What Is Orange Wine?

Harry Lambourne
24th August 2023

Have you ever looked at a wine list and thought ‘what is orange wine’?

While it’s appearance on wine lists in the UK is a relatively recent phenomenon, people have been producing wine this way for many years. Some of the oldest wines come from Georgia and you’ll often find an orange hue in their wines.

So, while orange wine is a historic style of wine, it is purported that the orange wine will grow nearly $27 million dollars in the next decade. What is orange wine? Well, alongside Pet Nat it may be the next big fad in natural wine.

But, what is orange wine and what gives it this orange hue? This article will serve as a guide to the world of orange wine.

We’ll take you through how it is made and how it differs to other wines from similar grape varieties. Then, we’ll take you through some of the tastes which you can expect from an orange wine.

So, by the end of the article if anyone asks ‘what is orange wine’, you’ll know the answer!

What Is Orange Wine?

First things first – there are no oranges in orange wine. You may have guessed that already, but it’s always worth clarifying as the name can be slightly misleading.

In fact, orange wine takes its name from the orange colour. The orange colour comes from white grapes spending extended time in contact with their skins. Skins contribute colour to wine and as orange wine is produced from white wine grapes, the colour which they contribute is an orange.

Georgian Orange Wine - Unexpected Winemaking Countries - What Is Orange Wine
Georgian Orange Wine

Compare red wine to rosé wine. Rosé wine is far lighter in colour as it spends less time in contact with the skins.

Generally, orange wine will begin when white grapes are mashed and left in contact with the skin. This can be in stainless steel tanks, amphora or even oak barrels.

This is distinct to traditional methods of white wine production where the grapes will be pressed straight away and the juice is removed from the skins.

Winemakers who are producing white wine want to minimise this extraction. However, if you’re making an orange wine, then you want to ramp up this extraction.

So, what is orange wine? Not a wine made from orange. It is simply a wine which is produced from white wine grapes, where the skins have been left in contact with the juice for an extended period of time. That’s easy to remember, but another part of the question ‘what is orange wine’ is, is what do they taste like?

What Does Orange Wine Taste Like?

Now, the taste of orange wine can be described as unique. There are two primary factors that will contribute to this.

The first is that extended time that the grapes spend in contact with the skins. The skins add flavour, colour and tannins to the wines so more time in contact will add these characteristics.

The second factor is the orange wine is frequently a natural wine, often produced using wild yeasts. This means that they’ll generally use low intervention methods of production which aren’t dissimilar to organic and biodynamic methods of making wine.

The process of using wild yeasts and leaving the grapes to do their own thing, which some argue allows for a greater expression of terroir, can lead to funky styles of flavours which aren’t present in conventional wine.

What Is Orange Wine
What Is Orange Wine & What Does It Taste Like?

So, what is orange wine? It is a wine that displays funky and feisty aromas which are similar to natural wine as well as flavours which are unique to white wine grapes as they come from extended time in contact with the skins.

Orange wine can display a whole host of unique tasting notes, but what are they exactly? Some compare the tastes of orange wine to a sour beer, or even a cider. Slightly tart, lip-puckering aromas will mix with flavour of sour apples.

Beyond that, you can get quite bold herbal notes. Think of things like thyme and rosemary. People also often find they can sense notes of citrus rind and even nutty aromas.

They aren’t completely removed from more conventional wines though. You can still expect some varietal characteristics to shine through. If you have an orange wine from Alsace Pinot Gris, then may expect a touch of stone fruit such as nectarine and peach. If you’ve got one that’s produced from Grillo on the island of Sicily then you’ll likely get touches of sweet lemon and maybe some orange.

The point here is that yes, orange wine often provides a unique taste experience. If you’re a fan of natural wine then likely orange wine will hit the spot. However, if you see an orange wine that is from a grape variety and a region that you love, then by all means give it a go. It might just be your next favourite drink!

We hope you’ve enjoyed our look into the world of orange wine and will be confident in answering next time someone asks ‘what is orange wine’.

So, what is orange wine and what does it taste like? These funky wines are just a more ‘tannic’ expression of white wines. They can serve as a real point of difference and often present interesting and unique tasting notes, while retaining some familiar flavours for lovers of white wine. There are a whole heap of great orange wines out there, so don’t miss out on the trend and start trying some orange wine.

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