Orange wines are white wines which are unconventionally made by including the grapes’ skins in the maceration process. Normally in the production of a white wine the skins are immediately separated from the juice to obtain a floral and fruity wine.
In the case of orange wines they do not remove the skin and let the must macerate for longer. The skins contain colour pigments, phenols and tannins which give colour and texture to wine. Maceration extracts these elements from the skin and as a result the taste of an orange wine is dry and a bit sour from the indigenous yeast fermentation along with some nuttiness from oxidation. A really exciting surprise in taste.
The wine can be left to macerate for just a few days all the way up to a year, depending on the winery’s intentions. The intensity of the typical orange colour is affected by the duration of the maceration. The longer a wine macerates, the more intense the colour will be. Because of their textures, complexity and tannins, orange wines can be easily paired with white meat, pork and even game.
“Free your mind from conventions, simply live the unbelievable emotion of a harvest…”
The practice of letting white wines macerate together with the skin dates back over 6000 years and is a method which has been in use in Eurasia, Armenia and Georgia ever since.
Georgia is still the main orange wine producing country even though the popularity of this wine is growing rapidly abroad as well. As a result the practice of making orange wines has also been adopted by Italian winemakers from the North Eastern Friuli region, situated on the border with Slovenia, another producer of orange wines.
Nowadays a few orange wine producers are also present in other important Italian wine regions, but they’re still very rare and therefore difficult to find. Due to the increasing popularity of orange wines production is also increasing in countries like Croatia, France, Germany, New Zealand and the US.
We travelled to Georgia, to the origins of this very special wine and visited a few very good and small wineries which are still using the ancient method of producing wine in red clay vessels called qvevri.
A qvevri is a Georgian vessel which is totally buried in the ground and is used for the fermentation and storage of wine. By being immersed in the earth the vessels ensures that the wine’s temperature remains stable and it also protects the wine from oxidation. Grapes, including their skin, are left inside for up to a year to rest and macerate without any intervention. This means that qvevri wines are made in the most natural way possible and in the same way that has been successful for thousands of years.
We’ve now added some very special Italian orange wines as well as Slovenian ones from the Radikon winery and Cotar to our growing selection. In the near future we’re also hoping to add some of the traditional wines from Georgian artisan wineries to our collection.
The Radikon winery is located in Oslavia, Slovenia, right on the border with Italy and has been a family run winery since 1948 that mainly focuses on producing Tocai Friulano, Pinot Grigio and Merlot wines. In the year 1995 the production methods changed drastically when Stanko Radikon started using truncated cone shaped vats in which he fermented white grapes without removing the skins. That was the beginning of their skin-macerated white wine production.
Cotar is a family farm and winery located in the western portion of the Karst in Slovenia producing Refosco, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malvasia, Sauvignon and Vitovska wines. The wines are still produced using the same methods their ancestors used. White grapes are turned into wine in the same way as reds are; with skin maceration.