Orange wine gains new popularity

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(CBS) – Wine lovers now have more to choose from than the regular white, red or rosé options found at the liquor store, thanks to an ancient technique gaining new popularity. Orange wine, made from grapes typically used for white wine, but without removing the skins, has seen a renewed interest amid surging wine sales during the coronavirus pandemic. 

“You don’t see a lot of large wineries making orange wine,” winemaker Hardy Wallace said. “For small producers like us, it’s a huge opportunity to reach people far and wide.” 

Wallace is a partner at Dirty and Rowdy Family Winery in California, one of the small operations that has gotten on the fast-growing trend. He compared the jump from white to orange wine to changing up music.

“By leaving these skins on, it’s the same music — I’m just gonna go and adjust the volume. We’re gonna take this from four, we’re going to take this to seven. If you’re a guitar player, sometimes you wanna hit you wanna hit the distortion pedal,” Wallace said. 

People who see orange wine’s bright hue may often assume it will be sweet and light, but Wallace said that is far from its actual taste.

“People, they see orange and they automatically think of the fruit,” Wallace said. “Orange wine is usually heavier, it’s more dense, more tannic, more mouth-filling.”

The method of fermenting grapes meant for white wine with their skins on originated as a peasant tradition in the Republic of Georgia, a small country nestled between Europe and Asia, thousands of years ago. 

Today, not much has changed about the method. At Wallace’s winery the grapes for orange wine are crushed by foot, like they were centuries ago.

“A lot of people would say this is crazy, this is ridiculous. But they’re making much larger quantities of wines,” Wallace said. The batch he was working on would make 600 bottles.

He added that the non-automated process is the “magic” of it.

After the grapes are stomped and drained, a press squeezes out the last bit of juice coming out. 

Dirty and Rowdy’s 2018 skin-fermented semillon was named one of the best orange wine in the world.

The best pairing? Wallace said it’s “an empty glass.”

“I think that’s the beautiful thing, it’s so versatile. Like, you have this with scallops, and it kills it, because it gives you that incredible acidity but we also have just enough tannin to work,” Wallace said. “You take this and have like, a thing of chips and salsa, and you’ll have a good night.” 

Sam Stoppelmoor, wine director at Compagnie Des Vins Surnaturels in New York, said orange wine’s new prominence on the world stage is rare, but not unheard of.

“I think you’re seeing this trend of like, these rustic kind of local styles, being like, ‘Oh, there’s a reason they’ve done this for thousands of years. They are actually very delicious,'” Stoppelmoor explained.

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