Learning About Orange Wines
Something I’ve been up to, but haven’t talked about much, has been a personal mission to learn more about orange wines! I first tried orange wine for the first time a couple years ago and really loved it. I always say that orange wine tastes how you’d expect it to taste. Like a crisp, citrus-y white, with a bit of a twist. Throughout the past couple months, I’ve been reading up on orange wines, ordering different bottles and trying them out, and logging my notes here.
If you are curious what an orange wine is, it’s pretty simple! Orange wines are simply white wines that had longer contact with the skins than a traditional wine would. Simon Woolf who wrote this book (which I have been reading!) describes it as “effectively… a white wine made as if it were a red.” So white grapes are left in contact with their skins for days, weeks, or even months during fermentation which creates complex, intense wines… giving the wines those beautiful bold amber, orange tints! It’s an ancient technique but has gotten really popular more recently.
If I have learned anything it’s that you learn a lot about wine from a) drinking it and paying attention, b) talking about it (I have been trying to talk more about wine with my parents as they both know so much about it), and c) taking notes as you drink and talk about it and learn more! (I still have a few more bottles to try and will be sure to update this post, so definitely check back if you are interested!).
A few really good resources:
- How to Drink Wine, by Grant Reynolds and Chris Stang is a short but GREAT book about wine – it breaks down all the basics for you in a simple, unpretentious (and HELPFUL!) way. I can’t recommend it enough for learning more about any type of wine. I’m going to be tempted to bring it with me to restaurants once we can start eating out again.
- Amber Revolution, by Simon J Woolf: think of this as your AP course on orange wine. This is a deep dive, giving you both the history of orange wine, everything you could ever want to know about how it’s made, and profiles on the top orange wine makers. I’ve only read a few chapters but am learning a LOT. I try to read a couple chapters every week to learn more!
- Orange Glou is a subscription box for orange wines! It was started by Doreen Winkler (an expert sommelier and natural wine expert). While it’s a little bit more expensive than if you just bought the wines yourself, it is thoughtfully curated and perfect for those who are unsure what to try first… you know everything she chooses is going to be really good! I bought my parents and I both the 3 pack and we had fun trying and tasting them together via Zoom.
I’ll say it again: I’m not a wine expert but I do enjoy wine, and I really like learning about it. So these are just my personal musings on each wine, please don’t look at it as an expert opinion!
My Favorite Orange Wines!
Bosman Family Vineyards Fides Grenache Blanc 2016
This is a South African wine and it is DELICIOUS! The bottle can be deceiving, it looks like a bottle of white but it’s a very light skin contact wine. I like this one because it’s not sweet at all – it tastes to me, like a cross between a dry rosé and a citrusy Sauvignon Blanc. It’s slightly spicy with a mineral finish and supremely drinkable. YUM. (price: around $25/bottle)
Enderle & Moll Weiss & Grau 2019
This, pictured above, is a German wine, and I discovered it via my Orange Glou box. I liked it so much that I ordered a few more bottles to have on hand for summer entertaining. Enderle & Moll is most famous for their pinot noirs and biodynamic farming. This one is nice and dry, very light, and I love how creamy it is, with a sliiiiightly mineral finish. It’s been described as a gateway skin-contact wine. The grapes were fermented for 3-4 weeks on the skin, pressed, and then moved to a 2500 liter oak cask where they mature for 10 months before filtration. (price: around $22/bottle, you can order it here!)
Camerlengo Accamilla 2017
This is the first “true” unfiltered orange wine that I tried and absolutely loved – it might be my favorite out of all of the wines in this post. A lot of the orange wines I really like are lighter in body and/or filtered so I felt kind of like an orange wine “failure” until I tried this. But it’s a little pricier than the others ($33) so it’s def more of a special occasion. This one comes from Italy and is a nice dry, crisp orange wine. It’s not too funky but it’s still on the interesting side while being extremely delicious and easy to drink. I would buy this in bulk if I were on a bigger budget (I usually stick to the $15-20 range for wine besides special occasions!) I really, really like this wine and ordered two more bottles to have on hand for the next time I want to impress someone – and who knows when that will ever be – LOL. price: $33/bottle, order it here!
Familie Bauer “Urig” 2017
This also came from my Orange Glou box. An Austrian wine! My parents and I agreed that we liked it second best (after the Enderle & Moll but better than the Lustro!) It’s more of a true orange wine (a little funky and interesting), unfiltered, medium in body… and very drinkable. The grapes are hand harvested and then crushed and allowed to “spontaneously” ferment for ten weeks. Maceration lasts a full eleven months, and then the wine is aged in the same barrels for another 15 months. You’ll pick up notes of apple and clove. I like this one a LOT. (price: around $28/bottle, you can get it here!)
Was Medium on These!
Abbazia San Giorgio “Lustro,” 2019
This is an Italian wine, also from my Orange Glou box! It was a deeper orange than the others as it is not filtered. This is a natural wine, which is a whole other thing I’m learning about. What I thought was interesting about this wine is that the skins are present for the entire six month long fermentation process (usually the skins are removed after a few weeks), in a stainless steel tank. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it either. My sister hated it. My parents liked it (we’ve all been on this remote orange wine journey together, haha). It’s pretty smooth and drinkable, but nothing about it was WOW for me, especially for the price. I definitely got notes of citrus and pear drinking this. It’s medium in body and a nice wine but IMO nothing special. (price: $43/bottle, you can order it here!)
Pleiades Roditis 2018
Okay so after drinking the two “not for me” orange wines below, and thinking maybe Greek wines are just not for me, I grabbed this one from my fridge and was like “oh crap – it’s from Greece!” (As background, I’m usually more careful about which wines I buy but for the sake of research, I basically ordered every single orange wine Bottlerocket (one of my fav NYC wine shops) had to offer. This is an organic, unfiltered wine from Greece and it’s actually pretty good. I didn’t love/obsess over it like I did with some of the wines above, but I thought it was still pretty good! It’s a little bit funky with a mineral finish but very drinkable and does not have the cider-y taste that the wines below have. (price: $22/bottle, available here!)
Not For Me…
Domaine Glinavos Paleokerisio Semi-Sparkling Orange Wine 2018
Admittedly I do not love this one. To be honest, it reminds me of cider and I don’t like spiked cider. If you like cider, you’ll love this! (I am not a huge sparkling wine person to begin with, for what that’s worth!) This was a product of me (at the beginning of the pandemic) searching Drizly for orange wines and ordering a bunch to try without doing much homework.
I’ve since learned that Drizly really shouldn’t be your go-to for wine (but it’s good in a pinch). It’s a Greek wine! Paleokerisio means “old fashioned” in Greek. The local grapes (Debina, Vlahiko, and Bekari) go through skin contact before fermentation which gives the wine its amber color. You can definitely taste notes of pear and apple and maybe herbs? AND CIDER, lol. It’s fine, but I probably wouldn’t buy it again. (price: $18/bottle but it’s a smaller size, available here!)
Kontozizis Roditis A-Grafo
This was just okay. I liked this more than the Glinavos but was still just okay on it? Maybe I just don’t love Greek wines? This was a really interesting exercise; tasting different wines, reacting to them, and deciding later what I felt. This one is dry and relatively smooth but the flavor profile just had me… blah. A little bit lemony with a mineral finish. It was fine. Not my favorite but I wouldn’t pass on it if a friend opened a bottle. (price: $27/bottle, you can order it here)
PS – This post has nine of my favorite (non-orange!) wines.
Do you have a favorite orange wine? Tell me in the comments!