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Orange wine is really just white wine made the red wine way.

Many consider orange wine to be a misnomer—after all, it isn’t made from oranges. It’s made entirely from grapes, just like every other wine you know and love. It’s the winemaking process that leaves it with its signature orange color—not the addition of any orange fruits.

To put it simply, orange wines are white wines made the red wine way. The key difference between white wines and red wines isn’t necessarily the grapes that comprise them, but the way those grapes are fermented. As a rule, white wines are fermented without a ton of skin contact; that’s to say, the grape juice is fermented without the grape skins in it. Red wines, on the other hand, are fermented with skin contact. The interaction with the grape skins leaves the wines feeling more tannic and larger-bodied. If you’ve ever remarked that red wines tend to be more intense than white wines, it’s largely due to the amount of skin contact each of the wines has gotten.

As you may already know, everyone’s favorite summer drink, rosé, is red wine made the white wine way. Winemakers use red wine varietals (so, the kinds of grapes that make up red wines) and put them through a white winemaking process. There tends to be a very brief skin contact period—usually lasting somewhere between 6 and 48 hours—which leaves the wine with its now-iconic pink color. This process imbues rosé with some of the things people love about red wine—namely, how dry (not super-sweet) it is—while keeping it light, approachable, and easily chilled.

Orange wine is the opposite. With orange wine, you’re taking white wine varietals and subjecting them to the red winemaking process—lots of skin contact. Not only does this leave the wine much darker in color than your average white, but it also lends the wine some of the tannic, larger-bodied notes people appreciate in their reds.

Like your average white, orange wine is served chilled. And it’s a great pinch-hitter at restaurants. If you’ve ordered lamb (better with red wine), duck (better with red wine), and seafood (better with white wine), an orange wine can usually bridge the gap and play well with all three. Its intensity helps it hold its own against some of the richest, most flavorful foods on your plate. But the subtler varieties that comprise it keep it from overwhelming the lighter dishes.

If rosé is a less intense version of red wine, version of white wine. Consider the last time you visited the wine store on a seriously hot day. Red felt too heavy. White felt too sweet. Rosé felt too bland. Orange—orange was the thing you were looking for.

Choosing Your Oranges, Blood Oranges, Tangerines, Mandarins, Satsumas

All these fruits are familiar to the orange but each has their own unique qualities. It is personal preference as to which you use, each will produce a great wine so I would suggest choosing according to some of the following criteria:

Availability: If you so happen to have a glut of oranges then you should definitely use these. If one variety such as tangerines are in season where you live then use these, they will be tastier and riper than other oranges.

Seasonality: At certain times of the year you will find blood oranges in your local store at others satsumas. Following the season means the quality of the fruit is better and the orange wine will be better.

Untreated or Organic: We are using the zest in this orange wine so you will want to find untreated oranges or organic if possible. Citrus fruits are often sprayed with a wax that will interfere with the wine.

In a pinch, you can remove most of the wax by placing the oranges in a colander and pouring recently boiled water over the oranges. Immediately cool the oranges after by running cold water over them.

You know how there are lots of different white wines There are lots of different orange wines, too.

Intrigued? Count yourself among the many. The next step is, of course, to give orange wine a try.

But remember: Orange wine describes the method of winemaking, not the grapes used to make the wine. If you don’t love the first orange you try, don’t write off the genre entirely. Instead, take note of the varietal and avoid it in the future. (You can also look up the bottle online, check out the tasting notes, and use those to guide your future purchases. Did you like what you drank? Look for wines that offer similar flavors. Did you hate it? Stay away from those flavors in the future.)

Saying you don’t like orange wines is akin to saying you don’t like red wines or white wines. It could be true, but there’s so much variety within the genre that you have to try a bunch to know for sure. The bad news? You have some serious work ahead of you. The good news? That work is just trying a ton of different wines to figure out what you do and don’t like. All kinds of delicious, exciting wines await you. And all you have to do is drink them.

Approachable: Patricia Green Cellars’ Muscat Ottonel Marie is one of the most approachable oranges around. While Marie still boasts the bolder notes you’d expect from a skin contact wine, it’s not overly funky—making it a great place to start.

Bolder: Azienda Agricola’s COS Pithos Bianco is bolder than the first wine on this list (Patricia Green Cellars’ Marie) but more approachable than the third and fourth wines on this list (Bianco Catagno’s Vino Gazzetta and Cacique Maravilla’s Vino Naranja). In other words, it makes an excellent next step. If you know you like skin contact wines, and want to try something larger-bodied (but not too large-bodied), try this Pithos Bianco out, and see how you feel.

Boldest (And funky! And acidic! And nutty!): Bianco Castagno’s Vino Gazzetta is funky, acidic, and nutty all at once—making it an excellent bottle for anyone who knows they like orange. It’s great for wine nights and dinners out, alike (though it’s a little hard to find online).

Boldest (And funky! And acidic!): Easily the funkiest wine on this list, Cacique Maravilla’s Vino Naranja is an absolute delight. Where the Vino Gazzetta is nutty and creamy, the Vino Naranja is all funky acidity. Both are worth testing, if you’re ready to go all in on orange.

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An Orange Wine Is The Sum Of Its Parts

Oranges are primarily juice, this is great for wine making but fermentation changes the flavour so much we need to help the wine along. Juice, pulp and zest from the oranges is better than just the juice alone but we can also accentuate the flavour by using other ingredients:

Orange Blossom Honey

Using honey rather than normal white sugar adds another layer of flavour that can really round out and enhance the orange wine.

Better yet, we can use honey derived from the orange tree in the form of orange blossom honey. Whilst orange blossom honey is not “orange flavoured” necessarily it really completes the circle of utilising one ingredient to the maximum.

Using honey can enhance any fruit wine and is something I have learnt from making mead. It does really well in this orange wine so it is what I recommend for this recipe. You can still use normal white sugar if you wish but I urge you to spend a little more and use honey in this recipe if you can.

What Youll Need To Make Orange Wine Makes 1 gallon 4.5 litres

  • Large Stock Pot
  • Small Fermenting Bucket
  • Demijohn
  • Syphon
  • Fine Straining Bag
  • Potato Masher
  • Airlock & Bung

Orange Wine Ingredients

  • 1.5kg Oranges of your choice
  • 4 litres Water
  • 1kg Honey (preferably Orange Blossom)
  • 1/4 tsp Wine Tannin
  • 1/2 tsp Pectic Enzyme
  • 1 tsp Yeast Nutrient
  • 1 Campden Tablet
  • 1 Sachet Yeast (Lalvin 71B-1122 is a good choice but experiment with others)

Orange Wine Method

1. To begin, prepare the oranges zest half of them with a potato peeler to end up with fairly large sections of zest. Take care to zest only the outer layer of zest and leave as much of the white pith as possible behind.

2. Add the zest to the straining bag and begin to peel and segment the oranges. Segment the oranges with a knife and leave as much of the pith between the segments behind. Do this for all the oranges and add the prepared orange segments to the straining bag.

3. Put the straining bag in the sanitised fermenter and start heating half of the water in a large pan. Bring the water to the boil for a minute or so and then remove from the heat.

4. Add the honey to the hot water and stir to combine, then pour over the fruit in the fermenting vessel. Give everything a stir to combine and then add the remaining half of cold water to bring the temperature down. Add the crushed Campden tablet and leave, covered, for 12 hours.

5. 12 hours after adding the Campden tablet, add the yeast nutrient, tannin, pectic enzyme and stir gently to incorporate. Leave the must for 24 hours.

6. The following day, add the yeast by sprinkling onto the surface of the must (you can rehydrate according to the packet instructions for best results). Cover the vessel and fit an airlock and allow to ferment.

7. Fermentation will start several days after pitching the yeast, stir the must every day to keep the fruit circulated. After 7 days lift out the straining bag and allow to drain thoroughly but avoid squeezing out any liquid. Cover the fermenting vessel and allow to settle for at least 24 hours.

8. After at least 24 hours rack the wine to a demijohn/carboy. The majority of the fermentation will be over so a hydrometer reading can be taken to confirm the final gravity. Fit a bung and airlock and allow fermentation to complete and conditioning to take place.

9. Over several weeks or months, the wine will clear. After a month or so some sediment will have built up, rack to a clean demijohn and allow to condition. Repeat this procedure when any substantial sediment has begun to settle.

10. After at least 3 – 4 months the wine will have cleared and you can think about bottling. It is best to allow the wine to condition as long as possible. Leaving the wine in the demijohn for 6-8 months is not a problem and will in most cases be beneficial.

11. When bottling the wine you can think about back sweetening if you prefer a sweeter finish. Sample the wine and adjust according to this guide.

This orange wine is a great sipping wine where the whole fruit is used. The flavour of whatever orange you use shines through in the finish in part due to the flavour of the zests. It is definitely worth making and you can usually make it year round due to availability

Light Zesty Orange Wine

If anyone has ever tried fermenting orange juice then you will know that the outcome is usually not so good. Orange juice, of course, is just one part of the fruit. There is the juice, the pulp and the zest. Nearly all of that orange flavour we want to retain in this wine recipe comes from the zest.

The juice is delicately flavoured and light tasting, fermenting this alone drives off the “orangeness” we want to remain in the finished wine. The zest, on the other hand, is packed full of oils that are truly the essence of orange. Utilising the zest in this orange wine recipe is crucial to the flavour and taste of this orange wine.

The orange winemaking process originated millennia ago, but its currently experiencing a renaissance.

What’s funny about orange wine is that it’s not really new at all—and yet, most of us haven’t heard of it. What gives?

Some sources date the orange winemaking process back to 5,000 years ago, where it was reportedly popular in Georgia (as in Eurasia’s Georgia, not the USA’s Georgia). After that, orange wine fell off the map for a while, cropping back up in Italy in 1997. Since then, it’s become semi-popular (largely among indie winemakers) in a range of countries—Slovenia, France, South Africa, Austria, the U.S., and of course, Georgia and Italy.

According to Newsweek, orange wine first caught the attention of the New York wine scene about 10 years ago. But a quick Google search reveals it’s really just begun to enter the mainstream. In 2016, Bloomberg declared that orange wine had “officially arrived.” Two years later, Bon Appetit claimed orange wine “needed to go away.” Earlier this year, Newsweek asserted that “orange wine is taking over,” and Man Repeller called orange wine “the official beverage of our times.”

Perhaps all of these things are true. Perhaps none of them are. The point is this: Orange wine is clearly experiencing a renaissance. And while it’s still somewhat hard to find, wine shops are increasingly offering orange wines, and restaurants are increasingly listing “skin-contact wines” (a more precise way of saying “orange wines”) on their menus.

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