Wine 201: Orange Wine Primer with Food Pairings to Try #WinePW

A look back at my first experience in 2013: rosé on the left, orange on the right

Wine Pairing Weekend Group Tackles Foods with Orange Wine
April showers bring May orange wines? Put simply, orange wines are white wines fermented in contact with their skins. Our Wine Pairing Weekend group is tackling orange wines this month, crafting some great ideas for food pairings with this genre of wines which many are discovering. I’m a fan, I had my first orange wine back in 2013 and wrote about it here. I’m starting this month with a primer, and you’ll find a whole list of links to our group at the bottom of this post.

Wine 201: Orange Wine – Just the Facts
Orange wines are at once ancient and modern. In ancient times, grapes were harvested, foot trod, and allowed to ferment. White wines as we know them today didn’t exist, those wines were fermented with their skins and had much deeper orange color. About 40 years ago, winegrowers in northeastern Italy and Slovenia rediscovered the approach from its roots in Georgia.  Most recently, the style gained new followers all over the world as wineries have begun to experiment with this ancient style.

Click on any photo in this post for a full-size slide show

Orange Wine is:

  • made from white or grey skinned grapes (with “gris” in their name) macerated or fermented in contact with the skins. Orange wines are also known as skin-fermented white wines.
  • made in a process identical to red winemaking with the exception of the color of grapes that go in at the beginning and the color of the wine at the end.
  • an entire genre of wines. The skin contact can be as short as a few hours, similar to rosé for red wine grapes. Or the skins may remain in contact all the way through fermentation.  In a few cases, the grape skins and seeds stay in contact with the finished wine during aging, sometimes for months. There are a broad range of wines called “orange”.
  • different from typical white or red wines. Orange wines have their own unique character. The flavor profiles are different and they often have tannins.
  • popular with artisan winegrowers, often using a low intervention, organic, biodynamic or natural approach.

Orange Wine is not:

  • natural wine. Some orange wines fit the natural wine definition, others do not. This is a separate decision on the part of the winemaker.
  • oxidized. Some orange wines are aged for long periods of time in porous containers (e.g. qvervi) and show oxidized character. Again, this is a separate winemaking decision.
  • funky or flawed.  As with all wines, there are examples of flawed wines in the marketplace.

What does Orange wine taste like?
Not all white wines taste the same, nor do all red wines. Orange wines are no exception and span a broad range of aromas, flavors and textures. Here are a few general notes:

  • Orange wines are closer kin to red wines than to typical white wines. They have texture and mouthfeel similar to red wines and may also have some tannins.
  • Serve orange wines just slightly below room temperature (similar to red wines). Don’t serve them too cold!
  • Aromas and flavors vary, often they will present stone fruits, citrus, sometimes dried fruits. They may also show spicy and earthy characteristics.
  • Orange wines from low intervention and natural winemakers may exhibit cidery aromas initially, and sometimes may show oxidized notes. These come with the territory of long aging in clay based semi-porous containers and no added sulfites. These are more prevalent in the wines from Italy and Slovenia. Give them a try!

Some Producers to Try
By no means a complete list, these are some producers I have tried and enjoyed.



Food Pairing Ideas
Once you’re accustomed to the new aromas, flavors and textures, you’ll find these wines to be very food friendly. You may still prefer a light, crisp white wine for delicate fish preparations, bright fresh salads and fussy vegetables (asparagus, I’m looking at you). Grilled or fried fish and especially shellfish pair beautifully, especially with lighter textured orange wines. Chicken and pork are great, especially since they don’t seem to have a particular affinity with specific traditional choices. Duck is a favorite of mine, in part because Julie doesn’t care for either duck or orange wines, so when she is away for the evening, I’ll gladly enjoy them together! The richer, long skin contact orange wines pair well even with grilled red meats, although I still like a big red in that category! Finally, orange wines pair beautifully with earthy veggie dishes like wild rice, fall and winter roasted vegetables.


Wine Pairing Weekend Orange Wine Pairing Ideas
You’re sure to find a tasty combination in our bloggers suggestions below. Why not join our chat? Simply look us up on Twitter at #WinePW on Saturday May 9 from 10-11 am CDT. We love visitors!

Yes, there’s even Orange Sparkling Wine!

30 Responses to “Wine 201: Orange Wine Primer with Food Pairings to Try #WinePW”
  1. culinarycam says:

    What a rundown! Now I need to track down all of those orange wines I haven’t tried, Jeff. I’m a huge fan.

  2. Your domestic collage includes all my favorites!

  3. Certainly not a surprise, but I’ve tried all the domestic ones you’ve tried except the Forlorn Hope. One to add to the list. I’m a big fan of these wines. Great suggestions for pairing, and I love the duck suggestion! Cheers my friend! Oh, and nice upgrade on the infographic!

  4. Great combinations! I also love the duck pairing. (Although my wife is also not into it 😉)

  5. Andrea Lemieux says:

    I absolutely love your wine color chart, that’s brilliant. And your pictures are stunning.

  6. Beautiful photos and helpful recs – thanks! Duck sounds right for these wines. We had smoked turkey legs – similar to duck and worked well.

  7. That chart you’ve created is an excellent tool for understanding this category – and actually a few others, too. I’ll be referring back to this post as I expand my tasting of skin-fermented white wines.

  8. Kat says:

    Love the versatility of all the pairings. And definitely will look into some of the domestic producers as I’ve only had non-US versions.

  9. Deanna says:

    What beautiful food and orange wine pairings. I like you succinct summary of orange characteristics at the beginning of the post. Really is a great introduction to a beginner without exhibiting bias of whether one should drink it or not.

  10. yes, asparagus is a tough one! I have not been the biggest fan of amber wine, but am always willing to try more!

  11. Lots of great info! I need to branch out and try orange wine with a wider array of food pairings. The duck pairing sounds especially good!

  12. Nicole Ruiz Hudson says:

    This is an excellent primer! You’ve also included so many of my faves and the pairings all sound fantastic. (Orange wine and duck might have to go on our table very soon!)

  13. So many selections with pairings and a nice chart too!

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