Wine Talk

Snooth User: Eric Guido

"Orange" style wine (NOT made from oranges)

Posted by Eric Guido, Jun 29, 2012.

I recently put together a tasting of orange style wines (for a future article). In my small of part of the wine universe, orange wine has a respected place. However, I found it odd, that it was so difficult to make my tasting successful. First, finding the attendees for the tasting took some doing. I was amazed by how many experienced Italian wine drinkers had little to zero interest in tasting orange wines.

However, what was even worse, was sourcing the wines for the event. One taster went to an esteemed shop, here in the city, and when he asked about Orange Wines. The clerk explained that they only had wines made from grapes??? I too had similar experiences, where wine stores had no idea what I was asking for (or at least little knowledge of if they had or ever had orange wines in the shop). Another interesting conversation I had was with a Californian winemaker, who recently returned from Friuli and their impression was that Orange wine was no longer respected by the majority of winemakers in Friuli.

In the end, the tasting was a huge success. Everyone involved was amazed by the wines and the food pairings were out of this world (Italian-Austrian cuisine). The wines showed beautifully and were truly convincing that this is a style of wine that should not be allowed to fade away from the spotlight it was slowly gaining.

But I have to wonder, why don't more people know about orange wine?

Is orange wine on your radar?

Do you like it, or ever tried it?

 

And just in case anyone needs a little education on orange wines, here's a link to it on Wikipedia.

 

Replies

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Reply by Wayne Young, Jun 29, 2012.

Hi Erik--

I've been a friend of the Radikon family for years and I have watched as Stanko moved into this strange realm of Orange Wines. And while I am all for freedom of expression and the beauty of variety the wine world has to offer, I can't help but say that so-called "Orange wines" wines are, at best, curiosities, and at worst, defective and unappealing.

My eye opening experience with this category was at a wine show where I was placed in a hall with a group of Orange Wine producers. When I had a chance I would walk across the aisle tot aste some of them.

Far from being true to the variety, I found the wines standardized by maceration and oxidation. Whether it was Trebbiano, Ribolla or Sauvignon, I found all these wines to be too similar in flavor and aroma.

There is a time and place for these wines, though. They are geeky wines that people looking for the unusual and the unique like to try. The problem comes when you actually want to DRINK wine, instead of analyzing it. They simply dont give a lot of pleasure, in my humble opinion.

I rarely find myself desiring one of these wines, regardless of how well-made they may be.

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Reply by outthere, Jun 29, 2012.

Pax Mahle makes an orange Trousseau Gris under the Wnd Gap label called Piccolo Bastardo that I have tried. The NPA makes an orange Pinot Gris as well. They are interesting but not memorable. Not something I seek out.

 

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Reply by EMark, Jun 29, 2012.

I've never heard of it, Eric. 

Then, again, one of the reasons I troll around Snooth is to learn new things.  So, mission accomplished for today.  Thanks.

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Reply by gregt, Jun 29, 2012.

Eric - sorry I missed the tasting. I had one by Puffney and one by Rolet in addition to a few straight whites from producers in Jura that I've picked up over the years, mostly from people wanting an importer. I'm not sure I've had much, or any, from Italy - I thought they were more of a French thing but I guess I was wrong.  Cool idea for a tasting tho.

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Reply by jtryka, Jun 29, 2012.

This is the first I've heard of "orange" wines at all, can anyone post an "orange wine for dummies" article?

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Reply by gregt, Jun 30, 2012.

I don't know about writing a whole article, but essentially "orange wines" are white wines made as if they were red wines.

What does that mean?

When you make white wine, you press the grapes, run off the juice, and ferment that.

When you make red wine, you press the grapes, let the whole mass of pressed grapes and skins and seeds sit for a while, and then ferment that.  The flesh of the grapes, with a few exceptions, is generally white. So by macerating the juice with the skins, you extract color, tannins, and other flavor and aroma compounds. The skins and solids float to the top, forming what's called a "cap" and you push that down periodically, or you siphon the juice over that in what's called "pumpover" and let it trickle back thru the cap. The point is to make sure that there's a lot of skin contact.

If you're really brutal when you push the cap down and stir it up, you extract more bitter elements and one of the innovations in winemaking in the past 40 years has been gentle treatment of the skins and cap.

If you let the whole mass sit for a very short time and run off the juice before you can get a lot of color, you end up with rosado, or rosé. That was not fashionable in the 1980s, so they invented the term "blush" wine. That was white Zinfandel.

So an "orange wine" is a white wine that's made as if it were a red. In other words, the grapes are pressed and then the juice is allowed to sit for a while in contact with the skins. The wine can simply macerate like that or it can start fermenting with the skins still in the juice. Because there isn't a lot of color or tannin in white grapes, although some grapes actually do have tannins, the wine doesn't really pick up a lot of color so it often just looks like a darker white wine. The term that was created is "orange" wine, to indicate that it's a white wine that was made with significant skin contact.

I'm not an expert on those wines so maybe someone else can chime in.  Most of the ones I've had are from France, from the Jura region, although come to think of it, technically Tokaji-aszu can be considered an "orange" wine too. In any event, sometimes those wines are made in an even more interesting way.  They can be done like a sherry, where a mold is allowed to grow on the juice. That gives the wine a completely different profile, and that's what I'm most familiar with from France.

It's possible that much white wine was made in that manner in the past - we really don't know. But it's recently been getting a lot of attention and some of the wines are interesting and even good. Whether there's really a lot to be gained by making wine in that manner as opposed to the current manner of clean, stainless steel fermentation, is another question entirely.

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Reply by VegasOenophile, Jun 30, 2012.

I had a great and interesting one by Batic.  Check that one out if you can find it.

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Reply by Eric Guido, Jun 30, 2012.

Wayne Young,

Thank you for this feedback.  Your feelings on the topic seem to mirror what my friend found in Friuli on his trip.  You do make some very valid points.  However, the one thing that I must say in response, is that I can't agree with the "geeky" wine comment.  I find that orange wine appeals to a vast majority of people.  In fact, I can put an orange wine in front of just about any wine drinker (and as long as they know not to expect an average white), they'll usually enjoy it.  A good example of how this has taken off is Channing Daughter's Ramato, it's an orange wine from Long Island (very well made from Friuli inspiration) and it sells out every year.

Also, as much as these wines may not show their varietal character, they do all show unique characteristics that makes it extremely interesting to taste a broad range.

I'm afraid that it's not that the wine is too geeky but that maybe some tasters are too geeky for the wine (please don't take this as an insult) but is it possible that those who are against these wines may be looking it it from too much of a purists perspective?

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Reply by Eric Guido, Jun 30, 2012.

jtryka, not a bad idea, but I think Greg covered most of it.

 

What I will add is that many of the Italian and Slovenian Orange wines start from being grown Biodynamically (method of organic farming that emphasizes the holistic development and interrelationships of the soil, plants and animals as a self-sustaining system.) and in the case of some wines, like Gravner's Anfora, they are aged in giant concrete anfora (large oval vessels that are buried in the earth).  

 

Greg, I'm really sorry you missed it, because you would have not only enjoyed the wines but this was one of the best groups of people I've ever assembled for a tasting.  Totally your kind of group.  I may continue to do more obscure topics with this group, in which case I'd love to get you to join in.

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Reply by Eric Guido, Jun 30, 2012.

 VegasOenophile, 

Do you have any more info on this wine, do you remember what it was called?

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Reply by outthere, Jun 30, 2012.

In the case of the Piccolo Bastardo from Wind Gap the color comes from the Trousseau Gris whose skins, when very ripe, turn bronze in color. This is what mine looked like whe I got it home.

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Reply by Eric Guido, Jun 30, 2012.

Did you happen to write a tasting note?  I know you mentioned that it wasn't memorable but was there anything positive that stood out?

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Reply by outthere, Jun 30, 2012.

 Nothing real in-depth. Not that it was a bad wine, just not something I would particularly seek out.

Pop and pour and drank over a couple hours. Interesting mix of citrus zest, strawberry and pale peach. I enjoyed it more chilled than at room temp. Really grew in texture as the time passed. Fun wine.

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Reply by gregt, Jun 30, 2012.

I agree with that note. I've had the wine a couple times and it's interesting.  Not sure I'd run out and buy it but I give him a lot of credit for trying something different. 

Eric - any time.  Based on the people I knew, it was a good group.

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Reply by shelleytelaviv, Jul 1, 2012.

Midbar Winery - a boutique winery in Israel had just released its first orange, Friuli - inspired  wine - called Orange 44  2010 ..... made from Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Viognier  grown in the Negev desert, and while it is early days - the winemaker recommends decanting before serving in  2012 -  it already shows great  potential ..... though not available outside of Israel, details are available at the website ....www.midbar-winery.com

 

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Reply by Eric Guido, Jul 1, 2012.

Thanks for the tip shelleytelaviv,

I've been enjoying a number of wines from Israel, from Clos de Gat.

I hope I can find a chance to taste Midbar.

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Reply by shelleytelaviv, Jul 2, 2012.

Clos de Gat is one of my Israeli favorites too.....another is Castel .......

Midbar  - owned by my step-daughter - might eventually be available in the USA....once the new  vineyards in the Ramon crater produce sufficient grapes ....

let me know if you plan a visit here - we will happily show you around !

( that goes for Chianti too ....my vacation home is in Panzano-in-chianti -   and yes, we  often go to Castello Volpaia for lunch....and if you havent already tried them I'd love to introduce you to the wines of my friends/neighbors at Cennatoio, Vecchie Terre and Fontodi)

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Reply by Eric Guido, Jul 2, 2012.

Thanks for the tip on the Castel, I see it's available at some local shops, so I'll grab a bottle soon.

And also for the invitation, I'll be sure to takes you up on it if I'm able and in the area.

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Reply by Eric Guido, Jul 10, 2012.

Hey guys, I ended up putting this up in the lists section.  It's the result of my recent tasting of orange wine.  The link is below if you're interested.

 

In Defense of Orange Wine


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