It’s the new colour on the wine spectrum, white wine made as if it were a red. Simon Woolf debunks the myths behind this centuries-old style of vinification and joins a landmark Decanter tasting to reveal the top 24 wines you should try.
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.
Cloudy, light lemon gold. Spicy and delicate with notes of dried bay leaf and lemon. An honest, young wine with
Herbaceous and fresh with aromas of greengage, apricot and white blossoms. Concentrated, long, delicious and very easy drinking; probably a
Delicate, pale gold colour; great poise and detail in this wine. Perfumed with southern Mediterranean dried herbs, acacia and liquorice.
Pale gold with an orange hue. Appealing, rich, smoky and herbaceous nose. Palate has lovely density, fine tannins, good fruit
Ripe honeydew melon and citrus nose. Really lively, sprightly apricot and peach fruit with a nutty finish. Powerful, robust and
Intensely aromatic nose of ripe fruit. Elegant and refreshing palate of rose petal, Turkish Delight, and herbs. The tannins bring
In December 2014, Decanter held it's first blind tasting of 72 orange wines. Wines entered had to be made using
Shy nose of peach and honey. Tight structure with lots of depth and power; it has many layers of savoury,
Apricot and orange zest nose with dry tobacco leaf lift. High acidity, elegant and vibrant with depth and complexity. Nutty
Wonderfully aromatic, jasmine-scented nose. Quite aromatic on palate. Good tension, lots of layers and ripe tannins. A harmonious wine with
Elegant nose with good intensity of ripe apricot, sweet spices, and floral notes. Nicely textured with good tannin structure, vibrant
Deep gold, with a lush perfume of complex spices. Fine texture, lifted aromas and good balance of ripeness and tannic
Very aromatic and elegant; attractive aromas of quince, ripe apple, citrus and a hint of honey. Nice texture from the
Vibrant, gold colour with lemonmeringue pie and quince jelly aromas. Sweet spices on the palate, which is rich, concentrated, and
Inviting stone fruit nose with a savoury smoke intensity. Complex palate of liquorice, green tea and honeyed apricot. Great tension
Pale gold with a delicate nose that is multilayered and elegant. Bitter almond and citrus fl avours with bright acidity
Attractive perfumed nose: jasmine-scented apple fruit. High acidity, quite tannic structure but has a nice freshness. Quite complex with layers
Lavender and earth aroma. Lovely depth of fruit, with great tension and nice contrast between tannin and freshness. Poised wild
Beautiful, intense honeyed peach and apricot. Savoury fl avours of walnut and nice ripe tannins, and a texture that is
Spiced, baked apple nose. It has a good bite, nice depth and earthiness with everything in balance. Finishes with a
Intense and aromatic nose of ripe apricot, fenugreek and sweet lime. Silky texture: long, complex and beautiful – what skin
Herbal, honeyed nose and palate with cinnamon lift. Dense and complex with a finish that is long, showing notes of
Bright, light gold hue with intense notes of dried herbs, spices, fresh tobacco and camomile. The palate has nutty tannins,
Lifted fruit with honey and herbal aromas. Savoury with good depth and nice layers, and a very long finish; lively