As we approach the end of the first quarter of 2023, it is the perfect time to do our initial assessments of how our New Year’s resolutions are going so far. Are you looking to learn more about wine? Did you commit yourself to being more adventurous in your wine choices? Or are you simply emphasizing self-care through the medium of food and beverage? If your answer is one or all of the above, might we be so bold as to direct you toward the weird and wonderful world of orange wine?
Interest in these enigmatic wines has increased dramatically over the past few years and there’s no reason for you to miss out on the return of this ancient expression of winemaking. This 8,000-year-old practice is also called skin contact or macerated wine since it involves leaving typically white wines in contact with the skin for short periods of time to convey both color and texture to the finished product. The renewed curiosity towards these wines is based on this uniqueness of creation and allows anyone from the casual to seasoned somm to take a deep dive into the finer details of how the wine reached your glass.
Many questions arise when considering whether to purchase your first bottle of orange wine – most often is: “So is this made with oranges?” The color of skin contact wines varies greatly from whites with the slightest pinkish hues to coppery golden delights all the way to very orange oddities. This coloration and the accompanying character come from the white wine’s time spent in contact with the skins which can range anywhere from as little as 3 hours in stainless steel to years spent in terra cotta hidden from the light. Specifications like the storage and aging process make the wine the perfect canvas for wine drinkers of all levels of interest and experience to satiate their desire for learning about everything from the chemistry and physics of the process to the cultural practices and history that has allowed this special niche to return to prominence in the mainstream.
Since the orange wine community includes such a diverse cast of characters, you may be left with questions like, “When is the best time to drink this? What do I eat with it? Who will like it if I offer them a glass?” Thankfully, most orange wines tend to be balanced and versatile. The character of the white wine with a backbone present due to tannins from the skin allows this wine to accompany pork dishes when the wine is more robustly flavored while pairing nicely with seafood, vegetables, and fried chicken, as well. Ultimately, orange wine’s creative influence and production methods allow you to be similarly creative when working on your menu. We’ve even been known to enjoy it on its own as a refreshing escape from the doldrums of winter or a celebration of the fresh air of the coming spring.
As you ponder how picking up a bottle fits into your resolutions or inspires you to add a new one, make sure to peruse the list of the fantastic bottles we have in stock waiting to take you on your next wine journey. For additional reading about orange wines, we recommend starting here: ?What is Orange Wine? ?Pairing Orange Wines
Troupis Hoof and Lur Moschofilero (Tripoli, Greece) – $22.99
The Troupis Winery is located on the Mantinea Plateau, 700 meters above sea level. The family has been making wine for themselves since the 1970s and started the winery in 2010. Featuring low yields of Moschofilero, the winery uses innovative winemaking techniques to highlight the benefits of the soil, climate, and gentle environmental management in the wine. The Hoof & Lur is fermented with natural yeasts and experiences minimal intervention. It is unfined and unfiltered for a more natural, authentic expression of Mantinea wines. As with all Orange wines, this one has experienced skin contact that gives it a beautiful pinkish/reddish coloration. Its appearance foreshadows the aromas of blood orange and the citrusy palate that give this wine lovely acidity. Planning a Mediterranean or seafood-heavy menu? This is the wine for you!
Livon Pinot Grigio (Udine, Italy) – $14.99
Located in Collio, the Livon family has been making wine near Italy’s border with Slovenia since the mid-60s. The vineyards are planted on rolling hills of sandstone and marl 250 meters above sea level. The climate and soil here are ideal conditions for growing exceptional white wine grapes. This Pinot Grigio sees a kiss of skin contact creating a “copper” wine. This wine is clean and dry, with a little funk, suggesting tropical fruit, lemon, and apricot. It will pair nicely with pasta or a salad and is like an orange wine for beginners. Really tasty.
Kobal Bajta Haloze Belo (Ptuj, Slovenia) – $21.99
Kobal creates their wines in the northeastern region of Styria, near the Austrian border. They use sustainable farming techniques in their vineyards at altitudes of 250 to 400 meters altitude. The terroir here produces white wines with pronounced bodies and long finishes. The wine culture here dates back 2000 years to the age of the Romans, with Ptuj basically built on the wine trade. The Haloze Belo is copper-gold colored wine featuring notes of orange peel, cinnamon, and white chocolate. This exotically fragrant wine is perfect for sipping alongside pork, grilled vegetables, and mushroom dishes.
Kobal White Label Pinot Grigio (Ptuj, Slovenia) – $18.99
Another wine hailing from this fantastic Slovenian winery. White label wines are full-bodied, fresh wines that have been cold macerated 24-72 hours and party aged in French oak. The Pinot Grigio features a pink hue with a bouquet of ripe pear, red apple, melon, and minerality. The rich body is creamy with a dry, lemony finish. Set this wine up next to lamb, duck meat, or pasta, and settle in for a tasty treat.
Heaps Good Skin Contact (Ritoznoj, Slovenia) – 18.99
Founded in 2010 by Kiwi Nick Gee (he’s from New Zealand), this Stajerska-based winery works with both international and local grape varieties to bring out the best features of the vineyards in which they’re grown. The wine-making process uses minimal intervention to allow these cold-climate wines to fully express themselves in these balanced, elegant wines. This is the most properly orange-colored of the wines in this email. The smell is of orange peel and the wine is mouth-watering, acidic, and endlessly refreshing. A real treat.