Thinking Wine: The Engaging World of Orange Wine

orange wine, skin fermented wine, california wine, oregon wine

Photo: Jill Barth

There are certain wines, from certain producers and certain regions, that really make me think. Orange wines generally get my mental juices flowing.

The term orange is an attempt to describe the appearance of these wines, which have the essential glow that one would find in a rosé, but instead of a pink hue, the wines have an orange or amber glaze.

The color comes from the same source of all color in wine: the skins. Red wine takes hue from contact with the skin of red (or purple) grapes. Rosé wine also gets color from contact with red (or purple) grapes though white wine grapes could be included in the blend. Orange wines get their color from contact, extended contact, with the skins of white wine grapes.

Shown here is an orange wine, Iapetus Tectonic, on the left and a rosé, Ferraton Père et Fils Samorëns Rosé (Côtes du Rhône), on the right. These are both photographed in my kitchen with the evening light coming in from a sliding door behind them. Not exactly in the same position, but you get the idea of the glow, and how they have differences and similarities.

The fascinating thing, to me, about orange wine, is how many shades of “white” exist in the skins of these grapes. Let’s dig in and take a look at three wines I’ve chosen to feature here, a duo from Two Shepherds and a current release from Troon Vineyard.

orange wines, skin fermented wines, #winePW

Two Shepherds on the ends, with Troon Vineyard in the middle. Photo: Jill Barth

Two Shepherds Pinot Gris Skin Fermented Ramato 2019 |Organic fruit from Clarbec Vineyard in Sonoma Valley, all organic, destemmed and skin fermented for five days with native yeasts. ($26)

The concept of Ramato comes from Italy, and you’ll see by the shade of this wine that these tend to hover between rosé and orange wines. This is because Pinot Gris grapes have a pinkish tone, mirrored clearly in the finished wine. Though when we typically drink Pinot Gris, it comes to us as a white wine, one that hasn’t experienced skin contact. (PS, Two Shepherds Dolce and Sofia, miniature Sicilian donkeys inspired this wine.)

Try this pairing: Mushroom risotto with peas

Troon Vineyard Kubli Bench Amber, Estate Orange Wine 2019 | Made with estate Riesling, Vermentino, and Marsanne, grown right on the biodynamic Troon property in Oregon’s Applegate Valley. ($30)

Troon gave skin-fermenting a whirl with two single varietal wines in previous vintages—first a Riesling, then a Vermentino. While both did sell out, the Troon team is pleased by the “depth and complexity” that comes from the amber blend. Destemmed and fermented with native yeasts on skins for about three weeks. Troon never uses additives, and just pops a touch of sulfur before bottling to retain average sulfur levels below 30 ppm.

Try this pairing: Play around with pork chops.

Note: For more on Troon’s practices check out my piece in Wine Enthusiast: Beyond Organic: The Winemakers Leading a Sustainable Revolution.

Two Shepherds Trousseau Gris Skin Fermented 2018 | Ready to be part of a unique experience? These Trousseau Gris grapes come from the only planting in all of California, a 40 year old vineyard in the Russian River Valley. ($28)

This wine gets a similar treatment as the Ramato (mentioned above): destemmed and fermented on the skins with native yeasts for five days. I feel quite lucky to have a bottle of this wine, which is made in tiny quantities. But you can still buy a bottle (or two, but that’s it. no kidding) from Two Shepherds.

Try this pairing: Grilled chicken, thighs and drumsticks

Note: Two Shepherds is offering a super cool skin-contact bundle for $77 bucks. You get three bottles at 10% off plus a special shipping rate. Nice!

Two Shepherds Trousseau Gris Skin Fermented 2018, orange wine, sonoma wine

Two Shepherds Trousseau Gris Skin Fermented 2018. So special I had to use my Coravin. Photo Credit: Jill Barth

Wine Pairing Weekend

When it comes to food pairing, one can play in the range where normally a light red or rich white would be of choice. While rosé is often selected for it’s acidity, orange wines generally have more spice (sometimes, considerable spice) and body, so you’ve got a different profile when it comes to mealtime. Serve these wines cool, but not ice cold.

This month our Wine Pairing Weekend (#WinePW) group gets ‘skinny’ with our orange wine and skin contact wine story line. Here’s what we’ve got for you:

We love visitors! Please join us for a Twitter chat #Winophiles on Saturday, May 9th 8:00 am PST/11:00 am EST as we explore Skin-contact White Wines and food pairings. Just follow the hashtag #winePW to join the fun!

Follow me on Instagram and check out my new website Jill Barth Creative.

Note: the wines mentioned in this piece are media samples, but all opinions are my own and no compensation was exchanged.

18 thoughts on “Thinking Wine: The Engaging World of Orange Wine

  1. You’ve tried a couple of my favorite producers on skin-contact white wines Jill. I’ll have to give that Troon Estate Orange wine a try. I’ve had their “orange” Riesling, which I loved. Nice food pairing recs! Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So many of you guys have recommended these wines so I’m definitely going to get some to try. I’ve been meaning to get some Troon wines for a couple of years now!

    Liked by 1 person

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