Have You Tried Orange Wine Yet?
Vintners worldwide are reviving and perfecting a winemaking process that marries the intriguing flavors of red wine with the lighter-bodied expression of whites. With orange wine becoming increasingly popular, BravoTV.com's The Feast asked Boston-based, award-winning sommelier, wine writer and consultant Lauren Friel—who’s put orange wines on the menu at places like Oleana and Committee Boston—to talk us through 10 things to know about the intriguing drink.
Orange wine is made like red wine—but with white grapes.
“Modern white wines are made from white grapes that are crushed and removed immediately from their skins, flesh and pips—altogether referred to as the grape ‘must,’” explains Friel. Red wines are made with red grapes but "are generally allowed to hang out on the skins for all or part of the fermentation...When you do the same thing with white grapes, you get orange wine,” Friel adds.
The process of making orange wine is ancient.
Although orange wines are trendy now, the method for making them is old-fashioned, says Friel. “Ancient peoples didn’t distinguish between white and red grapes, really. Wine was wine!”
Orange wine and “vin jaune” aren’t the same thing.
So-called yellow wines (like the ones from France's Jura region) are another trendsetter in the wine world, but they’re more like sherry and made through a completely different process. “Their color is as a result of oxidation, not skin contact,” explains Friel. “It’s totally different wine.”
Orange wines are getting more and more affordable.
Although orange wines started showing up stateside a few years ago, with sky-high price points, Friel says it’s now common to find bottles priced in the $20 to $30 range. “The Italian wine market is attempting to fill its mid-range gaps in the U.S.,” she explains about the influx of more reasonably priced orange varietals.
For food-pairing, orange is more versatile than red or white.
As the wine’s color suggests, an orange varietal can pair with foods that one typically thinks of serving with either red or white. “Orange wines have a leg up in versatility,” she explains. “They can play the role of red or white at the table, which makes them especially handy for heartier vegetarian dishes and lighter meat dishes like grilled pork chops.” And if you’re serving a funky-flavored dish, they also pair well when neither red nor white will do. “They tend to be especially awesome with tricky pairings like eggplants and artichokes.”
Some of the best orange wine is made by nuns.
Ready for a beginner orange wine to get you started? Friel recommends Suore Cistercensi Coenobium from an order of nuns in Umbria. “You can find that for closer to $20,” she says. “It’s a really good starting point.”
10 Things You Didn’t Know About Orange Wine originally appeared on Bravo TV’s The Feast. Continue reading to see which country makes the best, why the shade of orange matters, which seasonal food pairs best with it, and why it’s best to leave it out of your recipes.
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