For most people, wine fits in a box, a fairly simple square box. The size of the box is usually determined by grape variety or region or both, and the edges of the box are what hurts us retailers when customers throw the box after having a “different” wine experience. This needs to change, we can’t take the boxes any longer. Enter: The Decagon!
Orange wines and natural wines alike have no rules. The exception to the rule (because there is always one) is: All orange wines must be consumed in the presence of food and friends. Why? You ask.
Orange wines are in vogue at the moment. Not with the general public, but definitely with the new generation of wine lovers and sommeliers that create and sip the premier wine lists around the world. We hope to see these wines stay as a style in their own right and in order to do this they must be approached in the right way. People need to know how to drink orange wine…
An “orange wine” is not from Orange, NSW. That would be called “a wine from Orange”. It’s a style of production where the grape skins of white grapes are kept in contact with the juice for an extended period of time. Most conventional white wines are pressed immediately after harvest giving them very little colour and low phenolics (tannins). In general orange wines are kept ‘on skins’ for at least 4 days, with some more than a year. It is the decision of the producer and their house style that dictates how long these wines spend on skins.
Orange wines have higher levels of phenolics than more conventional wines due to the level of skin contact. Now, you may be asking yourself “why would anyone want more tannins? I want it to be smooth.” Although this opinion is a valid one, most of the people consuming “smooth” wines are not looking to enjoy a gastronomic experience. You need texture amongst other things like acidity and body, to work in with the food you’re eating. This is where orange wines shine!
Just the other day I had a mixed bunch of friends over to my place. We sat out on my balcony listening to Beatles vinyl from generations past with a plethora of food types from all over the world. We’d gathered there to take a look at some of the newly arrived Italian and Slovenian orange wines. The styles of wine varied from 4 days skin contact to 4 months with a blended array of strange native varietals like Ortuga and Malvasia. On the table was an assortment of Sicilian olives, sashimi, oysters, prosciutto, pancetta, bresaola and one big Webber roasted lamb leg (not all at once of course). It was a feast for the mind, body and soul, (nose and mouth).
What one takes away from this occasion is the interaction. These orange wines need the food as much as the food needs the wine. The elements work, interact and mingle together creating a unique experience to anyone who is interested in gastronomy and friendship. The social experience bred by interaction between friends on an adventure, experiencing the diverse nature of taste makes orange wine even more enticing.
Throw the box away and upgrade to a decagon, or better yet, lightly place the box to the side. Orange wine is here to stay as long as we continue to come together.
If you’re just starting out with orange wines why not try one of these:
Orange wine producers to discover online at Veno:
Gravner – Friuli, Italy
Radikon – Friuli, Italy
Vodopevic – Friuli, Italy
La Stoppa – Emilia Romagna, Italy
Denavolino – Emilia Romagna, Italy
Dario Princic – Friuli, Italy
Damijan – Friuli, Italy
Muster – Susteiermark, Austria
Pheasant’s Tears – Kiziqi, Georgia
Jetti & the Kokonut – Barossa Valley, Australia
Jilly – New England, Australia
Smokestack Lightning – Yarra Valley, Australia
Si Vintners – Margaret River, Australia
Brash Higgins – McLaren Vale, Australia
Domaine Simha – Tasmania, Australia
Patrick Sullivan – Yarra Valley, Australia
Jauma – McLaren Vale, Australia
Domaine Lucci – Adelaide Hills, Australia
CLO – Tumbarumba, Australia