Orange wine, often otherwise known as skin-contact wine or amber wine, is essentially a white wine that has been macerated with the skins of the grapes. It is a very popular style of wine in the natural wine movement.
To understand the difference of orange wines, it’s important to first understand how red and white wines are generally made.
In its most basic explanation, white wines are (usually) made from white grapes, which are quickly pressed to allow the juice to not be in contact with the grape skins. The liquid is then fermented into wine, over a course of differing techniques.
Red wine is instead often instead left to ferment with the skins of the grape for a period of time. This means that the tannins, which are found on the skins of the grapes, are present in the fermentation and end result of the wine, which they are not on the white wine. This is why red wines usually have noticeable tannins, and white wines generally do not.
Orange wines however are white wines, which are made using the skins of the grapes (so like a red wine). This not only give the wine a tannic structure (depending on the maceration time) but also affect the colour and the taste of the wine, as a lot of flavour is found within the skins.
How do Orange Wines taste?
Orange wines can vary in the flavour characteristics, and the maceration time and type of grape is of course very important.
Orange wines can be very serious and complex, whilst others can be highly drinkable with the right production methods, sometimes like juice.
They often feature a citrus peel note, as well as sometimes a sort of nutty aspect.
Some skin-contact wines can have a medicinal twang and some are spicy.
There are producers who use techniques to soften the more serious tannic elements and make orange wines more drinkable and easy-going, which we will reveal below.
There are also some grapes which really come alive more with skin-contact production, for example Pinot Gris (a unique coloured grape resulting in a slightly pink wine) or aromatic grapes like Malvasia and Gewürztraminer.
Which regions are known for Orange Wine?
Often referred to as the birthplace of wine, Georgia has a long tradition of orange wine, where they refer to the style as Amber Wine.
Here traditional Qvevri / Amphora are often used as the sole vessel for fermenting and holding the wine, which are usually buried in the ground. Notable producers include Pheasant’s Tears, Iago’s Winery, GoGo Wine and Iberieli.
Inspired by Georgian Qvevri and deciding to bring them to a different country, some of the first producers bringing the Georgian style to Europe, were found in Italy’s Friuli Venezia Giulia region. These pioneer producers include Gravner and Radikon, whose legendary wines we would consider ‘serious’ and ones which really showcase the complexity of wines made using skin-contact.
There are however by now many, many producers using skin-contact techniques all over the world, and you can find many of these orange wines on our website here.