They are kind of like a white and sometimes a rosé but have more characteristics of a red. Often referred to as orange wines… which really is just a colour; are wines that are made from white grapes in the same wine making technique as reds. They are the white wine grape varieties that experience a maceration(which is where juice and skins spend time together AKA colour… and flavour) when being made. Orange wines are different to rosé’s, which are red wine grapes made like white wines with very little to zero skin contact. Wine has been made on this planet for a very long time… dating back to 7000 BC in Georgia (the country!), which is one of the countries where orange wine was once exclusive too… along with Italy and Slovenia.
With its growing popularity, winemakers all over the world are starting to dabble with these skin contact beauties. Not always orange, these bad boys can range in colour from straw-like-yellow to Jurassic Park amber to insanely vibrant orange and pink hues. As strong as their range in colour is their range in flavours, all the way from fruity and fresh with a small splash of tannins, to savory with a strong sort of oversteeped oolong tea flavour. If you are new to this style, I would recommend starting off on the fruity side before diving into the super meaty examples… which you can work your way too – the longer the skin contact, the stronger the wine.
Big Head Winery (full disclosure… I work there) just released a skin contact Pinot Gris and are calling it the Pinot Gris Select. Once harvested, the grapes spend 10 days on skins in a stainless steel tank under a blanket of CO2, which is also called carbonic maceration. The CO2 protects the fruit from oxygen, but also encourages the production of fun and fresh aromatics in the wine. The liquid is then pressed from the skins and put into an old 1000L oak barrel. The barrel won’t add oak flavour to the wine, but allows for oxygen to slowly get into the wine (which creates a bit of a silkier mouth feel). I don’t recommend drinking this very cold, just with a small chill. If it’s too cold, you won’t get to experience all it has to offer. It has the freshest aroma of orange and grapefruit peels with a strong shadow of a white flower perfume… but not the synthetic bullshit – REAL oils. The palate tastes like sitting on a salty beach eating tangerines that have the tart sour finish of a kumquat on a sunny day. The finish has soft silky tannins that give off the impression of cloves, but spicy and gentle, not in the spicy, painful way. This wine glows in the sun like my Himalayan salt rock and tastes how I wish it would, if I licked it.
Wine: 2018 Pinot Gris Select
Winery: Big Head Winery
Address: 304 Hunter Rd. NOTL
Side Note: The term orange wine is something I tend not to use often…I prefer defining these wines as “skin-contact white wines” since they come in such a variety of shapes and sizes.