The wine I’m about to tell you about has as many faces as it does nuances, its very name is declined. People call it orange wine, amber wine, white wine from maceration, skin-fermented or skin-contact (white) wine, pick your side. Overshadowed for many years by chemically-modified wines and the uniformity of taste that logically followed, orange wine is now considered to be the new kid on the block, and yet…
1. What cradle was it raised in?
Its origin dates back approximately 8,000 years ago – just like red wine – in the Caucasus and more particularly in Georgia. The first grape seeds discovered in a winemaking context were found in large buried amphoras, from 2,000 to 8,000 litres, they were qvevris!
Still today, Georgians give birth to their wines in the womb of their motherland. This method allows them to keep their juice at a cool temperature all year round. Also, the ovoid shape is ideal for the wine to move, for its natural decanting and the homogenisation of its different compounds. This process is used for both red and white grapes. The red grapes are in contact with their skins which will give red wine.
So far so good.
The white grapes, following the same process, will give orange wine! And what about the white wine in all this? The major difference occurs at the very beginning, right after the harvest. The grape is pressed directly so its juice will not be coloured by the skin as it is separated from it. Stripping the pulp naked!
Besides, if you think about it, it is the white wine that arrived later. Back then, without mechanisation, pressing the grapes before putting them into containers would have been extremely tedious!
2. The different skin-contact wines
The Georgian qvevri method has inspired many. From Italy to Hungary, from France to the United States and even South Africa. Orange wine is multi-faceted and can be made in multiple containers, just like its red, white and rosé neighbours. In wood, concrete, terracotta, stainless steel and even glass, the wine adapts and changes its character according to the time spent with these different materials.
3. So what does it taste like?
Just like everything that involves the use of our senses, the experience is different for everyone. My feeling is not yours, I share with you here a very personal opinion, since it is mine.
My first emotion was with the Mauzac Rose of Laurent Cazottes, wine-grower-distiller in the Tarn region. What struck me in this tasting was the reconstruction of the fruit, with the sensation of biting into a fresh plum. Sweet, juicy, with all the aromas usually found in this kind of fruit but without any sweetness or sugar.
The tannins in the finish (end of mouth) reminded me of a beautiful astringency (dryness), brought by the fruit’s skin. It was a very emotional moment, I had never tasted a wine like this before. It was the first in a very long list of deliciously varied experiences. I had discovered something that since then has never ceased to bring me pleasure.
Here is a (absolutely non-exhaustive) list of my crunchiest emotions and other striking fruity slaps:
- Konkret, 100% Gewurztraminer, Meinklang winery, Pamhagen, Austria
- Oslavje, Chardonnay & Sauvignon, Stanko Radikon, Venezia Giulia, Italy
- Mtsvane, Craddle of wine, Kakhetie, Georgia
- Qvevri, Sylvaner, Domaine Bannwarth, Obermorschwihr, Alsace
- .Gewurztraminer, Domaine Pierre Frick, Pfaffenheim, Alsace
- Fricando, 100% Albana, Aldiladelfiume, Emilia Romagna, Italy
- Pure laine, 100% Chardonnay, Pierre Boyat, Leynes, Bourgogne
- Metonymia, 100% Roussane, Rémy & Patricia Bonneton, Ardèche
4. Where to find them?
Until a few years ago, orange wine was known only in small circles of enlightened natural wine amateurs. Today it is easy to find it in all places where food and drinks are good. It’s vague, you might say.
To find these wonderful places I invite you to download the Raisin application. There, you can find a large chunk of all natural winemakers in the world, as well as cellars, restaurants and bars where you can drink their wines. Enjoy!
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