Food & Drink
Interested in Orange Wine? Here Are 8 Bottles to Win You Over
Don’t write off the trend as passing fad—orange wine is a surprisingly versatile winter wine.
by : Kate Dingwall- Nov 24th, 2023
As the temperature dips and the fall breeze blows in, our drinks tend to change with the weather. Magnolia-hued rosés and twinkling seltzers shift to red wines to sip by fires and whiskey drinks to cure what ails (read: seasonal depression).
Or, consider orange wine. The not-quite-white, not-really-red category of wine is often considered a one-trick pony in the world of wine: a ‘funky’ beverage you try once then let fade into a fad. That isn’t always true. Orange wine can be light and aromatic or rich and textured. They can pair well with oysters, ramen, Christmas turkeys or pies.
To backtrack slightly, what is an orange wine? Despite what the name suggests, it’s not made with oranges. The phrase is a nickname for ‘skin contact’ wines, or white wines aged on grape skins so they adopt a golden, orange-y hue. Grape skins add colour and texture to a wine. When you ferment a white wine on the grape skins for longer than usual, your crystalline pinot grigio or canary-hued chardonnay suddenly gets richer in colour and texture. This process dates back almost 8,000 years to when Georgians, Armenians, and other European nations were making hazy amber wines left to age with the skins in large clay pots. Today, some winemakers add only a tiny touch of skin contact for a bit of body, while others go fully orange, making copper-coloured, slightly-savoury wines.
Curious yet? Here are 8 great ones to start with.
If you like: Sophisticated French sips
Try: VinAmite Orange Wine
In a sunny, shimmering pocket of the BC interior, mother-and-daughter Catherine and Wendy Coulombe are focusing on French-style wines with an Okanagan slant. Their skin contact wine is approachable for those who flinch at the word funky. It’s made with pinot gris (a delicate, floral grape) and spends just 24 hours on the skins, producing notes like white peach, crunchy green apple, lychee and acidity like a cool mountain breeze.
If you like: Floral Sauvignon Blancs
Try: Madson Sauvignon Blancs
Santa Cruz winemaker Cole Thomas is making small batches of chardonnays, chenin blancs, and pinot noirs that are hyper specific in their sense of place, capturing snapshots of a cool pocket of the Golden State. If you’re wary of orange wines, his sauvignon blanc is crafted for the more classic wine drinker. It’s left to age on the skins for six days for a touch of texture, balancing out notes of tropical guava and herbs.
If you like: Sunny patio wines
Try: Paradise Grapevine Golden Hour
On a stretch of Geary Avenue in Toronto, Paradise Grapevine is making wild wines out of a former Portuguese chicken shop. Offerings include playful cans of piquette, Beaujolais-style chilled reds and this riesling, grown from organic vineyards down in Niagara and fermented until the wine adopts a golden hue, a glimmering acidity, and subtle notes of fuzzy peaches and fall preserves. It pairs well with pumpkin carving and 4pm winter sunsets.
If you like: Pumpkin spice and rooibos teas
Try: Plot Wines Okanagan Orange
Plot Wines’ tiny Okanagan operation makes a small handful of wines, including an orange gewürztraminer—aptly named “Orange”—that offers all the appeal of a crisp autumn day. Think winter spices, peaches, buttery toast, and baked pumpkin flavours. This will convert wheat beers fans over to the wine side.
If you like: Tart, fizzy kombucha
Try: Rosewood Pure Imagination
As its name suggests, Rosewood’s orange wine is Wonka-ish and whimsical. It is made by fermenting entire grape bunches—stems, sticks, and all—and is aged in big clay vessels. (Speaking of Wonka: when you crack this bottle, look at the cork. If you find the golden one, you get a free dinner at the winery.) The result is slightly fizzy and full of flavours like tangerine, orange curd, grapefruit, guava, and gummy candies. Pair this bottle with spice or anything with a hint of umami.
If you like: Adult juice boxes and summer citruses
Try: Revel Skin Contact Vidal
It’s a myth that orange wines actually contain oranges—the name is a reference to the colour, not the fruit. Guelph’s Revel rewrites this rule by adding a dash of nectarine cider to its breezy canned vidal. Think of it as an adult juice box for the more discerning (and of-legal-age) drinker. Bring it to your family Christmas party.
If you like: Thirst-quenching, acid-driven wines
Try: Scout Riesling
Over in BC’s Similkameen Valley in British Columbia, Scout Vineyards is a regenerative farm winery that produces lush, textural bottles, including this shimmering riesling. The grapes spent 22 (!) months aging low and slow in giant clay amphoras to make a refreshing, slightly sweet riesling that goes down like a sunny mountain day. Sip this with cold-weather cuisines: think raclette, crispy potatoes, and apple tarts.
If you like: Marcona almonds and Spanish sherry
Try: Cota 45 Ube
For the more seasoned skin contact drinker: this salty, earthy white hails from Jerez, Spain’s sherry making capital. Winemaker Ramiro Ibáñez was inspired by Southern Spain’s traditions of Palomino-based table wines and ages his in almost 100-year-old sherry barrels. Spain shines through in each sip, evoking Marcona almonds, Basque cakes and salty sea air.
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