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Why Orange Wine is the Next Big Thing

BY: Sarah Gorr | Nov 14, 2018


Image courtesy of Winc.

When I talked to our friends at Winc about the biggest trends of 2018, there was one prediction that stood out to me: orange wine. I had never heard of it. Rosé, sure. The drink and its signature pale pink color have been blowing up for years, but orange? I was eager to try it myself! But when I called around to my local wine shops, there was none to be found. It wasn't until my husband and I went out for a random date night that we finally spotted it on the menu.

My husband is a red-wine lover through and through, but even he had to admit that the description of a wine with the bold tannins of a red and the cool, refreshing taste of a white sounded like the perfect thing for the hot summer's day. A few sips in and it was easy to see why some were calling it the new rosé. If you want to be ahead of the trend, here's what you need to know:

What is orange wine?

Also known as contact wine, skin-contact wine, or amber wine, orange wine is simply a wine made from grapes with white flesh (such as those used to make white wine). However, instead of being separated from their skins before fermenting, the skin is left in contact with the juices during the aging process for as little as a few days or as long as months. As you can guess by the same, this tinges the wine with a more orange or amber hue as opposed to the light golden color of most white wines.

Where is it from?

While orange wine is rising in popularity, it's not a new thing. It's actually been around for hundreds of years in Slovenia and the country of Georgia, which might explain how it's flown under the radar for so long: neither country is widely known for their wine. But perhaps the trend will change things, while getting some other more familiar growing regions like California in on the act.

What does it taste like?

In many ways, orange wine is basically the antithesis of rosé. Where rosé can be thought of as toning down the bolder flavors of red wine, orange or skin-contact wine amps up the tannins creating more complex flavors. This is definitely what appealed to my husband. Some of the funkier varietals can even be seen as more akin to a sour beer than a glass of chardonnay. I was surprised at just how true this was as I sipped my first glass. Yes, it was a little surprising at first, but I ended up really liking the way it melded those flavors. Of course, the amount of time the wine spends fermenting with the skins will alter what flavors come across.

But just like any wine, there are a range of flavors you might run into depending on the maker and the vintage. To give you an idea, here are a few of the notes you might pick up as you sip:

  • citrus peel

  • black tea

  • toasted sugar

  • nuts

  • honeysuckle

Where can I find it?

Check out your local wine bars or trendier wine-centric restaurants and since you won't find it listed with the reds or whites, search the menu for headers such as "Unconventional Wines", "Macerated Wines", or "Off-Whites".

While it's growing in popularity, orange wine hasn't reached the same levels as rosé, which means buying a bottle from your local shop might not be easy, especially if you don't live near a maker or a major city. So instead of running around from wine shop to wine shop, we recommend opting for a wine-delivery service like Winc, which forecasted the rise of orange wine in our wine trends piece!