Orange Wine: A Comprehensive Guide to the Modern Phenomenon

Orange wine has been gaining popularity as a refreshing alternative to red and white wines. You might be wondering how this unique beverage comes to acquire its intriguing hue and distinct flavor profile. This article will help you understand the basics of orange wine, its production process, and the reasons why it’s becoming a favorite for many wine enthusiasts.

To start, orange wine is actually a type of white wine. Unlike traditional white wines, the grape skins are left in contact with the juice during fermentation, resulting in the characteristic orange color. This extended skin contact also imparts rich and complex flavors, often described as bold and earthy, with notes of nuts, dried fruit, and honey. This versatility in taste and texture allows orange wine to pair well with dishes like curries, Moroccan cuisine, and Korean fermented dishes.

Now that you have a grasp on what makes orange wine different, you may be interested in exploring the growing number of options available, such as the Field Recordings SKINS Orange Wine and the Yetti and the Kokonut 2018 Mt Savagnin. Venture out and expand your palate with this fascinating beverage that offers a unique experience for wine lovers.

What Is Orange Wine

Skin Contact Process

Orange wine is a unique type of wine made from white grapes that have been fermented with their skins on. The skin contact process gives the wine an amber or orange hue. As a result, it’s also called skin-contact wine or amber wine. During this process, the grape skins’ flavors and tannins are extracted, giving the wine a greater depth of flavor and a more robust texture.

Relation to White, Red, and Rosé Wines

While orange wine shares some similarities with white, red, and rosé wines, it is a distinct category by itself:

– White Wine: Unlike orange wine, white wine is made by quickly separating the juice from the grape skins during fermentation. This results in a lighter, more refreshing flavor profile.

– Red Wine: Red wine is made by fermenting red or black grapes with their skins to extract the tannins, flavors, and colors. This process is similar to the one used for orange wine, but red wines have distinctively different tastes.

– Rosé Wine: Rosé is made by fermenting red grapes for a short period with their skins to achieve a pinkish color. It shares some similarities with orange wine due to its skin-contact process, but the two wines are made from different grape varieties and have different flavor profiles.

When it comes to flavor, orange wines are often described as having a balance of robust, full-bodied depth like red wines and the refreshing qualities of white wines. Typical tasting notes for orange wine include bruised fruit, jackfruit, and savory flavors like hazelnut, fruit beer, and apricot.

Origin and History

The origin of orange wine can be traced back thousands of years ago in Georgia, considered by many as the birthplace or spiritual home of this unique style of wine. Georgia has a rich history of winemaking, with the use of traditional clay fermentation vessels called qvevri playing an essential role.

This ancient winemaking technique has been passed down through generations in Georgia and is now experiencing a resurgence in popularity.

Popularized in Italy by winemaker Josko Gravner in 1997, orange wine has grown in interest. It can now be found throughout different regions, including Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Campania, Emilia Romagna, and Sicily. The term “orange wine” was coined by British wine importer David A. Harvey in 2004, giving a modern name to an ancient technique.

Here’s a brief breakdown of some notable Italian orange wine producers:

Bressan “Carat” (Friuli-Venezia Giulia)
Antonio Caggiano “Béchar” (Campania)
Donati Camillo “Malvasia dell’Emilia” (Emilia Romagna)
Frank Cornelissen “Munjebel” (Sicily)
Cos (Sicily)

Winemaking Process


During the winemaking process of orange wine, you start by selecting white grapes. You employ a method called maceration to create orange wine’s unique color and flavor characteristics. This involves mashing the grapes and letting them ferment with their skins and seeds attached. The prolonged skin contact extracts polyphenols, pigments, and tannins from the grape skins, leading to the wine’s distinctive orange color and robust flavor. Maceration can last anywhere from four days to over a year, depending on the desired outcome and the wine style.


Once maceration is complete, you must transfer the grape mixture to fermentation vessels. These can be made of various materials, including wood, stainless steel, or concrete, each imparts unique traits to the fermenting wine. The yeast then plays a crucial role in this stage of the winemaking process. The fermentation of orange wine was traditionally a natural process, which means you may choose not to add any yeast, relying on the native yeasts present on the grape skins. This can contribute to orange wine’s complex flavor profile and unique characteristics.

Several factors to take note of during fermentation:

– Type of fermentation vessel used
– Duration of fermentation
– Yeast used (native or added)


After fermentation is completed, it’s time to age the wine. The aging process allows the flavors and textures of the wine to develop and evolve further. For orange wines, you can use different vessels, such as oak barrels, stainless steel tanks, or even amphoras, depending on the style and flavor profile you’re aiming for. Oak barrels, for example, can introduce a hint of vanilla and increase the complexity of the wine. At the same time, stainless steel and amphora vessels can help preserve the wine’s original flavors and characteristics.

During the aging process, you should consider the following:

– Choice of aging vessel
– Duration of the aging process
– Desired flavor and texture outcomes

Orange Wine Varieties and Regions

Grape Varieties

Orange wines are made from a wide range of white grape varieties, offering unique flavors and characteristics. Some common grape varieties used in orange wine production include:

Chenin Blanc
Sauvignon Blanc
Pinot Gris

These grapes are left to ferment with their skins and seeds, resulting in the distinct orange hue and heavier pigment that gives the wine its name.

Popular Regions

Orange wines are produced worldwide from traditional wine regions to newer, experimental producers. Here are some popular regions where you can find exceptional orange wines:

Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy: This northeastern Italian region is known for its indigenous grape varieties, such as Sauvignon Vert (Friulano), Ribolla Gialla, and Pinot Grigio. It is considered the birthplace of modern orange wine, with winemaker Josko Gravner playing a significant role in popularizing the style in the late 20th century.

Slovenia: Slovenia is another hotspot for orange wine production thanks to its proximity to Friuli-Venezia Giulia. The shared border allows for exchanging winemaking techniques and popular grape varieties.

Austria: Austrian wine producers have embraced orange wine, particularly those in the eastern regions like Burgenland. Using the country’s native grape varieties, such as Grüner Veltliner and Welschriesling, adds a distinctive Austrian touch to these wines.

Alsace, France: Alsace is known for its exceptional white wines, so it’s not surprising that it’s also home to some excellent orange wines. Winemakers here often experiment with native grape varieties like Riesling and Gewürztraminer.

Languedoc, France: This southern French region has become a hotspot for natural and organic wine production, making it an ideal location for experimenting with orange wines. Chardonnay, Muscat, and other local grape varieties are often used.

Spain and Portugal: Both countries are no strangers to orange wine-making, with regions like Galicia in Spain and the Douro Valley in Portugal producing their own versions using indigenous grape varieties.

New Zealand and Australia: Down under, producers are keen to experiment with various white grape varieties, like Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, creating unique and exciting orange wines.

Characteristics and Flavor Profile

Along with providing for its color, grape skins, during fermentation, impart tannins and phenols to the wine, giving it a similar bitterness and structure to red wines.

The flavor profiles of orange wines vary depending on:

– Winemaker’s decisions regarding the length of time the juice is left on the skins.
– The fermentation and aging vessels used.
– Grape variety.

Typically, the characteristics of an orange wine include a robust and full-bodied taste, with the refreshing qualities of white wine. The depth of flavor is akin to red wines. Some typical flavor notes for orange wines include:

– Bruised fruit
– Jackfruit
– Savory flavors like hazelnut
– Fruit beer
– Apricot

As you explore the world of orange wines, you’ll find their unique characteristics come from the winemaking process, bridging the gap between white and red wine production. This results in a versatile wine that can be enjoyed on various occasions and food pairings.

Natural Wine Movement and Orange Wine

The Natural Wine Movement has gained popularity recently, with orange wine emerging as an attractive participant. As a wine enthusiast, you might be intrigued to learn more about this ancient wine-making technique and how it fits within the natural wine landscape.

The natural wine movement embraces wines made with minimal intervention, additives, or chemicals during winemaking. When you hear the term natural wine, it refers to wines that are organically or biodynamically farmed and made without adding or removing anything during the winemaking process.

Given that orange wine is produced with minimal intervention and additives, it aligns closely with the values of the natural wine movement. Additionally, the skin-contact method results in a final product that has an earthy taste, much like the unadulterated flavors characteristic of natural wines.

Here are a few key points to remember about orange wine and its connection to the natural wine movement:

– Orange wine is made using white grapes and skin-contact fermentation
– The process involves minimal intervention and additives
– It aligns with the principles of the natural wine movement
– Its earthy taste contributes to the demand for natural, unprocessed flavors

Pairing Orange Wine with Food

When pairing orange wine with food, you’ll find its versatility complements a wide range of dishes. Due to its tannin structure and well-balanced nature, orange wine can withstand more robust flavors, making it an exciting addition to your meal.

Cheeses are a classic choice to pair with orange wine, particularly hard and semi-hard sheep cheeses. These cheeses’ nutty and earthy flavors create a harmonious match with the wine’s unique profile.

Consider exploring squash and other roasted vegetables to accompany your orange wine for a delightful and unexpected pairing. Root vegetables like Jerusalem artichokes and celeriac bring out the earthy notes in the wine, while a whole roast cauliflower or caramelized endives offer a delightful contrast to its acidity.

Incorporating grains such as farro, freekeh, and bulgur (cracked wheat) into your dishes can further enhance your pairing experience. The nutty flavors of these grains work well with orange wine, as does whole-wheat couscous.

When serving a more robustly flavored orange wine, don’t shy away from bolder dishes like pork or ones that are full of roasted vegetables. These bold flavors can match the wine’s profile and create a memorable dining experience.

Notable Wineries and Producers

When exploring the world of orange wines, there are several notable wineries and producers you should consider sampling.

From California, you’ll find a range of producers making orange wines. A standout choice is Channing Daughters Winery, where they create the Ramato, an enticing blend made from the Pinot Grigio grape.

In New York, another great producer is Red Tail Ridge Winery. One of their orange wine offerings, the Miscreant, is a blend of Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer. This unique mix features quince, honey, and ginger flavors and a tannic grip.

Apart from American producers, don’t forget to explore international options. For instance, Domaine Glinavos Paleokerisio in Greece is well-known for its orange wine. Made from the indigenous Debina variety, the Paleokerisio wine showcases a beautiful balance of acidity and sweetness.

In Slovenia, the Brda region has wineries specializing in orange wines. Kabaj, a vineyard nestled on the Slovenian-Italian border, produces the Rebula wine, a notable offering full of elegance and charm.

When choosing orange wines from Italy, some key wineries and producers include:

– Josko Gravner, offers the Gravner Ribolla Gialla, a harmonious blend made from the Ribolla Gialla grape.

– La Stoppa, is famous for its Ageno, a delicious mix of Malvasia, Ortrugo, and Trebbiano grapes.


In summary, you’ve learned that orange wine is a type of white wine made using a process similar to that of red wine. The key difference is that the grape skins and seeds are left in contact with the juice, giving the wine its orange color.

As a wine enthusiast, you can appreciate the unique characteristics that orange wine brings to the table. Its high antioxidant content, dietary fiber, potassium, and vitamin C make it a beneficial addition to your wine collection. Additionally, its growing popularity within the natural wine movement demonstrates its appeal to a broader audience.

When exploring the world of orange wine, remember that it has a niche all of its own. With its distinct flavor profiles and health benefits, this wine offers a fascinating new dimension to your wine-tasting experience. Keep an open mind, and you may discover a new favorite.

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