So-called orange wine is a new trend but an old style

October 16, 2021

I’ve been on COVID restriction the past 14 days. It appears my two vaccine shots worked well enough to relegate symptoms to those of a mild case of flu or allergies. I only chose testing, just in case, because it was easy to achieve and I did not wish to infect others. So far, none with whom I was in contact have shown symptoms, and the time for transmittal has elapsed. DE Health contacted me, very nice and efficient folks. I learned the infection rates are ramping back up in our area. I have worn a mask in public over 1.5 years by choice. My choice. It saddens me that the info stream has been so convoluted causing so much angst in our community. I’m not offering anyone advice other than wine and cooking, but here is the recent report card FYI:

Jeanette emailed, “What about ‘Orange wine,’ McD? Try to stay current. It is very popular.” OK! So-called “orange wine” has captured the “utes,” most of whom think it is something new. Truth be told, it may be one of the oldest-known wines, dating back several thousand years to Georgia, a USSR satellite in the Caucasus until gaining its independence in the ‘90s. Orange wine, better described as a style of winemaking, is named from its color, not the tangy orange fruit. It is made by fermenting and aging the juice of white grapes with their skins in a large clay, ceramic or cement vessel called a “Qvevri” (kev-ree). It can be produced using any white varietal grape and runs the gamut from sweet to very dry. With tannin similar to red wine because the grapes are fermented whole and remain in the Qvevri for several days to months, this product may have sour characteristics like fruit beer. Some aromas that may be detected are: jackfruit, honey, hazelnut, Brazil nut, bruised apple, wood varnish, linseed oil, juniper, sourdough, and dried orange rind. Due to this very wide range of possibilities, writing “orange wine” is akin to writing white or red wine and only describes color. I prefer the Italian word Ramato, which is associated with pinot grigio made in this style and closer to auburn or amber to describe the color of many orange wines.

Another FYI – it is likely Georgians initially produced wine, fermenting it in large clay pots named amphorae by the Greeks and Romans but originally known as Qvevri. Several ancient historians claim Noah planted the first Rkatsiteli seeds. I’ll leave that up to you. Archaeologists verified finding these seeds in pottery dated 3000 BCE. Archaeologists have also identified implements used in wine production dating back roughly 8,000 years in Georgia; to date these are the oldest such equipment identified. It is equally likely the process was discovered accidentally as the result of improperly stored grapes. Those who wish to truly sample the best by reputation can look for Teliani Valley JSC Glekhuri Rkatsiteli Qvevri 2019, which won best of show 96/100. Another from Georgia is Pheasants Tears Rkatsiteli 2019, $21, 90 McD, mixed bouquet of fresh honey, walnuts, apple peel, peach and dried apricots riding an acid-bright, tannic palate.

After driving yourselves and your local wine store pal crazy, you can fall back on Field Recordings Skins from California around $20; the 2018, ‘19 and ‘20 rated 90 McD. J. Robinson gave the 2018 17.5; it’s ready 2020-25. A fine entry-level wine. During the modern era, most production occurs in Northeastern Italy and Slovenia, but as the trend has accelerated, many domestic producers are jumping aboard. Let me remind all that orange wine can be made from any white grape. Following are some domestic names that are well received: Wrath ex Dolio Falaghina Monterey, CA, 90 points; Folktale NV the Lion for Real Skin Fermented White Monterey, $30, 88 McD; Donkey and Goat Pinot Gris Ramato Filigree Farm, Anderson Valley, 2018, $30, has been 90 McD annually since 2015. Finally, how about one from Surrey, England? Litmus Bacchus Orange 2019, $22, 91 McD is made of 90% Bacchus fermented 18 weeks on skins and 10% PN, no skin contact. Enticing bouquet of grapefruit, tangerine, marzipan and fennel evolves to vanilla, pepper and fruit on a crisp, dry frame.

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