By Marco Giovanetti
We all know red, white and rosé wine, but have you heard of orange wine?
Orange wine refers to a particular style of wine — one enjoying a growing popularity among Canadian Sommeliers and enthusiastic wine lovers
Orange wine is a term used to describe white wines that have had a very long skin maceration or have been been fully or partially fermented on their skins.
Today, almost all modern wines are fermented off their skins. This means that the grapes are first pressed to extract the juice, and then the juice (or must) ferments on its own. A deeper golden color in a white wine typically comes from maturation in oak and/or with age.
If a white wine is fermented on the skins it will have a deep orange hue or color from the onset, because the color pigment in grapes is contained in the skins. It may also be slightly cloudy.
In ancient times this was the traditional way for making white wine, especially in the very far Eastern European / Asian countries of Georgia and Armenia – places now considered to be the very cradle of winemaking.
Today there is somewhat of a renaissance in orange winemaking, especially in parts of northeastern Italy such as Friuli and Umbria as well as Slovenia and Croatia.
The first generation of the modern orange wine makers, Friuli natives like Gravner and Stanislao Radikon make their orange wines as their grandfathers once did. Today, they are the grandfathers to a new generation who experiment with everything from varietals to technique and terroir. Orange wine is now produced in Croatia, Slovenia, France, and even California.
In Slovenia, the Movia vineyard macerates the Rebola grape for their signature Lunar; in California, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay get the treatment; the French are breaking out Roussanne, Rolle, and Grenache Blanc; and in Italy, orange wine is no longer limited to Friuli—winemakers across the country macerate local grape varietals.
Orange wine has become somewhat trendy among key influential sommeliers and retailers around the United States and Canada. These wines, given their very handcrafted nature are not inexpensive. Some producers to seek out include Gravner (Friuli) Paolo Bea (Umbria, Italy) and Radikon (Friuli).
Orange wines stayed within this niche market until they were recently thrust into the limelight, so what has caused this sudden surge in popularity? As wine lovers, we like to try what’s different and interesting, which suggests that this popularity is just temporary, they will come and go just like any other fad.
What will turn this fad into a dinner table staple though, is the versatility of an orange wine. When faced with a table of ten who have all ordered different mains, for all its ‘quirkiness’, an orange wine is actually the safest bet.
Their structure perfectly complements the Mediterranean diet of cheese, pasta and lightly spiced foods. They will not however, overpower fish or salad, while at the same time they have enough body to stand up to red meat.
An orange wine then, is the polite option that will not disappoint guests. It is for this reason that savvy restaurants are stocking their cellars with them, and that the fad may stick around for longer than we thought.
In the province of Quebec, these wines are available through the private importation network. The SAQ does not carry them because of their small production and because of their very natural profile. These wines need special storage conditions and the SAQ simply do not want to take the bother.
However, there are some winds of change regarding this type of wine at the SAQ. In a wine tasting, last week organized by the agency Oenopole, I had the chance to taste the Rami cuvee of Azienda Agricola COS, a Sicilian Orange wine. According to Aurelia Filion, one of Oenopole owners, Rami will be the first Orange Wine listed at the SAQ.
Oenopole were the pioneers in the province of Quebec to carry Orange Wines. Besides, COS They proudly represent producers: Radikon (www.radikon.it) and La Stoppa( www.lastoppa.it ). Besides Oenopole, Raissonance (http://www.raisonnance.net/) also represents producers of Orange wine. An example is the wines of Gianfranco Manca ( Panevino). Due to the extreme popularity with restaurant sommeliers, the wines sell very quickly. It is recommended to call and secure your allocation for the next vintage.
Wines of the week:
Very complex nose that reminds me of smoke, minerals and yellow fruits. In addition, nuances of herbal teas. In the mouth, racy dry and very elegant with a barnyard retronasal. Very long and tasty finale. 95\100
Food Match: Smoked Ricota cheese pie. Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe
Floral nose with roses, earth and spices with hints of plums and cherry. Medium body with a tangy acidity and smooth tannins. Nice length and finale. 90\100.
Food Match: Italian coldcuts such as: Prosciutto, Sopresata, Salami.
A very poetic nose. Mineral dust with red fruits, tomato paste, violets, roses and spices. In the mouth, full body and dense with a nice red fruit profile and a beautiful underlying minerality. . Elegant with an outstanding finale. 93\100. QPR
Food Match: Ossobuco alla Milanese with a Saffron Risotto.