What are “orange” wines?

Orange wines are white wines made using a technique first used thousands of years ago, when everything – grapes, juice, pips and stems – went into the fermentation vessel, usually a clay amphora buried in the ground. This kept the wine both cool, and safe from thirsty prying neighbours.

Normally, white wines are made just from the grape juice which comes when the grapes are pressed. The grape skins are thrown away leaving the grape juice to ferment on its own into wine (ferment = yeast eat grape sugar and turn it into wine alcohol whilst farting out carbon dioxide).

To make red wine both skins and juice must go into the tank because the wine only gets its red colour and tannins if the juice soaks on the dark-coloured grapeskins whislt fermenting. The tannins are what help red wines to improve with age and give them their particular mouthfeel.

With orange wines the white grapes are crushed but instead of being thrown away the skins are left with the fermenting juice, for several weeks, just like in red wine. As white wine grape skins are greenish-yellow the wine takes on an yellow-orange colour and picks up tannins from the skins. These tannins give orange wines their notably broad texture and help orange wines to age longer than normal by reducing (or eliminating) the need to add any preservatives like sulfites to the wine. This is why orange wines are often seen as the flagbearers of the natural wine movement outlined above. The orange wine movement started in Friuli in north Italy but is growing if still niche phenomenon worldwide.