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Sunday, 17 February 2013

Orange Wine

There seems to be a lot nonsense being written about orange wines lately, including by writers/bloggers who should know better. I'm not going to name any names, because there's no need to, ie if you're reading this post then you're a wine-geek and you'll have read all the other recent posts on orange wine and you'll know exactly who and what I'm talking about.

An orange wine
It seems to me that the fundamental error that many people are making is not realizing that orange wines are a catagory unto themselves, and should not really be compared to white wines, red wines or any other kind of wine. Like Sherry, for example. Sherry is technically a white wine, but who in their right mind would taste a sherry and compare it to a normal white wine? I believe the same applies to orange wines.

There also seems to be some confusion about the use of sulfites in orange wines. There's obviously no connection whatsoever. Orange wines can be made with no sulfites, with a reasonable quantity of sulfites, or with lots of sulfites! It depends on the winemakers' decision.

And there also seems to be some confusion with regard to natural/organic/biodynamic wines. Orange wines do not necessarily have to be natural, organic or biodynamic. There is in fact an industrial volume-producer in Spain who still churns out an orange wine for about €2/bottle.

Orange wines are not a newly discovered phenomenon. They've been made that way for thousands of years, especially in countries like Georgia and Armenia, but probably in ALL winemaking countries. Friuli, in Italy, for example. I know for a fact that they were made in Spain, until they went out of fashion; now there are only a few producers left. OK, so they're all the rage at the moment, and everyone who wants to be relevant and interesting feels obliged to write about them! Oh well.

Orange wines are perfectly capable of expressing the terroir of where they were produced. Why on earth should they not be? It depends on the winemakers' decisions, just like for any wine or type of wine.

I don't see why certain writers think that ALL orange wines are expensive. Obviously some are, but others are quite normally priced. (my own, for example, retail in NY for about $20 in winestores and for about $40 in restaurants)

Orange wines don't have to be made in clay amphoras. They can be made in any container whatsoever. I personally make the exact same orange wine in containers of three different materials (clay amphoras, stainless steel, and open-top oak casks) just to see if there's any appreciable difference.

What I don't understand is why people get so upset and feel they have mock and/or attempt to be funny and/or criticise without knowing what they're talking about. I mean, surely it's interesting for people to try a new type of wine? Why all this negativity and disparagement? Why not focus on the interesting, reasonably-priced, terroir-expressing orange wines out there, instead of on the expensive, funky, cloudy ones?

Orange wines don't have to be cloudy. It depends on whether the winemaker fines it and/or filters it and/or lets it settle naturally by gravity!

Orange wines don't have to be oxidized either. It depends on whether the winemaker decides to protect it from contact with oxygen or not.

I personally discovered orange wines about three years ago quite by accident, and I have to say that I love them, because they are so different from white wines and red wines. They are very versatile too: on the one hand they're great for drinking on their own as an aperitivo before lunch, or for quaffing casually in a winebar, and on the other hand they go great with food too.

Here's a nice photo of my orange wine, which in this case was made in an clay amphora, was not fined or filtered, does not contain any added sulfites; but it could just as easily have been made in stainless steel, been filtered and fined and contain lots of sulfites, and it would still be an orange wine!



  1. Hi Fabio,
    but I don't really understand why do you say orange wines shouldn't be seen as a kind of white wines :-?



    1. José, I meant that orange wines should't be tasted along with normal white wines. Just like sherry and white dessert wines, for example, are not tasted together with normal white wines, but are treated as a separate category.

    2. Hi Fabio,
      maybe I miss the point as far as I don't know exactly how orange wines are made. From my point of view, despite all these kind of wines use to be made using white grapes there're big topics on the method that guide us to taste them separetely. For instance, second fermentation on sparkling wines, fortified, velo-flor and so on. Nonetheless I don't know whether does exist or not anything enoughly different on orange wines that could require to taste them separately and not just as white wines... with a not so usual hue ;-)



  2. José,
    That's an interesting question, ie "Are orange wines different enough to merit being tasted as a separate category?"
    I personally believe they are different enough, because of the distinctive colours, aromas and tastes, which are just not found (in my experience) in white wines.

  3. Hi Fabio,
    in my opinion, and I can be wrong, the different categories come from different vinification method, not for the organoleptic differences as far as it happens during the tasting process and not during the process. For instance, should any other wine (whatever it's red or white) be tasted in different categories if they're made using large inox vats or wood or barrels or concrete....




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