Exploring "Orange" Wines

May 22, 2024Piergiorgio Borgogno
Esplorando i Vini "Orange"

Orange Wines: The New Taste of Tradition


Orange wines, also known as skin-contact wines, are one of the most fascinating and lesser-known categories in the wine world. These wines, rooted in ancient winemaking techniques, offer a unique sensory experience and represent a perfect blend of tradition and innovation. Let's explore every aspect of these extraordinary wines together.

First of All, What is Orange Wine?

Orange wine is made using white grapes but with a winemaking method typical of red wines: prolonged maceration on the skins. This process gives the wine an orange or amber color and a more pronounced tannic structure. Maceration can last from a few days to several months, resulting in a wine that combines the freshness of whites with the complexity and depth of reds. The skin contact not only adds color but also helps develop complex aromas and improve the wine's stability. This process allows winemakers to extract more phenolic compounds and aromas from the grape, creating a rich and layered flavor profile. Orange wines are often less filtered than conventional white wines, which can lead to some bottles being slightly cloudy, but this is now considered part of their distinctive character.

Sensory Characteristics: What to Expect?

Orange wines offer a range of aromas and flavors that can surprise even the most experienced palates. On the nose, you might find notes of dried fruit, aromatic herbs, spices, and honey. On the palate, these wines have a more robust tannic structure compared to traditional whites, with a pleasant acidity that balances the complex flavors. This combination of characteristics makes orange wines extremely versatile in food pairings.

The aromatic complexity of orange wines derives from the unique combination of winemaking techniques and terroir. For example, an orange wine produced in a warm and sunny region might have more mature and fruity notes, while one produced in a cooler climate might present fresher and more mineral aromas. The variability of the aromatic profile makes each bottle of orange wine a unique adventure.


Origins and Traditions: How Did Orange Wine Originate?

The roots of orange wines lie in the ancient winemaking traditions of Georgia, where this technique has been used for thousands of years. Here, wines are fermented in qvevri, large buried clay amphorae, which allow for natural fermentation and slow maturation. This practice has been rediscovered and adapted by many modern producers around the world, including Italy, Slovenia, and other innovative wine regions.

In Italy, producers in regions such as Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Tuscany are experimenting with skin-contact techniques to create wines that combine the richness of local traditions with a contemporary approach to winemaking. The rediscovery of these ancient techniques not only pays homage to vinicultural history but also offers new opportunities to express the diversity of terroirs.

Production and Styles

Producing orange wines requires great skill and attention to detail. The duration of maceration, fermentation temperature, and choice of grapes are all crucial decisions that influence the final result. Some producers choose to macerate the grapes for very long periods, creating wines with pronounced tannins and significant aromatic complexity, while others opt for shorter macerations to achieve lighter and fresher wines. The different styles of orange wines can vary widely. Some are lighter and fruitier, with notes of citrus and white flowers, while others are more robust and complex, with aromas of dried fruit, spices, and minerals. This variety of styles allows orange wines to cater to a wide range of preferences and culinary pairings.

Culinary Pairings: What to Pair It With?

Orange wines are extremely versatile at the table, thanks to their bright acidity and tannic structure. They pair perfectly with fish dishes, white meats, and spicy foods. Their aromatic complexity makes them ideal companions for rich and flavorful dishes, such as aged cheeses, mushroom-based dishes, and even Asian cuisine. A classic pairing is an orange wine with a roast chicken dish with aromatic herbs and lemon. The wine's structure balances the richness of the chicken, while the refreshing acidity cleanses the palate. For cheese lovers, an orange wine pairs well with hard, aged cheeses like pecorino or parmesan, enhancing their complex and intense flavors. In summary, orange wines stand out for their pronounced character and great adaptability at the table.


Orange wines represent a fascinating and growing category in the wine world, offering a unique sensory experience and a deep connection to ancient winemaking traditions. For those seeking a wine with character, complexity, and a touch of history, orange wines are an intriguing and satisfying choice. Experimenting with these wines can open new taste frontiers and enrich one's knowledge and appreciation of wine. Sometimes, simply presenting an orange wine at the table can provide a great conversation topic and a chance to make an evening truly memorable.

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