It’s high summer, the season that typically coincides with a proliferation of rosé wine offerings on drinks lists across the northern hemisphere. In recent years, however, the blushing beauties are sharing more menu real estate with their edgier, exotic cousins — orange wines.
The term “orange wine” applies broadly to skin-contact white wines. While rosé wines are made by briefly soaking red grapes with their skins to impart a pink tint without the prominent tannins found in red wines, orange varieties are made by macerating white grapes on their skins for long periods. The results range in hue from pale salmon to bright copper and rust. Skin contact contributes complexity — flavors of honeyed fruit, dried flowers and nuts — along with phenolic grip from tannins. Think of orange wine as white wine with brawn, or rosé with teeth.
The skin-contact method is most closely associated with Slovenia, Greece and, in particular, Georgia, where the tradition of fermenting grapes with their skins in egg-shaped clay vessels called qvevri has continued for 8,000 years.