When it comes to wine, most people think first of red and white. However, orange wine has been gaining popularity as a refreshing alternative thanks to its unique flavor profile and artisanal appeal. Orange wine is nothing new; in fact, it has been around for thousands of years and may have been consumed as far back as 6000 B.C.
Orange wine is actually a type of white wine that is produced similarly to red wine. With orange wine, the skin, seeds and sometimes stems are allowed to ferment with the juice rather than quickly squeezing the fruit and fermenting only the juice. They undergo a process called maceration, in which their compounds, including polyphenols, leach into the wine, giving it its distinct color, flavor and texture. The wine is then left to macerate or soak for anything from 24 hours to many months. The skin is a key ingredient since this thin protective layer contains a complex array of chemical components including tannins and anthocyanins.
The orange color produced in the wine is determined by various elements, including the grape variety, fruit ripeness, time length of fermentation with the grape skins, and the vessel used in the process. The longer the wine ferments with the skins and seeds, the deeper its color. The length of time that the grapes are left in contact with their skins will determine the flavor profile of the wine. A short period will produce a lighter, more acidic wine, while a more extended period will create a richer, more tannic wine.
Tannins are a natural compound that give wine its dry, astringent taste, and due to the grape skins, orange wines have a higher tannin content than white wines. Orange wines have a different flavor profile from red or white wines and feature a fruity profile with an earthy aroma. Orange wines have flavors of nuts, honey, spices, citrus fruits, and sourdough. They are also known to be quite sour and funky, which help to make them so distinctive. Orange wines are ideal for pairing dishes with a strong flavor, such as cheese or meat, and also pair well with earthy flavors, such as mushrooms or lentils.
Most orange wines are made with white grapes, but skin-contact wine can also be made using red grapes. The difference between white grapes and red grapes for orange wine is the pigment drawn from the grape skins. With white grapes, you will get a lighter-hued wine and a much darker wine with red grapes. The flavor profiles will also be different, with white wines tending to have more citrus flavors and red wines tending to be earthier and spicier.