All about orange wine!

Wine is generally categorized into 3 colors: red, white, rosé. But there is in this classification a little known, with a very distinctive dress: the orange wine ! Hypnotizing, surprising ... It arouses curiosity and makes you want to take a closer look.

Although its popularity is recent, it has existed for thousands of years and its history goes back simply ... to the history of wine itself.

It is in Georgia, Slovenia, but also in the border areas of northern Italy, that we find the first traces of wine making and maceration practices of white wine in buried amphorae. These traditional methods are now of interest to more and more winegrowers, who in turn wish to produce an orange juice.

Difficult to verify, but in France, it seems that the techniques of maceration on white grapes are part of the Alsatian wine traditions. It is said that they have been doing it for ages! And it is true that the local grape varieties lend themselves well to it.

How is orange wine made?

We often hear that "orange wine is a wine made from white grapes vinified as for a wine red ».

But, what does that mean?

To make white wine, we generally practice what is called direct pressing. This means pressing the grapes or whole bunches and extracting only the juice, without any contact with the skins.

The orange wine is the result of whole grapes macerated (we speak of pellicular maceration): with their skin, their seeds, and sometimes even their stalk. Tannin is thus extracted, which gives more structured wines, leaning more towards the ripe fruit. It is this process that gives this characteristic color, but also its taste, to what is called orange wine.

To better understand the mechanism, a little technical point with the highlighting of 3 essential elements that will determine the profile of the wine, (whether or not they are worked in maceration):

  • Polyphenols - Polyphenols are substances naturally present in grapes, they are responsible for a good part of the flavor of wines. The longer the maceration, the more they will be present. The same grape variety worked according to several maceration methods will not give the same result.
  • Anthocyanins - Anthocyanins can be related to plant pigments, especially present in the skin, they give their color to wines. Some grape varieties are more or less loaded with them, so we guess that the color is not necessarily indicative of power. A gewurztraminer in maceration will have a very bright color, which will not necessarily be the case with a chardonnay for example, which will present a softer dress.
  • Tannins - They are present in the skin, the seeds, the stalks; maceration allows to extract them and bring out a sensation of astringency. That's why we talk a lot about them in orange wine! At the same time, they are largely responsible for the atypical mouthfeel that is attributed to them. But here again, each grape has its own tannin!

Concerning the maceration time, it varies! It all depends on the methodology (in amphora, in jar, in tank, ...) on the sensitivity of the winemaker, and on the desired result.

Which grape varieties for orange wine?

A priori, all grape varieties can be used, and we understand that, each one will react differently to macerationIt is therefore difficult to give a definitive answer.

However, we have noticed that some wines are sublimated if they are vinified in this way. This is the case of powerful and aromatic grape varieties, which can sometimes be indigestible in classic vinifications. Maceration makes them easier to tame, and more balanced.

To quote some of them, we have already mentioned Alsace, and it is true that Gewurztraminer or Muscat worked in maceration give bombs of wines!

Abroad, we can look at Georgian grape varieties such as Rkatsiteli or Mtsvane or bet on Vitoska or Malvasia that can be found in Slovenia or in the Italian region of Friuli.

What does orange wine taste like?

As always with wine, it is difficult to give a linear answer to "how it tastes". There are as many grape varieties, terroirs, ways of working the vine, ways of making wine as there are wines, and therefore different tastes.

For all that, we can say thatwith the orange wine, we escape from the usual standards. No matter how much those who are attached to conventional norms dislike it: we are getting out of the box!

Also, we find some common characteristics easily identifiable. First of all, orange wine, as we said above, is a wine of maceration. It therefore contains tannin, which gives astringency, structure and body to the wine.

We can also attribute to orange wines notes ranging from exotic fruits (pineapple, mango), to stone fruits (apricot), through citrus (orange). And these are wines with strong character, rather powerful and greedy, which do not leave indifferent! When you discover orange wine, you don't forget itIt is rather addictive and it has this particular taste of return.

These are wines that should not be drunk too cold to appreciate their full potential and richness.

Where does the natural wine fit into all this?

Orange wine -or white wine from maceration- is very popular with natural wine lovers!

As we said, it is far from being new! It is even linked to a very old tradition.

But it is the winemakers of the natural fringe who have (re)given it a place of honor.

Why? Perhaps because the winemaking and tasting of natural wine allows to open doors, to break codes, to get out of the expected. With natural wine, we are far from the constraint of the specifications of the appellations, so we experiment!

And with orange wine, that's for sure, you can surprise! We offer our taste buds new flavors, we are in a philosophy of discovery and experimentation.

Technically too, pellicular maceration has its advantages:

  • It considerably increases the indigenous yeast population and allows for a better alcoholic fermentation without the need for yeast addition. This can be precious if nature is not in the best condition to do the job...
  • Tannins have antioxidant properties, which prevent the development of bacteria and make the juice more resistant. As we know, our winemakers do not use sulfites or any other antiseptic chemicals. Maceration is therefore also a way to protect certain vintages that might be more fragile.

Many reasons to convince our talented winemakers to try the orange adventure!

On the consumer side, today, the demand is strong. Even though orange wine is still a new hype, we have not drunk as much of it as reds, whites and rosés, so we still want to discover and be surprised.

On our side, we are seduced! We have a nice little collection to offer, coming from the 4 corners of France, vintages born from the hands of the talented winemakers with whom we collaborate.

And we don't intend to stop there, so don't forget to take a look at the new products we offer, and don't wait any longer to go orange!