.
What Is Orange Wine?
Orange wine is nothing new. In fact, chances are the first wine style in history was remarkably similar to modern orange wine — the style is timeless. Still, orange natural wine is also trendy, and it’s thanks to winemakers worldwide bringing back the wine style from ancient times to the twenty-first century.
Orange wine is wine made with white grapes but fermented with red wine-making techniques. The result is an orange-hued wine with a textural palate and an interesting bouquet.
To make white wine, winemakers harvest white grapes and press them to get a clear juice, which later becomes a pale-straw to golden-colored wine. For red wine, the wine producers ferment the grape juice with the grape skins; the skins add color and texture to the wine.
For orange wine, producers use white grapes, but ferment their juice along with the grape skins, which add texture and body to the wine. The wine also leaches some pigments from the white-greenish skins, making orange wine look orangy or copper-colored. Oxidation plays a role in orange wines as well, as oxygen turns the wine noticeably darker. Since most orange wine producers use traditional winemaking methods, oxidation is more noticeable, particularly in orange natural wine.
What Are The Characteristics of Orange Wine?
The most noticeable characteristic of orange wines is their color. The grape juice, in contact with the white grape skins, gains a darker color compared to regular white wine, so it can have an orange, almost copper hue.
Another critical characteristic of orange wine is its texture. These wines are bolder and more textural than white wines, but not as robust as red wines. Tannins, the gritty particles that cause a drying sensation in your mouth, are common in red wines, but they’re also present to a lesser extent in orange wines, more so than in white wine.
Finally, what’s most appealing about orange natural wine is its aroma. Expect anything, from bruised fruit and tea to dried hay and nutty aromas over a bold palate with a long aftertaste.
To further understand orange wine’s characteristics, one must understand oxidation. Wine is prone to oxidation, just like any other fruit juice. Oxidation turns apples’ white flesh brown, for example. This happens in wine as well. As the wine ferments, it is in contact with air, which oxidizes it, changing its color and flavor. Here’s a more detailed explanation of what orange wine tastes like.
What Does Orange Wine Taste Like?
Most winemakers committed to orange wine are also enthusiastic about natural wine. Not all orange wine is natural wine, and not all natural wine is orange, of course, but a great deal of wine in the category is made with natural winemaking techniques.
Natural wine is made with a non-interventionist philosophy. The wine ferments slowly with native yeast, and no sulfites are added during the process. Although you might have heard bad things about them, sulfites are a natural antiseptic that keeps the wine safe from microorganisms other than alcohol-producing yeast. Sulfites, or sulfur dioxide, are also a natural antioxidant that protects the wine from oxidizing, effectively preventing white wine from turning into orange wine.
So, since orange wine is often made without sulfites, it oxidizes — it’s color changes. The wine gains aromas typical in natural wine as well, including saffron, tea, roasted nuts, bruised fruit, fruit beer and orange peels, amongst others.
We should also mention not all orange wine tastes the same. Some orange wines are made with modern winemaking techniques, and they’re not all that oxidized. This means some orange wine is fruity and easy to drink, hugely different from the funky natural versions.
How to Pair Orange Wine With Food?
Orange wine is fascinating to taste on its own. After all, its rustic texture and distinctive aromas are exciting for wine enthusiasts and experts alike. Still, orange wine has a place on the table and pairs well with food.
Orange wine is a dry wine, and it’s best enjoyed with salty and briny food, although it is compatible with oily food as well. Sardines, olives, capers, oysters and other Mediterranean dishes go great with orange wine.
The copper-hued wine is also delightful with spicy curries, funky cheese and nutty dishes. Fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi go well with orange natural wine, as the wine is often tainted by wild fermenting yeast.
If the orange wine is fermented in modern facilities and protected from oxidation, it will have a much more familiar profile and will taste like white wine with citrus and apple scents with floral undertones. Here, orange wine pairs well with white meat, whether chicken or pork, creamy sauces, semi-hard cheese like Gouda or Emmental and creamy and starchy dishes, from pasta and risotto to cheesy casseroles.
No two orange wines taste the same, so experimentation is critical to find the right wine and food pairing!
Orange Wine is On the Rise!
There’s no doubt orange wine will continue gaining popularity. Both the funky natural versions and the fruit-forward, more modern examples have growing fan bases.
If you try orange wine and don’t enjoy it, give the category a second chance. Orange wine is as varied as red or white wine, and you’ll find different flavor profiles depending on the winemaker, its technique and the grapes used. There’s undoubtedly an orange wine to please your taste buds, so keep on looking!
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