The trend for orange wines
Nowadays, in order to be a winemaker adapted to the new trends, it seems compulsory to make an orange wine, a wine with skin maceration. This is a type of wine that is gradually gaining popularity, partly because of the uniqueness of the wines it offers and because it is linked to more freely produced wines. Your Instagram photo can look much better if it includes an orange wine, but what are we talking about? What are these wines like? Where do they come from?
What is an orange wine?
This mention is reserved for those white wines in which the wine has been kept in contact with the skins during fermentation, winemaking that resembles that of a red wine. This approach means that several things happen to the wine. Firstly, the wine extracts a certain colour from the skins. But it not only extracts colour, it also extracts tannin. For this reason, these cult wines are usually much firmer in the palate than a white wine produced in a conventional way, something that allows us to dive for more intense foods pairings.
They are called orange or amber wine because of the colour that the wine acquires as a result of its production method. A colour that tends to an orange tone due to the presence of the skins and the oxidation that the wine undergoes during its creation. Containers such as clay amphores or oak barrels favour a certain micro-oxygenation during the production process.
The origin of these wines goes back to ancient times. Georgian wines are mentioned as one of the starting points in the development of this style. Wines that were made in their classic Qvevri (clay containers that are buried in the ground, favouring an optimal and constant temperature during the whole elaboration process).
Georgia is credited as being one of the oldest places where vines have been cultivated. Winemaking and wine consumption were the norm centuries ago, so in terms of antiquity no one can look for a better example to support today's trend.
Many winemakers have started to produce these wines, some of them initially on an experimental basis, but later, having seen the results, they have wanted to incorporate them into their portfolio of wines. The reason for the success of these wines is due not only to the uniqueness of a style that is not widely consumed in Spain, but also to their greater structure and flavour, which allows this type of wine to compete with some reds with certain foods.
Moreover, the presence of more tannin means that these wines can have a better ageing capacity than a conventional young white. Precisely, this greater ageing capacity means that these wines have proliferated among natural wine makers who tend to protect their wines with low doses of sulphur and who find in this maceration of the wine with the skins a natural mechanism of protection for their own wines.
The ability to express a terroir?
This is a subject of some debate: can these wines express their place of origin in their aroma and taste? The way they are made means that these wines are very much dominated aromatically and taste-wise by the winemaking process itself, so that in the vast majority of cases the orange wine signature doesn't allow you to see beyond the wine's own excellence.
But don't worry, it is not the end of the world, there are excellent well made wines that don't have the magic fairy to take us to the vineyard, and yet they are still interesting. As it always happens in the world of wine, we must be cautious in our affirmation, because little by little better examples are emerging with wines that are approaching the world of the great brands. Without going any further, the best example that we know of in the Peñín Guide of an orange wine with an expression of place is the one made by Eulogio Pomares in his project in Rías Baixas known as Fento Wines. This wine was one of the nominees for revelation wine in the Peñín Guide 2018 (2017), and it is the only orange wine that has managed to reach 94 points, a milestone for this style of wine.
For whatever reason, the arrival and profusion of these wines in recent years is an opportunity for all wine lovers because they enrich a little more the already wide diversity of styles that prevail in Spain. Orange wine allows us to enjoy a different style that will deliver different sensations during its consumption.