Orange wine is made from white wine grape juice that has had extended skin contact, allowing for the development of an intense amber color. Ageing in neutral wood or clay amphorae allows the wine to oxidize and create intriguing aromas and flavors.
Orange wine making techniques have been around for centuries; most likely originating in Armenia and Georgia. Italian orange wine making has deep roots as well. Similar wine making techniques are used to make Ramato, a copper colored wine made from Pinot Grigio, with a tradition going back to the Republic of Venice.
Italian orange wine became less popular in the 1950s and 60s as temperature-controlled white wines, fermented in stainless-steel to prevent oxidation, dominated the market. In the 80′s and 90′s, there was a bit of an Italian orange wine resurgence with producers like Gravner and Jermann, of Friuli, leading the way. Radikon, Damijan, La Stoppa, Monastero Suore Cistercensi and many more are now producing orange wines that are gaining popularity in the wine world.
The most recent bottle of orange wine that I have opened was a 2007 “Ageno”, from La Stoppa in Emilia–Romagna, at a lunch meeting with Dobianchi. According to Dobianchi, Ageno is one of his favorite wines. Ageno is fermented with native yeasts and is in contact with the grape skins for more than 30 days. The result is is an amazing wine with a bouquet of apricot, dried flowers and tea. On the palate, it’s slightly dry with a juicy mix of stone fruit, orange peel and white tea. Delicious!
Up next: Ramato – the true color of pinot grigio