amarchinthevines

Learning about wine, vines and vignerons whilst living in the Languedoc

Orange Is Not The Only Wine

8 Comments

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Orange wine (this was over extracted and medicinal)

Version francaise

Orange wine is very, very fashionable. Often associated with the natural wine movement that is not strictly true as many conventional winemakers are experimenting with orange wines too. Perhaps the fact that they have both emerged into the spotlight in recent years has brought the two such an association. I must say I like the idea but I have not always been convinced by the wines themselves, so here are some recent experiences.

First of all we should clarify what orange wine means. They are made from white wine grapes which are left on the skins for an extended period in order to extract more flavour. This long maceration also adds tannin and colour to the wine just as happens with red grapes when making red wine. The length of time for skin contact and the type of grapes will add more or less colour, flavour and texture to the wine.

This was how wines were made many years ago, the current trend is a revival of ancient practices. Some countries such as Georgia have always made wines like this. I have had the opportunity to taste such wines from all over the world including Georgia. Mostly I find them pleasing the mind and appreciating the technique rather than pleasing my palate. Academic rather than pleasurable. Often they lack charm, taste very dry and with no fruit, perhaps the result of overlong maceration.

However I have recently tasted some very attractive orange wines. Les Choix 2014 came from Turner Pageot in Gabian, a very well judged wine as there was still plenty of apricot fruit as well as being dry and textured, made from Marsanne grapes. Very good. Ora(n)ge Sur Les Canilles 2016 is made by Domaine Ribiera in Aspiran. Régis and Christine Pichon make this delicious wine from Clairette and Terret grapes, again they have extracted good texture and dry flavours as well as white fruit flavours. Both wines have the slightest note of Fino sherry which really appealed to me.

At Mas Coutelou in 2015 and 2016 Jeff used white grapes such as Muscat Petits Grains to make orange wines, usually supervised by our two Australian assistants Cameron in 2015 and James in 2016. The result in 2015 went to make OW1, a blend of eight grape varieties macerated for a couple of weeks. It is a bright colour, has good texture and plenty of fruit along with a herbal note. The following year James made the Muscat based wine and this is a real success, the muscat notes are there but restrained to give white fruit flavours which linger with good spicy notes and a dry finish.

Orange, skin contact, long maceration. Whatever name you give this style these are wines requiring judgement and skill from the winemaker. I encourage you to try them but select ones from winemakers you trust.

For more information from someone who knows orange wines much beter than me I would recommend this website from Simon J Woolf.

Author: amarch34

I'm a recently retired (early!) teacher from County Durham in North east England. I am going to be spending most of the next year in the Languedoc leaarning about wines, vineyards and the people who care for both.

8 thoughts on “Orange Is Not The Only Wine

  1. It’s interesting that about the only thing that I can think of that we disagree on is skin contact wines, which I am quite keen on. Even odder that if they tasted really dried out and tannic I’m sure I wouldn’t like them.

    Whilst I’ve had a few Georgians, most of what I’ve enjoyed have been NE Italian (Gravner, Radikon) or their close Balkan colleagues, and then some wonderful Spanish wines. There are exceptions line Bellotti, whose A Demua is a standout from Piemonte, and others.

    I’ve had less experience of skin contact wines from Languedoc-Roussillon.

    But I do like other wines that sometimes have, or appear on the palate as the f they have, high extract. Vin Jaune, for example, and biologically aged sherries, where perception of extract comes from the flor.

    I’d like to think it was a a revival of a valid wine style and, like rosé, is that rather than a fashion.

    Here’s hoping I get to try some of Jeff’s. Has Leon taken a shipment of Coutelou yet?

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  2. Excuse typos, I really can’t type on a phone with a touch keyboard…

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  3. I’ve had a few orange wines. Not all of them have been terrible, but I hope the fad disappears soon. Then again, I guess it doesn’t matter as long as I’m not forced to drink them.

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  4. It will be Autumn before the shipment goes out David.

    I don’t dislike the style, the 3 I have highlighted are all very good wires from my local area. I found a Georgian example fascinating, but there we are, more academic interest than pleasure. When we were at RAW I found too many were charmless, my conclusion was too long maceration. But then I really liked Schollium Project’s Sauvignon with long maceration!
    I think at present there’s a lot of first tries, early experimentation and winemakers will become better. Belloti, Radikon etc have more experience.
    The 3 producers I highlight have produced wines I’d buy, others will follow I am sure or I have not yet encountered.

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  5. Where can one drink these wines in Paris ? 🙂 thanks !

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  6. Thanks for the mention here Alan! I’ve not tried either Turner-Pageot or Mas Coutelou’s “oranges” but hoping to fix that soon. Both wonderful producers so I expect great things.

    Without wishing to be too gauche, the single best place to learn more about orange wine’s fascinating history will I hope be my forthcoming book “Amber Revolution”. Link for more info and pre-ordering is here: http://kickstarter.amber-revolution.com/

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