Orange wine can be one of three very different types of wine. It could be wine (usually dry wine) made from white wine grape varieties that have spent some maceration time in contact with the grape skins. "Orange wine" could also refer to sweet white wine macerated with orange peel. Finally, the term could refer to a beverage made by fermenting orange juice, rather than grape juice.
Maceration with white grape skins
Typically white wine production involves crushing the grapes and quickly moving the juice off the skins into the fermentation vessel. The skins contain color pigment, phenols and tannins that are often considered undesirable for white wines, while for red wines skin contact and maceration is a vital part of the winemaking process that gives red wine its color, flavor, and texture. Orange wines get their name from the darker, slightly orange tinge that the white wines receive due to their contact with the coloring pigments of the grape skins.
This winemaking style is essentially the opposite of rosé production which involves getting red wine grapes quickly off their skins, leaving the wine with a slightly pinkish hue. However, in the case of Pinot gris, among the more popular grapes to apply a skin-contact treatment that is neither red nor white, the diffuse nature of the term becomes illustrated, as both an orange wine and a rosé might achieve a similar expression of pink/orange/salmon-colored wine.
The practice has a long history in winemaking dating back thousands of years to the Eurasian wine producing countries of Armenia and Georgia. In recent years the practice has been adopted by Italian winemakers, initially in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia wine region, while there is also production in Slovenia, Croatia, France, Germany, New Zealand, and California.
Maceration with orange peel
Orange Wine or Vino Naranja is produced in Huelva and Málaga in Andalucia, Spain with white wine macerated with orange peel. Vino Naranja del Condado de Huelva is an appellation of origin for aromatised sweet wines originating in Condado de Huelva, Spain. The system of production and aging of this wine is a white wine flavoured with macerated orange peel followed by a process of aging by the solera system. Orange Wine from Huelva is usually dark orange to brown in colour. The brown colour is a result of sun drying of the grapes prior to fermentation.
Moscatel Naranja or Orange Moscatel is a sweet wine produced in Malaga. Bitter Seville orange peels, once dried, are macerated in alcohol distilled from wine and this is added to sweet moscatel wine. Orange Wine from Malaga is almost clear in appearance.
- Bonné, Jon, San Francisco Chronicle (October 11, 2009). Soaking white grapes in skins is orange crush
- Asimov, Eric, The New York Times: The Pour (October 8, 2009). Orange Wine Edges Toward the Mainstream, Slightly
- Bonné, Jon, San Francisco Chronicle: The Cellarist (October 13, 2009). When is a wine orange?
- Vinforum (June 29, 2010). Vinforum tester orangeviner (Norwegian)
- Bonné, Jon, San Francisco Chronicle: Inside Scoop SF (June 15, 2010). Shedding light on orange wine
- Asimov, Eric, The New York Times: The Pour (August 3, 2009). Orange Wines
- Dalheim, Ulf, Adresseavisen (September 4, 2009). Ikke på ville veier (Norwegian)