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The One with the Orange Wine

Updated: Jan 16, 2021

Welcome back, Corkers, and thanks for checking out this week's WOTW feature! In honor of National Orange Wine Week, today we're talking about the ever elusive Orange Wine (which I will be trying for the first time!)

So, what is orange wine? It' not actually made from oranges, contrary to the popular misnomer. Instead, it's made from white wine grapes using a method in which the grape skins stay in contact with the juice for days, months, sometimes even years. The lignin in the grape seeds give the resulting wine a beautiful amber/orange color. Since this method requires very little additives (sometimes not even yeast!), orange wine can have a very distinct taste and has been described as robust, bold, and intense.

The process of making orange wine is ancient (literally!) dating back 5,000 years or more, but this technique is resurfacing and in the last 20 years has begun to increase in popularity. There are several orange wine producers in northeastern Italy, thanks to winemaker Josko Gravner, who first attempted the resurgence of Orange Wine in 1997 (think the year Harry Potter was published and the movie Titanic came out.)

Since then, Orange Wine has been picked up in the United States by the most "experimental" of wine producers, including Pax Mahle (remember him from the SOMM films?!) He uses Pinot Gris and ferments the grapes, with the skins, for three months. He describes the flavor profile of his Orange Wine as fresh fennel, blood orange, and pink grapefruit and states "this wine has that strong, bitter component, which makes it ideal to serve with vegetables."

While Orange Wine is gaining momentum, it's not as readily available as you might think. In fact, I couldn't find any at my local Total Wine, so I had to pay more ($30.00 to be exact) to get it from a specialty wine shop. Nevertheless, this unique wine was worth the price tag.

I tried a 2019 L'Orange from Division Winemaking in Portland, Oregon. This producer has experimented with varying approaches to skin-ferment their white grape varietals for several years...and it shows! Sometimes the compounds in the skin give the wine an acrid taste, rendering it nearly undrinkable. Not this one! Acidic like a Picpoul but refreshing like a Sauvignon Blanc, this wine was a tasty mash-up of tangerine, grapefruit, and a cooling menthol-like finish that left me craving another sip!

Not yet convinced that an Orange Wine is worth a taste? Consider this: it is thought to have high amounts of antioxidants due to the fermentation method, so bottoms up!

Cheers to National Orange Wine Week; be sure to tune in to my Instagram page @thecandidcork to taste L'Orange with me, and subscribe to the mailing list on my homepage so you always know when new blogs go live!

See you next time, Corkers!

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