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As we roll into spring, we think orange may just be our new rosé.

Browse your local wine shop and you’ll probably be greeted by a row of orange coloured wines….but what are these amber-hued beauties?

As one of the oldest styles of wine in the world, a recent renaissance of ‘orange’ wines has been led by pioneering wine makers and hipster wine drinkers. These wines are usually cocooned within the natural wine category, tending towards a lower alcohol style, using minimal intervention and natural yeast, whilst allowing some oxidation to occur.

To be honest, some find orange wines a bit marmite, if you’re feeling adventurous, we are here to help you explore this unique wine style and discover why orange could be the next big thing since rosé for your spring and summer glasses.

 

How and where is orange wine made?

It’s all about the colour, (note: no oranges are used in its production). Orange wine is essentially a white wine ‘made like a red wine’ where the grape juice stays in contact with the grape skins during fermentation, (for white wine, the skins are usually removed immediately after crushing the grapes). The result of this longer period on the skins is an orange or amber-coloured wine that is infused with more texture, grippy tannins and aromatic intensity than your everyday white wine or rosé.

Even though orange wines date back more than 5,000 years to the ancient wine cellars of Georgia, the name was only coined in 2004 by a British wine importer, primarily to communicate how different orange wine is from its bedfellows.

Today you can find these beautifully coloured bottles created from vineyards across the world. Usually vegan friendly, these unique wines are produced by experimental wine makers – making them all the more exciting.

Let’s not confuse orange wines with rosé – rosé is usually made with black grapes and the resulting wine has a very different weight and complexity- being usually lighter than orange wine.

 

It’s all down to taste

On the palate orange wines can be challenging to some and exciting to others.

Robustly showing off tannins and hints of oxidation from the extended time spent on the skins and stalks, the wine can have sour and nutty yeast flavours whilst expressing the characteristics of the grape variety used. All of this extra va-va-voom makes orange wines a perfect pairing with food. A bold wine, it’s best served chilled with equally bold dishes – from curry to Korean cuisine, roast chicken to Moroccan tagines.

Orange wine is for curious drinkers. It is not for everyone. Give one of our local orange wines a try and you may surprise yourself, at the least you’ll create debate about the oldest style of wine in the world at your next picnic.

Kent

Westwell Ortega Amphora 2022 £30

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Westwell has carved a niche as a leader in the UK for its low intervention wines. Led by the effervescent Adrian Pike, it’s all about being ‘hands on in the vineyard and hands off in the winery’.

His skin-contact orange wine is fermented in handmade terracotta Amphora, just like the ancient wines of Georgia. The egg shape of the vessel ensures the wild yeast (and its consequential dead lees) is in constant movement during fermentation offering a rich texture and complexity to the Ortega grape flavours.

“I love the tension, texture and grip of skin contact wines and also the heightened expression of the fruit” says Adrian. His inspiration? “…. oxidised wines from Jura were my initial awakening that there was more to white wine. Georgian skin contact was the next step and then I discovered the range at Les Caves de Pyrene. I am a huge fan of the orange wines made by producers such as Hermit Ram, Andreas Tscheppi, Agena by La Stoppa and Monteniedoli Tradizionale”.

For Adrian, using Ortega as a grape for his orange wines is due to its “lovely characters that show differently depending on how you treat the grape, skin contact seemed an obvious route to try – heightening the beautiful orange and satsuma pith flavours, developing a wonderful texture and complex finish”.

 

The result?

Lightly filtered, this wine has a soft cloudiness to it. On the nose there’s candied peel and grapefruit, whilst the palate is zesty with a hint of bruised apples simmering with honeysuckle, apricots and orange blossom leading to an herbal-sweet orange finish.

Well-finessed at 11.5% ABV, this is easy drinking and improves in the glass, its medium body balancing a soft acidity with chalky tannins.

Only a small number of bottles are produced each year, and they sell out quickly – so grab one while you can!

westwellwines.com

Monmouth, Wales

Ancre Hill Estates Orange Wine 2021 £27

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Renowned for its biodynamic practices, the vines at this 12-hectare vineyard are managed with an ethos of a balanced eco-system. This goes hand in hand with its small batch production, with oak barrels and concrete eggs as fermentation vessels, celebrating natural wild yeast and minimal intervention.

The extended time on skins of the Chardonnay and Albariño of this orange wine produces its bright hue and grippy palate. Fermentation in a combination of oak and stainless steel, with an additional 10 months on the lees before blending, alongside minimal intervention, fining or filtration has lead to a unique wine with layers of complexity.

Co-owner, Richard Morris sees orange wine as “a truly natural expression of the grape incorporating the skins, pips, stalks and flesh”. Inspired to create his orange wine as a natural progression of his biodynamic wine production, Richard heralds orange wine as “…a niche product but we expect it to grow in popularity in the next 10 years.”

 

 

The result?

The beer capped bottle hints at something different, its natural winemaking peeping through the cloudiness. Aromas of nuts, sour lemons, orange blossom, nectarine and dried apricot lead to a dry palate where hints of oak soften the high acidity, leading to a wave of apple, lemon and canned peaches with spices and cherries on the finish.

At only 9.5% ABV this light, yet layered wine would be perfect for a sunny picnic in the sunshine.

ancrehillestates.co.uk