Orange wine is the most characterful, thrilling and food-friendly styles on our shelves today, with their deep hues, intense aromas and complex flavours. So say the converts.
The counter charge is robust: orange is the emperor’s new clothes, beloved only of trendy sommeliers and hipsters who forgive their oxidised, faulty nature. The wines are unpalatable curiosities that no right-thinking wine consumer would ever choose to drink for pleasure.
What exactly is an orange wine?
The term is increasingly used for white wines where the grapes were left in contact with their skins for days, weeks or even months. Effectively, this is white wine made as if it were a red. The result differs not only in colour, but is also markedly more intense on the nose and palate, sometimes with significant tannins.
The combination of freshness with tannin makes for superbly versatile food wines, as former sommelier and now writer/broadcaster Levi Dalton discovered while working at top New York Italian restaurant Convivio in 2009. He explains: ‘Orange wines were my get-out-of-jail-free card. We had a chef who would switch from fish to meat and back again on a tasting menu and orange wines paired effortlessly with every course.’
In December 2014, Decanter held it’s first blind tasting of 72 orange wines. Wines entered had to be made using traditional winemaking methods with a minimum of four days’ skin contact.
The type of fermentation vessel used, temperature control during fermentation, indigenous yeasts and total SO2 were also taken into account. The tasters were Simon Woolf, Decanter’s tastings director Christelle Guibert and Isabelle Legeron MW.
Top orange wines: