Orange may be the new black in the criminal fraternity, but in the wine world, orange is the new red, white or rosé.
Although based on an ancient style of wine-making, orange wine (also known as amber wine) is a style that has re-emerged over the last few years and, although still something of a rarity, the trend continues to bubble just below the surface waiting to hit the mainstream. Despite renowned wine authority Hugh Johnson once describing it as “a sideshow, a waste of time”, such is the building of the movement, the latter part of 2018 saw the publication of a book (‘Amber Revolution’ by Simon J. Woolf) completely devoted to the style.
Unlike red and white wine, where neither are actually coloured red or white, orange wine is specifically named because of its colouring. It doesn’t, as some may fear, actually taste of oranges. The making of orange wine is something of a hybrid, taking the red wine process of allowing the pressed grape juice to spend time with the dark grape skins absorbing the colour, and applying that to the white wine grapes, which would usually be separated in order that the juice remains clear.
The resulting wine retains the florality and freshness of a white wine, but with the body, structure and style of a red. The skin contact, which can last for a few days all the way up to over a year, allows the resulting wine to develop further, picking up tannins along the way. The longer the wine stays in touch with the grape skins, the more complex and intense it becomes.
The merging of the red and white production methods also brings together aspects of each wine in to the taste, resulting in a versatile style that straddles both. As such, white wine fans who like a nuttier and honeyed style will enjoy it, and red wine fans who enjoy the lighter more floral style will also be rewarded.
Orange wines are also good news for those that like to match their food to their wines. Wine expert Amelia Singer (The Wine Show) praises the versatility and suggests pairing them with dishes from India, Morocco, Ethiopia and Persia. The acidity and nuttiness are also good matches to a well-stocked cheese board, as well as the light tannins lending themselves to charcuterie plates.
Although Marks & Spencer have long been advocates and include an orange wine within their range, getting your hands on a bottle is still a little tricky outside of specific wine merchants. The fact that they pair well with diverse foods is potentially a bonus as it may lead to more restaurants adding them to their lists.
As more and more people seek them out and the passion continues to grow, this is when the supermarkets will want to get involved. So keep an eye out, especially as summer draws in and people go searching for a medium-style alternative to rosé.