We all know there is red, white and rosé wine. Have you ever heard of, or tried, orange wine? To understand orange wine, let’s look back at the other colour of wines that we know.
Most grape juice is colourless, and wine's colour comes from grape skin. To make red wine, red grape juice and skin are fermented together in order to extract the colour from the skin. Rosé wine is also made from red grapes but instead of fermenting juice and skin together, the skin is soaked in juice for a few hours to extract colour. When the desirable colour is achieved, skin is discarded and the juice is then fermented. The colour of rosé wine therefore is not as deep as red wine.
White wine, on the other hand, is made with white grapes. Grapes are crushed and juice is fermented without skin, resulting in wine with a green to yellow hue - the colour of white wine that we are familiar with. Note that white wine can also be made with red grapes where fermentation takes place without skin, and the wine is often called ‘Blanc de Noir’, meaning white of black.
Orange wine is also called amber wine. It is a type of white wine but both juice and skin are in contact during fermentation that usually lasts from 7 to 14 days. If the skin is removed when fermentation is finished, the wine will acquire a pale orange-hue tone. Grape skin can also be left with the wine after fermentation for a longer time from weeks, months or even over one year, creating even deeper orange colour wine.
The history of orange wine dated back to more than 8,000 years from wine producing country Georgia in Eastern European country. White wine was traditionally fermented with skin, seeds and stems in qvevris (large earthenware vessels) buried underground. These grape materials and wine remained in sealed qvevris for months and eventually settle in the bottom of the vessels, when the clear wine is then bottled.
Orange wine is not only about colour. Apart from the colour pigment, grape skin also contains phenols and tannins that impart flavour and texture to wine. Compared to white wine, orange wine has richer aromas of bruised apples, nuts, dried fruits and even sourdough. It is dry with a surprisingly fresh, pleasantly sour palate, and a texture like jasmine tea.
In terms of food pairing, orange wine goes well with bold flavoured dishes like curry, kimchi and a wide variety of meat dishes.
Orange wine is often considered as natural wine because most adopts spontaneous fermentation. If you want to try a big selection of skin-contact orange wine in Hong Kong, head to La Cabane, Oz Terroirs or Crushed Wines. All have retail outlets (and La Cabane also has a wine bistro) and the friendly staff are more than happy to make a recommendation.