First, a very quick refresher course in Orange wine making. The initiated can skip forward a bit.
Orange wine / skin contact white / maceration white. These are all terms to describe the same thing: wine made from white wine grapes where the wine spends an unusually long time infusing with the solids (skins, seeds, and perhaps stems, etc.). Of particular importance is the contact with the skins as they contain lots of aromatic compounds and tannins, which are thus infused into the wine. The infusion (maceration) could last anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months or even a year or more. Red wine is classically made in this style. Thus the easy analogy is that Orange wine is white grapes made like a red wine.
Orange wine is not like rose. Rose is made using red grapes which are pressed off the skins immediately after harvest, prior to fermentation. Thus the juice receives very little or no skin contact. Classic white wine is made in this way. Thus the easy analogy is that Rose wine is red grapes made like a white wine.
So what’s the big deal!? Orange wines, thanks to their long maceration, contain a certain amount of tannin, which is a great carrier of flavour when food is in the picture. Likewise, the wine has had a certain level of exposure to oxygen during its maturation, which tends to generate more robust flavours, again good for food.
In gastronomy, we tend not to match white wines with robust food dishes, especially aromatic whites. This is because the majority of classic white wines would not stand up to the power of the food, i.e. the delicate aromas of the white would be wiped out by the richness of the dish. Orange wines, however, can provide the chance to match aromatic “white” wine flavours with robust dishes, thanks to the robust structure of the wine. An orange wine can therefore behave like a sprig of rosemary or a handful of bay leaves in a rich osso bucco, for example.
Marc Kreydenweiss co-planted 1 hectare of white grape varieties in his Rhone domaine in 1999. The field is planted with 3 Rhone varieties and 3 Alsatian varieties – Grenache Blanc, Vermentino, Viognier, Reisling, Pinot Gris, Gewurtztraminer. This diverse population of differing cultures lives together. Surprisingly, the grapes reach ripeness at the same time, despite the different varieties being genetically prone to being over a month apart. The whole field is harvested together and made into a delicious orange wine, filled with aromatics including orange and lemon rind, lavender and herbal tea, with a very grippy tannic structure which melts in the mouth once food is introduced. Delicious!
by Charlie Simpson