Orange Wine

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a Ride!’”
–Hunter S. Thompson

A While
Life happens. Recently a global pandemic happened along with some other issues that perchance might change one’s outlook on life, including challenges to the ability to enjoy wine and writing. The existence of this entry suggests some resolution, but we shall see if any more follow. Here’s to hope.

Red Wine is Red Young Man
Apologies to Harry Chapin, but do check out his song “Flowers are Red”. Wine is often discussed in terms of two colors, red and white. Of course there is also pink (or rosé) that deserves much more attention. However, when a color scientist looks at wine there are not such restrictions. In fact, wine comes in a continuous range of hues from greenish-yellow through yellow, orange, and red, to purplish-red. (A new standard system for color specification of wine is under development and will perhaps be a future blog topic.) So first of all, white wine is usually yellow and is made from green grapes (clearly not the work of a color scientist). Then, to confuse even more, red wine is rarely purely red and is made from black grapes. Oh, the humanity.

What the Heck is Orange Wine?
Orange wine is not a fruit wine made out of oranges, though that is an intriguing thought. Orange wine is made from grapes. The grapes are those traditionally used for white wine, thus green grapes. Orange wines are not new. The process is ancient, likely dating back 5000 years or so to Caucasus (now Georgia). Orange wines have suddenly become more popular and for good reason. They are wonderfully complex and delicious.

Enough suspense, what is the process? Patience. White wine is made from green grapes by pressing the grapes, separating the juice, and then fermenting it into wine. Red wine, on the other hand is made by crushing the black grapes, fermenting the whole mess of juice, grape skins, seeds, and stems, and then pressing off the wine after fermentation. It is this contact with the grape skins that allows significant color to be imparted to the wine (known as maceration). In fact, it is possible to make white wine out of black grapes by simply separating the juice from the skins prior to fermentation. (See Blancs de Noirs Champagne.) Ok, now to orange wine. Orange wine is made from white-wine grapes (i.e. green grapes) following the red-wine process. The grape skins and juice are left in contact while fermentation is completed. This allows extraction of some colorants from the skins, which darken the typical white wine into a lovely orange hue. Sometimes these are referred to as skin-contact wines. One example, from Italy, is called “Ramato” (auburn) and is normally made from Pinot Grigio/Gris (which of course refers to the gray mutation of the Pinot grape, which also comes in Blanc (white) and Noir (black) versions).

White Wine Grape + Red Wine Process = Orange Wine

Find some, and savor it.

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