What is Orange Wine?

We all know the main categories of wine - red, white, and Rosé, but there's another wine that's more ancient than the other three, albeit lesser known. 

Orange wine (or amber wine) has become popular in recent years due to an increasing interest in natural and organic wines, but what in the world is it if it's neither red nor white?

We're covering everything you need to know about this lesser-known vino, from taste to food pairings, and how it's made to enhance your tasting experience. 

What Is Orange Wine Infographic

Where Does Orange Wine Come From?

While orange wine might seem like a brand-new concept, it's actually been around for thousands of years! Specifically, it's believed that this particular style of vino first originated in the country of Georgia over six thousand years ago. 

During this time, the wine was fermented in clay vessels underground, lending to a more natural process than what we're familiar with today. 

You can still find some of the best orange wines in this area, Slovenia, and Italy. However, New World regions like the United States, Australia, and South Africa are quickly making waves regarding this style of wine. 

The grape variety most closely associated with Orange wine is Ribolla Gialla, a white wine grape that originated in Slovenia and Northeast Italy

Now that we're aware of some of the geography and origins of orange wine, let’s look at how it’s made.

Orange grapes

How is Orange Wine Made?

When it comes to their respective winemaking processes, red wines, white wines, Rosé, and orange wines aren't so different. All of these types are crafted by pressing the juice from the grapes and then allowing the natural (or added) yeasts to convert the juice sugars into alcohol.

 The one difference in color for all of the categories mentioned above comes down to skin contact. This means that the grape skins are left in the must, a mixture of the skins, stems, and seeds, for a certain amount of time to achieve a light or saturated hue. 

For example, darker red wines ferment in grape skins for the most extended amount of time, white wines touch the skins for a lesser amount of time or not at all, depending on the type, and Rosé wine is a result of red grape skins touching the juice for an extremely short amount of time, resulting in that light blush color we all know and love. 

Grape skins, stems, and seeds play an incredibly crucial role in the wine's texture and complexity, as these elements all contain tannins. 

If you've ever sipped a particularly robust red wine like Cabernet Sauvignon, you may have noticed a dry, puckering feeling on your palate. This astringent texture comes from organic compounds known as "tannins," which can also be tasted in dark chocolate and black tea. 

Orange wine is actually a skin-contact white wine. The only difference between this and a regular white wine is that the grape skins are never removed during maceration, which is the soaking of the skins, stems, and seeds in the juice. 

As the skins are left to soak, the wine is imbued with natural tannins, textures, and golden, amber hues. This hands-off method of winemaking has been desirable to the natural wine movement and biodynamic approach, which both favor as little human intervention as possible. 

Moving on from the winemaking process, it's now time for the moment we've been waiting for the taste.

Pouring a glass of orange wine

What Does Orange Wine Taste Like?

With its unique taste and texture, orange wine is one of those distinguished treats sought after by experienced wine drinkers.

 A common misconception is that orange wine tastes sweeter because of its candy-like glow and orange rind flavors. This vino is often savory, sour, or even gamey due to its higher tannin levels and natural winemaking process, which are distinct from regular white wine. 

Orange wine is essentially the antithesis of bright and refreshing white wines like Pinot Grigio (Pinot Gris). The texture and taste are actually closer to a light-bodied red wine like Pinot Noir or a heavier white wine like oak-aged Chardonnay. 

Its specific flavor profile often boasts autumnal and nutty notes like:

  • Hazelnut
  • Apricot
  • Peach
  • Green apple
  • Jackfruit
  • Orange blossom
  • Beeswax
  • Honey

    Some of these tasting notes may vary depending on the type of orange wine, but generally, an aged orange wine will taste even more savory and nuttier as it ages.  

    Orange Wine vs. Rosé

    Orange wine and Rosé are almost complete opposites. As we covered earlier, blush wines barely touch the grape skins, while orange wines result from the grape skins soaking indefinitely. 

    Regarding taste and texture, Rosé is a bright and fruity aromatic wine, while orange wines are heavier, savory, and more astringent due to higher tannins. 

    Now that we've addressed what makes the natural orange wine flavors so different from other well-known varietals, let's find out what this unique wine pairs best with.

    Best Orange Wine Pairings

    Due to orange wine's heaviness, complexity, nuttiness, and savory fruit flavors, it can be challenging to find a suitable dish. However, we can apply similar logic to what we might find with red wine food pairing. 

    The solution: bold food pairings. 

    Orange wine is more bitter than your usual white wine, so spicy and tart dishes will complement this quality. 

    Think hearty dishes like grilled barbecue chicken, grilled eggplant and mushrooms, Moroccan lamb, or Ethiopian cuisine. 

    Try seafood or mushroom risotto, eggplant in walnut sauce, or roasted cauliflower for lighter orange wines. 

    As you can see, a unique wine needs an equally special meal to pair with it. Take your taste buds on an unforgettable culinary adventure with these starter choices.

    Friends cheersing glasses of orange wine

     Shop Organic Wine at Macy's Wine Shop

    As you sip the unique skin-contact wine that is orange vino, its unforgettable flavors will transport you back to its ancient origins and traditional winemaking practices that have been refined over generations. 

    Try our 2022 Sous L’Ocean Skin Contact Wine, a supple orange wine with a French flair, for a bold and fruity sipping experience.

    In addition to this lovely orange wine, we also have plenty of Organic Wines and white wines to choose from!

    While waiting for your order to arrive, learn more about the wine world with our blog and shop all wine types here to find your next perfect sipper.