What is Orange Wine and Skin Contact Wine?

Nothing Rhymes With Orange, Or Tastes Like it.

Orange wine, or skin contact white wine always been less well-known, but thankfully, its mouth-watering flavour profile is now again trending, making it easier to find. More and more people are opting for orange wine in Canada not just because of its novelty, but also because there's something about this wine that is really intriguing. 

Whether you enjoy wine or not, if the thought of trying something new and flavourful appeals to you, this flavour-packed wine is just what you've been looking for! Let us dive deeper into what orange wine is, how it is made, and why Canadian orange wine is suddenly all the rage. 

What is Orange Wine and How is it Made?

So, as you might already know, wine is made by pressing juice out of grapes. The type of grape used and the keeping or removing of skins on the fruit contribute to the taste and appearance of different varieties of wine. And we have to say, just because it's been asked before:  orange wine does not involve the use of actual oranges – although it can sometimes have striking similarities to the smell of orange peel. 

White grapes that have been crushed and had their skins removed before fermentation are used to make white wines. On the other hand, red wines use red grapes, pressed, and fermented with their skins in order to extract different profiles/ flavours, and tannins that contribute to the body of a wine.

Interestingly, making orange wine involves white grapes but following the red wine methodology. After the white grapes are pressed, the liquid is fermented along with the skins to produce orange wine, a wine with a darker, occasionally amber hue. This deep colour comes from lignin in grape seeds. Lignin is a complex polymer, and grape seeds actually contain one of the highest compositions of lignin in nature. 

Nerd alert: There’s some cool stuff happening with lignin and bioplastics.

A Brief History

Believe it or not, orange wines are one of the oldest types of wines aging back to about 8,000 years ago. 

Ancient winemakers in Eastern Europe, primarily in Georgia and Slovenia, used to create golden-coloured orange wine by burying clay pots closed with stones and sealed with beeswax (called "qveri") loaded with crushed grapefruit underground. This made it possible for the orange wine to ferment at a controlled temperature.

After the introduction of the more ‘sophisticated’ white wine in Italy, this skin-contact wine lost its clout.

Italian producer Josko Gravner of Friuli-Venezia Giulia brought the wine back into the spotlight in the early 2000s. Other vineyard farms around the world have imbibed traditional winemaking methods from Slovenia and Georgia and continue to follow them to this date.

Some of the major orange wine centres worldwide are Italy, Slovenia, Georgia, France, and now Canada.

How Orange Wine Differs in Taste and Texture

Compared to more straight forward, quaffable white and red wines, orange wines typically have a bit more depth and complexity. They may taste more like a witbier, or a sour than a conventional wine and have a fuller scent and body than other white-grape wines. This nose is particularly true of our ‘ORANGE’ series, as we typically use Gewurz and Muscat; two aromatic white varieties. We’ll also shamelessly mention that we got a Gold Wine Align Award for our ORANGE  –  one of two in Canada! 

Some of these scents and profiles arise because a lot of orange wine producers use no additives, including yeast. Top chefs describe orange wines as ‘robust’ and ‘bold’, with a mix of flavours like jackfruit, hazelnut, juniper, sourdough, and much more. 

There is no single flavour characteristic for orange wines because they are made from a variety of white grape varieties. These wines have substantially higher tannin levels than white wines because the grape skins and grape juice are fermented together. Most orange wines are also full-bodied and acidic.

The striking flavours of orange wine go particularly well with curries, fermented kimchi, Japanese, Korean, Moroccan, Indian, and Ethiopian food. You might see the pattern here – heavy spice!  They also go well with seafood and any type of meat dish.

Canadian Orange Wine

With more experimental drinkers and producers bringing orange wine back on the trending list in Canada, it has quickly risen the popularity charts in no time. More and more people are intrigued about tasting Canadian orange wine and relishing its vibrant flavours, especially since it is so unconventional and refreshing. 

Orange wine is also grabbing the spotlight because it is viewed as more ‘natural’. While the word 'natural' is subjective and used in a lot of different ways, orange wines are usually made with zero, or minimal additives and alterations.

While orange wine roots back to its homeland in eastern Europe, several Canadian winemakers are doing an equally great job at reviving the traditional drink. If you are specifically looking for Okanagan orange wine yourself, we got you!  Here's our latest, ORANGE NO. 3