What Is Orange Wine?

Have you heard of orange wine? If you haven't yet, you probably will soon. According to New York Magazine's Grub Street, it's the new indie darling of wine. But what is it exactly? Contrary to what you might think, orange wine has nothing to do with oranges.

Chris Miller, an Italian wine specialist, tells Mercury News that orange wine is "any white wine that's on the skins for more than three days." Orange wine, also known as "skin-contact wine," is made by letting the grape juice ferment with the skins and the seeds of the grape. (Normally skins are removed after crushing.) This results in a wine that is orange-hued—think sunset hues like amber or tangerine—but notoriously risky in taste. As the skin ferments with the juice, it picks up qualities associated with red wine, like tannins, which can lend "rich, honeyed flavors that are at times nutty, with a vibe similar to sherry," as Miller said. But it can also turn out "yeasty and sour and cloudy," as Matthew Latkiewicz writes in New York Magazine, which may or may not be to your liking. Miller likens the process to making tea and leaving the tea bag in too long: "You might get something really cool, but you also may not."

If you're curious about trying orange wine, try it with food first. There are no go-to pairing rules, since orange wine (as mentioned above) can be all over the place, but in general orange wines tend to have more structure and acidity (from the skins) to hold up to strongly flavored dishes. If you must have a pairing idea, Latkiewicz recommends a bottle of Angiolino Maule Sassaia ($18.99) with a grilled hanger steak, or a 2008 Salvo Foti Vinujancu ($52), which is reminiscent of a "funky craft beer," with a fatty dish, or anything with bacon.

Have you tried orange wine? If not, are you curious enough to seek it out?

Read More About Orange Wine:

How to Enjoy Orange Wine at NYMag's Grub Street
Corkheads: Is That Wine Orange? at Mercury News
Orange Wine Edges Towards the Mainstream, Slightly at NYT
Orange You Glad There's a New Wine Color? at Food Republic

Related: Wine Words: Color

(Image: Purple Liquid)