They say that the best things come in threes. And undoubtedly that’s been the case for still wine lists for some time. Red, white or rosé, Sir? But there’s a new kid on the block, a wine that has all the trendiest winos tongues wagging.
Orange wine is cropping up on the wine lists of the hottest bars and restaurants on the planet. Last year the Ritz declared it would start selling a Georgian Orange wine by the glass and shortly followed with five more for the by-the-bottle list.
So, what is this mystery wine? Whilst it sounds like wine made from orange fruit, it’s certainly not. It’s really an intensified white wine, perfect for those who like a little more oomph in their glass.
The colour from a wine comes from the skins of the grape and usually when white wine is made those skins are removed quickly to make a paler hue. However orange wine makers allow those skins to remain, also known as ‘skin contact’ which affords it its alluring colour as well as a little tannic grip. They’re often very rich and fruit forward with exotic fruits and because they’re made in a natural way they can also be very nutty. They can also hold a bitter aftertaste, a little like a craft fruit beer at times making them an interesting choice for those who usually opt for something ‘hoppy’.
Orange, or ‘amber’ wine as it’s sometimes known, is an ancient wine style so it tends to be the countries with very traditional practices doing it best, although there are some new world kids kicking up a pretty decent storm too. Here are some of the top buys for this summer:
Benimaquia Tinajas Bodegas Bernabe, Navarro, Spain
This Spanish treat screams of its home country with lashings of oranges and peaches with the grip and ‘fuzz’ of the skin of the latter. It’s crisp and refreshing with a dry and alluring aftertaste but is not as heavy-handed as many other styles. This is a wonderful first step into the adventurous world of orange wines.
Pheasant’s Tears, Kakheti, Georgia, 2011
Georgia is one of the key areas for orange wine and this is one of the jewels in its crown. This wine comes from 30-year-old vines and is fermented in Georgian qvevri buried underground – putting authenticity at its core. Expect nuts, apricots and a bitter and almost salty aftertaste that would go perfectly with food, and at a great price too.
Testalonga El Bandito Skin Contact, Swartland, South Africa 2015
This wine is an orange for the serious drinker. It’s spent two years with juice sitting on the skins so this wine packs the punch of a bandit. There’s enough nut and mineral intensity to delight and amaze even the most ardent orange wine drinkers.
Foradori "Fontanasanta Nosiola" Trentino, Italy 2015
Lighter than some of its other orange counterparts with citrus rind combined with pear and apple to create a subtle complexity. This Italian beauty sticks to its roots with an obscure grape variety, Nosiola, native to Trentino. For a masterclass refined rule-breaking, this is the wine to pick.
Venezia Giulia Ribolla Gialla Radikon 2010
This 50cl bottle might be smaller than normal but it packs in serious flavour. Expect an explosion of tropical fruit, floral hints and oriental spice all complemented by a controlled oxidation that makes it worthy of its higher price tag.
La Macération du Soula, Roussillon, France
This is a relatively new kid on the ‘orange wine’ block having only started releasing wine here from 2001. However, from inception the wines have been organic and since have become biodynamic with lots of impetus on avoiding oxidation. The juice, from a variety of lesser known indigenous French grape varieties, is given two weeks on the skins causing an inviting orange and tangerine nose to develop.
Cirelli ‘Anfora’ Trebbiano d'Abruzzo DOC, 2016
Expect a true battle of the senses as honeyed exotic fruits tease the palette and yet there is no dash of sugar to speak of. This is a wine made with love from a small farm in the Abruzzo region of Italy where olive oil, other wines, fruits and vegetables are all farmed on a small family plot.