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The What and Why of Orange Wines

WINE SCHOOL

It’s a recently popular style made with ancient techniques: whites produced using the methods for reds. Is it a passing fancy, or will it endure?

We don’t ordinarily get too deeply into the details of making wine, but we will with our next subject, orange wines, also known as amber wines or skin-contact whites.

The phrase “orange wine” was unknown 20 years ago, but the style and the techniques for producing the wines stretch back thousands of years.

Essentially, orange wines are whites produced using the techniques for making reds, just as rosés are reds produced using the methods for making whites. Yes, orange is the inverse of rosé.

As with natural wines, orange wines have moved from niche bottles known to only a small vanguard of consumers to something approaching mainstream. I would by no means call them conventional or common, even though more than a few commercially oriented producers now make orange wines.

While you might be able to find a few bottles in supermarkets, orange wines still occupy a niche, even if it has grown considerably over the years.

A lot of people think of orange wines as natural wines, and many would qualify. But not all. Natural wines must adhere to a wide range of imperatives, from how the grapes are farmed to how the wine is made. Orange wines are simply born of specific winemaking techniques. Still, shops that have wide selections of natural wines are probably the best places to find orange wines.

Some wine professionals have assailed orange wines, dismissing the style as a passing fad or for emphasizing technique over terroir. We may not be able to resolve these issues with this small sample, but we can at least think about them.

Monastero Suore Cistercensi Lazio Coenobium Ruscum 2019 (Rosenthal Wine Merchant, New York) $32

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