Orange is the new black. Orange wine has been one of the biggest trends with hipsters and wine lovers, but many still ask what exactly is orange wine? Simply put, orange wine is skin contact wine, and even though it may be a recent phenomenon with sommeliers and hipsters, it is a style of wine that has been made for centuries.
What Is Orange Wine?
Contrary to popular belief, Orange wine is not made from Oranges. Orange wine is simply white wine, made in a red wine style. You take white grapes and macerated them in cement or ceramic and you leave the grapes to ferment on the skins anywhere for a few days, to weeks, and in some cases months. Many of these wines are produces in a natural way with no additive or sulfur, giving the resulting orange wines a slightly sour note. The color and style of the wine are entirely dependent on the length of skin contact.
The wines can be wildly intense and robust. Typical notes include tropical fruits, honey, hazelnuts, and orange. They are big wines with the presence of tannins and slight sourness. With their freshness and light tannins, these wines are really food-friendly. Pair them with curries, salads, fish, and even beef.
Orange wines are loved by sommelier and there is always at least one orange wine on many wine lists throughout New York City, Yet with its popularity, there are those who still hate on this wine, like this widely controversial article from the New Yorker on orange wine.
Orange wines have gained popularity in the last twenty, but if if you think orange wine is a fleeting fashion trend, think again. These are serious wine that is here to stay and one producer setting the benchmark for orange wines is Radikon.
Radikon is a 12-hectare estate on the Slovenian border of Italy in the Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region and is a truly unique winery. Stanko Radikon is “The King” of orange wines. Since 1995, Stanko Radikon had paved the way for the natural wine movement.
Stanko realized that the local indigenous grape, Ribolla Gialla, needed to be treated differently so he turned to his grandfather’s method of vinification, which involved seven days of skin maceration. Stanko experimented with this technique and today’s wines have around three months of maceration, along with long periods of barrel and bottle aging.
The specially designed bottles allow for better development in the bottle, and he only uses the highest quality corks that avoid cork taint. Stanko believed that the 750 ml size does not really provide the right amount of wine for two people to share at dinner. Therefore, he wanted to bottle all of his wines in liters and half-liters. His grape selection is meticulous, it is usual for a whole vine to go into making just one single bottle. His wines are truly fascinating, with unbelievable complexity, high aging potential, and profound, wild, flavors.
Stanko passed away in 2016. He was a force of nature and influenced countless people in the wine world. His legacy continues with the work of his family. Nothing has changed in the winery’s philosophy, since Sasa, his son has been helping out since he was a kid.
Ribolla Gialla Radikon 2014
100% Ribolla Gialla from estate vines averaging over 50 years old. All of Radikon’s whites are made in the same way: the organically farmed, stunningly low-yield, hand-harvested fruit is destemmed and gently crushed with a pneumatic press. It is placed in old Slavonian oak vats and fermented with native yeasts. It macerates with the skins for about 3 months—however long it takes to reach total dryness–with no temperature control and no sulfur. The wine is racked and aged on its lees in huge Slavonian oak casks (25-35-hectoliter) for 3-4 years, racked twice a year. The wine is then bottled without sulfur and without filtration. The bottles are aged for several years before release.
Be sure to add Radikons wines to your list. These are serious wines that epitomize centuries of tradition and winemaking history, these are not just wine for hipsters, but also for wine geeks, wine aficionados, and wine collectors.
Read more about what my fellow wine writers have to say about skin contact wines.