Erik Neilson on October 14, 2016 1 Comment When it comes time to order a glass of wine, the first thing that pops into most people’s’ heads is the question of whether to go with red or white. There are, of course, other options (sparkling wine comes to mind), but on the average wine list, red and white essentially spell the boundaries of what is available. As restaurants throughout the world continue to place an increasing amount of focus on creating stellar wine programs, however, there’s a new, esoteric option beginning to pop up on lists everywhere: orange wine. If you’ve never heard of orange wine, you’re not alone. For those who have never seen orange wine before, even the first glimpse is enough to create a marked amount of confusion — what’s happening in this glass? Let’s find out. Buy Orange Wine on Amazon The History of Orange Wine It may seem like a new style altogether, but the truth is that orange wines date back to ancient times and are firmly rooted in history. Centuries ago, entire bunches of white wine grapes would be loaded into clay vessels to undergo fermentation. From there, these vessels would be sweetened with fruit and spices and then buried underground. The grapes would first be macerated with skins and seeds intact — essentially the opposite of the process most typically associated with producing white wine. The result? An orange-colored, naturally fermented wine unlike any red or white on the planet. As far as process is concerned, orange wines share quite a bit with rosé in that it is created counterintuitively. The bold color of red wine comes from maceration with skins and seeds intact, while the lightness of a rosé is due to the skins and seeds of the grapes being removed prior to fermentation. The same flip of process can be seen with orange wine, only instead of the skins and seeds being removed as with normal white wine production, they’re left intact. Thus, the color of the resulting wine can range anywhere from bright gold to nutty butterscotch, depending entirely on situational factors. What Does it Taste Like? Orange wine gets its name from its distinctive color, but what about the taste and aroma? While wines that fit this description can be truly all over the map, they tend to share certain characteristics that are not typically found in traditional white wines. First, orange wine tends to have highly acidic sour notes to it, which in large part comes from the natural fermentation associated with this particular production process. While “sour” may be an unwanted characteristic in many wines, it’s actually preferred in this style. The sour qualities of orange wine also make it ideal for pairing with spicy foods, which is one thing that many red and white wines have difficulty with. Another common characteristic of orange wines is the fact that they tend to be quite tannic. White wine in general is devoid of immense amounts of tannins, something typically left for bolder reds. Because orange wine is produced by leaving the grape skins intact, however, it holds onto firm tannins and thus has a fair bit more structure than what most people think of being associated with white wine. This is another factor that allows orange wine to pair beautifully with certain foods, as its tannic structure gives it the backbone necessary to stand up to foods both spicy and acidic. As far as other flavors that find their way into orange wine, there are a few that seem to pop up consistently — hazelnut, bruised apple, jackfruit and juniper to name a few. Like reds and whites, orange wines can range dramatically in both flavor and aroma, with the end result being related both to the process and the varietal of grapes utilized. Because most people aren’t familiar with what happens when a white grape’s skins are left intact, however, opening a bottle can be a true gamble — it’s difficult to know what you’re going to get the first time around. 5 Bottles to Try Choosing your first bottle of orange wine can be a challenge, especially if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Here are five orange wines that you can’t go wrong with. Kabaj Rebula (2011): Slovenia isn’t exactly a household wine region, but winemaker Jean-Michel Morel of Kabaj is producing some of the best orange wines in the world. Fermented with skins on for 30 days, the Kabaj Rebula is rife with notes of peach and apricot and wrapped in herbaceousness. Few wines can stand up to a gamey plate of offal the way this Rebula can, and at $24, it’s an approachable luxury. Foradori Nosiola Fontanasanta (2012): Italy is one of the leaders in the orange wine movement, and Elisabetta Foradori is a driving force. The Foradori Nosiola Fontanasanta is rich in hazelnut flavors and bright yellow/orange in color, framing some of the bitterness associated with the grape itself. It’s an expensive bottle at just around $50, but one that will surely impress guests and serve as the conversational piece of any evening. Andert Ruländer (2012): From Austria, the 2012 Andert Ruländer is a truly unique wine that will be unlike what most people have ever experienced before. With a salty palate and smoky finish, this wine features grapes macerated for five days with skins on, then fermented in oak barrels. It can be found for around $26 and is an excellent value given its high quality. Castagna Harlequin (2013): Surprisingly enough, this golden-orange wine hails from Australia and is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Roussanne and Viognier. Grassy, fruity and with a spicy aftertaste, the 2013 vintage of Castagna Harlequin benefits from decanting for at least a half hour before tasting. Dirty & Rowdy Semillon (2014): Semillon serves as the perfect grape for producing orange wine, and California’s Dirty & Rowdy winery knows this all too well. Winemaker Hardy Wallace macerates the grapes skin-on in open fermenters for approximately two weeks, resulting in a straw-hued wine that is both firm and smoky. Hazy in the glass, this Semillon ($40) is a perfect pairing with meaty pasta dishes. Orange wine may have seemed like a trend for sometime, but it’s not going away. Pick up one of the bottles listed above, and just make sure you’re sitting down before taking a sip!