How Is Orange Wine Made

Amber, or orange, wine has risen in popularity and captivates with its unique character. As a wine enthusiast, I’ve been particularly intrigued by how it’s made and the special attributes it holds. In this piece, …

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Amber, or orange, wine has risen in popularity and captivates with its unique character. As a wine enthusiast, I’ve been particularly intrigued by how it’s made and the special attributes it holds. In this piece, I’ll walk you through the intriguing universe of orange wine, exploring its production process while sharing my own insights and reflections.

The Origins of Orange Wine

Orange wine may seem like a trendy new creation, but its roots actually date back thousands of years to ancient winemaking traditions in the country of Georgia. This region has a long history of fermenting white grapes with their skins, resulting in a deeper color and more tannic structure compared to traditional white wines.

The Winemaking Process

Making orange wine involves a unique and time-intensive process that sets it apart from other styles. The first step is to select the grape variety, often using white grape varieties such as Pinot Gris, Riesling, or Gewürztraminer. These grapes have thick skins that contribute to the rich color and intense flavors of orange wine.

Once the grapes are harvested, they are gently crushed, and the juice is left in contact with the skins for an extended period. This is where the magic happens. The grape skins contain pigments and tannins that infuse into the juice, giving the wine its signature hue and complex flavors.

In traditional winemaking, the skins are quickly removed after pressing to create white wine. However, in the production of orange wine, the grape skins remain in contact with the juice for days, weeks, or even months. This extended maceration period allows for greater extraction of flavors, textures, and aromas.

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During fermentation, natural yeasts present on the grape skins convert the grape sugars into alcohol. This spontaneous fermentation adds another layer of complexity to orange wine, as the flavors and aromas created by wild yeasts are often more funky and unpredictable compared to commercially cultivated yeasts.

Aging and Maturation

After fermentation, orange wine is typically aged in oak barrels or clay amphorae. This aging process allows the wine to develop further and integrate its various components. It also helps to soften the tannins and bring balance to the wine.

Unlike white wines, orange wines can benefit from aging. Some producers even age their orange wines for several years to enhance their complexity and depth. These aged orange wines often display rich flavors of dried fruit, honey, and oxidative notes.

Tasting Orange Wine

Now that we understand how orange wine is made, let’s talk about the experience of tasting it. Orange wines are known for their vibrant color, ranging from pale gold to deep amber. On the nose, you can expect a bouquet of aromas, including dried orange peel, floral notes, and a touch of honey.

When it comes to the palate, orange wines offer a unique and textural experience. The extended skin contact gives them a distinct tannic structure, similar to light red wines. This, combined with the complex flavors of citrus, stone fruit, and exotic spices, creates a wine that is both intriguing and memorable.

In Conclusion

Orange wine is a captivating style that pushes the boundaries of winemaking and offers a truly distinctive taste experience. Its ancient origins and meticulous production process make it a wine worth exploring for enthusiasts and curious wine lovers alike. So, the next time you come across a bottle of orange wine, I encourage you to embrace the opportunity to savor something truly extraordinary.

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John has been a hobbyist winemaker for several years, with a few friends who are winery owners. He writes mostly about winemaking topics for newer home vintners.
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