Orange wine seems to be the new kid on the block. Popping up in wine bars, restaurants, and the best bottle shops (wink), you could be forgiven for thinking that this delicious, food-friendly style is some new innovation from the talented winemakers around the world.
In fact, orange wine is very old. Coming originally from the Caucasus region (now mainly modern-day Georgia), there is evidence of these skin-contact wines being produced around 8000 BC. It appears to be one of the earliest methods of wine production, pre-dating the Romans by quite some time.
So what exactly is it?
In very simple terms, it's a wine made from white grapes, but vinified in the manner of a red. That is to say, the grapes are crushed and left to macerate on their skins for a period of time - anywhere from one week to 12 months or more. This maceration extracts flavour compounds, phenolic compounds (that provide texture and grip), and colour - hence the orange or amber hues of the wines.
The exciting thing about orange wines (apart from being utterly delicious!) is that there are no limits to style, variety or profile. They can be made using any white grape - single variety or blend - and they can be vinified in a number of different ways, all producing vastly different wines. For example, the traditional amber wines from Georgia are fermented and aged in ceramic vessels known as "Qvevri," which are buried in the ground to stabilise the temperature, and then left for months or sometimes years. This technique has been adopted by a number of modern-day winemakers, seeking to emulate the original production methods. But there are also producers using traditional oak barriques to ferment and mature their wines, as well as those using stainless steel tanks and everything in between. The sky's the limit!