You know already the traditional colours of wine-white, rose and red-. But, have you heard about the other particular shade: Orange?
Walk into any trendy restaurant in Montreal and they will have at least one Orange wine in their wine list. For instance, Nora Gray offers more than 20 choices while Elena offers more than 10 and Le diplomate, one of Montreal’s natural wine temple has 19. From time to time, the SAQ brings some as a specialty under the Cellier arrivals or available online only through saq.com. Most of the orange wines available in the Quebec market can be found via private imports. In order to taste some you have to order them in a restaurant or find them in a wine fairs such as Raspipav or RAW Montreal that just finished.
The easiest way to define orange wine is that it’s a white wine made in the style of a red wine. For white wine, the skins of white or red grapes are separated from the juice right away. When red wines are made, the juice and the skins are left together for a time, giving the wine its colour and the tannins from the skins, seeds and stems respectively
In a nutshell, Orange wine is made from the must of white grapes that have contact with their skins for a time before fermentation, imparting an orange or amber tint to the wine. However, for orange wine, this can take place over weeks or even years in an oxygen-rich environment, and as such, the brilliant hue is simply a by-product of the process. Maceration can take place in many different containers, wood, clay, cement, etc. However for generations, winemakers have been aging wines in terra-cotta pots called amphora; buried deep in the ground, the wine matures in the cool, stable temperatures provided by the soil. Today, orange wines are not necessarily amphora-aged, but some modern winemakers are revisiting this method as part of the orange wine ideology.
Orange wines are not the same as natural wines, although they overlap in areas of viticulture and viniculture. Natural wine is made with no chemical additives, from the soil to the bottle. An orange wine is not necessarily natural, a winemaker can still decide to use additives in the cellar, most likely sulfite.
Georgia, with winemaking techniques dating back to 6000 BC, holds the strongest claim to inventing orange wine. Next in line is both Italy and Slovenia where orange wines have been praised in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia DOC and neighbouring GoriÅ¡ka Brda region for hundreds of years. Cult producers such as Radikon, Gravner and PrinÄiÄ have been producing hugely popular impressions of Pinot Grigio, Ribolla Gialla and Friulano in more recent times.
Orange wine does not taste like a white or a red wine. It has its own unique taste. Like other wines, the flavours in an orange wine will depend on the grape varietal used, the soil and a winemaker’s methods. However, you are likely to find aromas of honeysuckle, dry fruits, sourdough with a slight tannic grip in the palate.
Although still small scale, orange wine is made in almost every wine producing country. My favourite producers are Italian but I have discovered some wonderful orange wines from Spain, Slovenia, Chile and France. Here are three recommended producers that I rediscovered during the RASPIPAV and RAW Wine Montreal. These will make an amazing introduction to your journey in the exploration of orange wines.
Cantina Ferlat, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy
Ferlat is a small artisanal estate crafting terroir driven wines in the in the eastern part of Friuli Venezia Giulia, in the renowned D.O.C. Friuli Isonzo. Ferlat is an organic winery and uses state of the art technology to produce personal and artisanal wines always with the utmost respect for the terroir
Venezia Giulia IGT Grame 2016- Malvasia Istriana grape variety
$35.17/ Six pack case-Agent: bacchus76.com
An orange wine with a very original nose that recall diverse nuances of citrus fruits, apple complemented by oriental spices and pastry cream. On the palate, it is juicy and ample with an elusive minerality and bright acidity that refreshes your mouth with every sip. Challenging, thoughtful, definitely an unique, with which you will need to have fun with diverse food matches.
Azienda Agricola Fongoli, Umbria, Italy
In the heart of Umbria, in a splendid environmental setting, the estate covers a magnificent fertile wine area. The Fongoli family has been dedicated to viticulture for over 70 years, since Decio Fongoli Calvani bought the estate of San Marco and gave life to what would soon become a recognized family legacy. The wine business activity is completed by the presence of the farm Il Grappolo and La Rosa which, located in a beautiful panorama, allows guests to enjoy a pleasant moment in contact with nature and with agriculture.
Umbria Trebbiano Spoletino IGT Maceratum 2017-Trebbiano Spoletino grape variety. $48.86/ Six pack case-Agent: bacchus76.com
An elegant orange with elusive nuances of pineapple peel, white peach and smoked honey. Smooth, almost silky in the mouth with complex herbal aromas and a long balanced finale.To be enjoyed on its own or with tapas.
Anãbal Coutinho, Portugal
Vinho de Talha Astronaut Alentejo DOC 2016
White- $100/Six pack case-Agent: Benedictus, 514- 913-5405
Talha wine is Portuguese winemaking in clay amphora. Talha is the portuguese word for Amphora and the technique is native to the Alentejo region. The technique has been handed down from generation to generation since the roman times. However, it was formally defined by the agronomist AntÃ³nio Augusto de Aguiar in 1876. Once fermented and drained off the skins and stems (which handily act as a filter), the wines are sealed with olive oil and decanted for drinking from the base of the talha. These wines are not traditionally bottled. the longer they spend in talha, the more oxidised the wine becomes.
Anibal Coutinho has an amazing background: born in 1968, he graduated in Civil Engineering (IST) and did post graduate studies in Business (MBA, ISCTE), Quality (ISQ) and Viticulture and Oenology (ISA). He is the founder of IDOM Engineer in Portugal. He has been a collaborator at the Ferreira Lapa Laboratory, the Instituto Superior de Agronomia and is an associate member of the Portuguese Association of Enology – Associação Portuguesa de Enologia. As an oenologist, he develops his own wine brands: Escondido, Astronaut and he also developed the Contemporal brand, as part of a large multinational consultancy venture in Portugal, Sonae Modelo-Continente.
This Vinho de Talha is really an artist wine. A fascinating nose revealing layers of peach, nectarines and honey complemented by nougat and and a deep saline smell. Structure, racy and very complex with an everlasting finale.