COLORING OUTSIDE THE LINES
Written by Claire Williams
For many, the world of wine is mainly monochromic: white, red, akin to red wine, due to the grape skin contact, with the bonus of and pink. As a result, vino drinkers may think that the world of spirits gets to have all the fun experimenting with colors and flavors. However, you may be surprised to learn that there is a long history of colorful winemaking. In the red winemaking process, colors ranging from pale ruby to deep garnet result from allowing the juice from the crushed grapes to macerate with skins. Winemakers tinker with the maceration period, which can be anywhere between three to 100 days depending on what effect they want the skins to have on the wine, such as creating a rosé from a short maceration period, increasing wine flavor, tannin, or the viscosity (the body) because many flavor and phenolic compounds come from the grape skin. Contrarily in the white winemaking process, the skins are customarily discarded, giving white wines completely different characteristics, mouthfeel, and flavor. Orange wines are an outlier. More technically referred to as "skin-contact wine" due to the winemaking process, orange wines are essentially white wines that take a page from the red wine-making book; counter to their moniker, citrus fruit is not part of the equation. Instead, the skins of the white grapes ferment with the juice to impart the wines with a range of colors ranging from medium amber to deep copper. Voila, orange wine! Georgia (the country, not the state) is considered the "cradle of wine," with the archaeological record crediting wine creation to the people of the South Caucasus in 6,000 BC. Although it's enjoyed a resurgence for the past few decades and is a product of almost all of the world's wine-producing regions, orange wine has been among Georgian winemakers' métier for many millennia. Slovenian and Italian-made are also well-known, with new world wine regions, such as Australia, South Africa, and the United States, following suit.
While orange wines come from various grapes, they're often described as robust and full-bodied with a great depth of flavor, boasting the refreshing qualities of white wine. Common tasting notes include bruised fruit like apple, honeyed aromas of jackfruit (a fleshy tropical fruit), juniper, sourdough, dried orange rind, and savory flavors like hazelnut and apricot. Notable orange wines include an Italian orange pinot grigio. The Italians use the word ramato, translated as copper, to refer to Italian pinot grigio made in an orange wine style, known for honeysuckle, stone fruit, and citrus flavors. For a complete departure from Italian ramato wine, an orange riesling presents a tartness that is off-putting to some and endearing to others whose palate prefers complex sour flavors. The 2019 Orange Riesling from Bannister Wines in California's northern Sonoma County has flavors of quince, pomelo, tart apple, and allspice that will evolve with bottle aging (bannisterwines.com/ shop/2019-orange-riesling). Whereas other wines have limitations, orange wines like Bannister's Riesling fill the space of wines that pair well with more exotic and spicier cuisines. Gerard Bertrand's Genora Orange wine from the south of France, made from four white grape varieties, presents aromas of white flowers, candied fruits, and white pepper. The wines' freshness pairs perfectly with aperitifs, cheese platters, and Indian and Asian dishes (en.gerard-bertrand.com/en/products/genora). Another memorable wine on the color wheel is orange's cousin: yellow. Also known as "vin jaune," yellow wine is white wine exclusively produced in the Jura region in eastern France from the local grape variety, the Savagnin. Only four regions or appellations d'origine contrôlée (AOC) are authorized to produce it: Arbois, Côtes du Jura, Château-Chalon and Etoile. Legend has it that a winemaker found a forgotten barrel in his cellar and opened it to find "the Gold of Jura." Today the process is not one you should wait around for: after fermentation, the wine is kept for six years and three months in oak barrels without "topping up," meaning that the wine that evaporates from the barrel (better known in bourbon country as the "angels' share") isn't replenished. Therefore, a layer of yeast forms on the surface of the wine, preserving it from oxidation. Often compared to dry sherry, yellow wine is rich and powerful on the palate, with flavors of nuts, floral notes, green apples, and spices. Yellow wine can be enjoyed as an aperitif but also pairs well with foie gras, shellfish, and, if you're feeling brave in your cooking techniques, a famous coq au vin jaune. If you ever tire of classic red, white, and rosé wines or are ready to discover what more the wine world has to offer, don't be afraid "to taste the rainbow" with orange and yellow wines. sl