White wine, red wine, rosé wine…orange wine? My eyebrows raised. A lot. If you haven’t heard of it either, don’t feel bad. Part novelty, part legitimately tasty, orange wine is hot and new.
So what is Orange Wine? In short, it’s white wine made in a specific manner by wineries in NY state. The white wine that you and I have come to know takes white grapes, crushes/presses them, and instantly drains the juice away from the pulp, seeds, etc. Orange wine keeps the juices on the grapes while it ferments, allowing it to pick up far different flavors and complexities. Or so they say.
Winemag.com describes it thusly: “Rather than being orange, these skin-fermented white wines range from bright gold to tawny brown. On the palate, they often possess the texture, body and tannins of red wines and the fruit and minerality of white wines. Stylistically unique, many offer earthiness, funk and a savory, richly textured mouthfeel.”
For some more information on it, check out imbibemagazine.com’s article on orange wine right here. It doesn’t look like these wines are cheap, but I’d like to go through a tasting of a few. Finding them may be the most difficult task, unless you live in New York state, right at the source.
The idea of natural wines is a tricky subject. Mainly because the term really doesn’t mean anything specific. In general though, it means a wine that’s been as un-touched by a winemaker’s technology and techniques as possible. So what’s that mean? Things like chemicals in the vineyard (e.g. pesticides, or chemicals that keep the grapes from rotting or molding), or sulphur in the winemaking process. Sulphur sounds bad, but really it’s totally fine. It’s typically used very sparingly, and it keeps the wine from spoiling, so it’s essential.
So now we get the push for “natural” wines, which certainly comes from a good place and is something that I generally agree with. But in reality, there is NO way to know what is “natural” and what isn’t, or where in the spectrum of “natural” a wine may fall. It ends up being a little silly to my mind. The easiest way is to get to know a winery that you like a lot, and learn the winemaker’s philosophy. Easier said than done, yes. Your best bet is to find a great wineshop and talk to the folks who work there. They’ve often visited the places themselves.
If you want to learn more, and you’re an extreme wine nerd, check out this blog post that I came across. It’s a long read, but it’s interesting if this type of thing gets you going. I don’t know the blog well, but it looks like a smartly written piece so it may be worth checking out more.