Orange Wine? Skin Contact? Amber Wine?: What is it?

Welcome to the amazing world of orange wine! While you may be familiar with red, white, and rosé wines, orange wine (aka skin-contact wine) is a unique and intriguing category of wine that has been gaining popularity in recent years. 

In this ultimate orange wine guide, we'll delve into the fascinating world of orange wine, explore its origins, production methods, flavour profiles, and food pairings. We’ll even tell you where you can get your next bottle of orange wine!

The Basics 🤔
Orange wine is not your typical wine—it stands out with its beautiful amber hue, captivating the eyes before it even reaches your palate. So, what exactly is orange wine? Unlike the name suggests, orange wine is not made from oranges. It is a white wine that is crafted using a similar process as red wine, resulting in its distinct colour (yeap, that’s why it's called orange wine) and flavour. 

The key difference lies in the extended skin contact during fermentation, where the grape skins remain in contact with the juice for a prolonged period. This contact infuses the wine with tannins, flavours, and textures, giving orange wine its unique character. This is also why Orange Wine is also known as skin contact wine. In some places, like Georgia, it is called Amber Wine instead, because of its amber hue!

The History 📜
To understand the origins of orange wine, we must travel back in time (over 8000 years) to the ancient winemaking traditions of Georgia (the birthplace of skin-contact wine). The Georgians were pioneers in producing orange wine thousands of years ago, using clay vessels called qvevri for fermentation and ageing. The technique spread across Eastern Europe and eventually gained recognition in modern winemaking. Today, orange wine is crafted in various regions worldwide, each with its own distinct style and interpretation.

How Is It Produced? 🛢️
The production of orange wine involves a meticulous process that requires patience and skill. After the grapes are harvested, they are gently crushed, and the juice is left in contact with the grape skins and seeds. This extended maceration (like steeping tea, but wine). allows the wine to extract flavours, tannins, and colour compounds. The fermentation process takes place in clay amphorae, oak barrels, or stainless steel tanks, depending on the winemaker's preference. This method preserves the wine's natural characteristics while adding complexity and depth.

Flavour Profile & Characteristics 😋
Orange wine offers a truly unique sensory experience. Its flavour profile is often described as bold, complex, and captivating. Expect aromas of dried fruits, orange peel, apricot, honey, and sometimes a touch of spice. On the palate, you'll encounter a textured wine with a pleasant grip from the tannins, which is reminiscent of a red wine. The flavours unfold with layers of dried apricots, nuts, and a touch of earthiness. Orange wine strikes a beautiful balance between the freshness of white wine and the structure of red wine.

Food Pairings 🍝
When it comes to food pairings, orange wine's versatility shines. Its unique characteristics make it a perfect companion for a range of dishes. The wine's acidity and tannins cut through fatty foods, making it a great match for rich cheeses and charcuterie boards. It also complements vegetarian dishes, roasted meats, and hearty stews. For a delightful experience, try pairing orange wine with Mediterranean cuisine, grilled vegetables, or Asian dishes with spicy undertones.

The Rising Popularity 📈
In recent years, orange wine has witnessed a surge in popularity among wine enthusiasts. Its natural winemaking practices, unique taste, and the curiosity of adventurous drinkers have contributed to its growing appeal. Orange wine has become a symbol of authenticity, craftsmanship, and a departure from the mainstream. It continues to evolve as winemakers experiment with different grape varieties, techniques, and ageing methods, pushing the boundaries of this ancient wine style.

We Recommend 📢: 
Interested in Orange Wine? Whether you’re a beginner or a enthusiast, we’ve got you covered with your next orange wine recommendations:

👉 COSTADILÀ 450 SLM 2020
An unfiltered goddess of Italian Prosecco and a fun sparkling orange for a fun summer-park-drinking kinda occasion. Perfectly balanced in sourness & sweetness, with pleasant yeast character. For more flavours, let it sit for a while and many pale stone fruits and grapes will shine through as well!

Hand-harvested grapes are allowed to macerate for a few days with fermentation using indigenous yeasts only. The wine is then aged in concrete vats before being bottled unfined and unfiltered.

This wine is bursting with vibrant citrus and invigorating ginger flavours, showcasing an incredible depth and smoothness achieved through careful oak treatment and malolactic fermentation. It carries a subtle mineral quality on the palate, beautifully balanced by a harmonious blend of acidity and fruitiness. Pairs exceptionally with shellfish, spicy food and lean fish!

A captivating, remarkable expression of Chenin Blanc that originates from 50-year-old vines planted in soil rich with decomposed granite. This exceptional bottle of orange enchants you with its floral scents,  juicy stone fruit characteristics, and leaves you with a lingering sensation of zesty bitter citrus peel.

Skin-contact Arneis from organically farmed fruit. James Erskine’s beautiful expression of this white grape, a classic of Piedmont, Italy. With the Jauma twist of course, this one has nashi pears, lovely weight on the palate and light texture. Killer zero-adds drinking as usual.

👉 JAUMA 1000 FIRES 2021
A 50/50 blend of Muscat and Chenin from James Erskine. Juice-like fun with a more classic serious side too. Fresh and alive with sophisticated texture, this is how this Adelaide Hills’ winemaker started tuning heads back in the day. Tight, floral and exotic. Super refreshing.

We hope you've gained a deeper appreciation for this distinct and fascinating wine style. Orange wine (or skin-contact or amber, if you prefer that) offers a sensory adventure that continues to captivate wine lovers. So, whether you're a seasoned wine connoisseur or a curious beginner, be sure to savour the charm of orange wine and embrace the magic it brings to your glass.