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What is Orange Wine? History, Types, and Producers

Everything you need to know about this modern type of wine

Orange wine has been gaining popularity in recent years, captivating the attention of wine enthusiasts and casual drinkers alike.

Contrary to what its name might suggest, orange wine is not made from oranges, but rather from white grapes. The unique production methods used in making orange wine result in a deep orange hue, diverse flavor profiles, and potential health benefits.

In order to create orange wine, white grapes are mashed and left in contact with their skins and seeds during the fermentation process. By allowing the grape skins to remain in contact with the wine, orange wines are able to acquire their distinctive color and an array of complex flavors and aromas.

The production of orange wine has roots in ancient winemaking traditions, but its resurgence in modern times has brought with it a fresh sense of excitement and intrigue.

Whether you’re a seasoned wine connoisseur or simply looking to try something new, orange wine offers an opportunity to explore an unconventional side of winemaking that may pleasantly surprise your palate.

What Is Orange Wine?

Orange wine is a type of white wine made by leaving the grape skins and seeds in contact with the juice, resulting in a deep orange hue.

This distinct winemaking process sets it apart from traditional whites and gives it unique characteristics in terms of taste and nutritional content.

In the production of orange wine, white grapes are used as the primary ingredient. The grapes are mashed and placed in a large vessel, typically made of cement or ceramic. It is during this process that the skin and seeds are left in contact with the juice, causing the distinctive coloration and attributes of the final product.

The fermentation process for orange wine is quite similar to that of red wine.

The grape skins, seeds, and juice are allowed to mix together, typically for an extended period of time.

This extra contact with the grape skins not only imbues the wine with a vibrant orange hue but also enhances the wine’s flavor profile, making it more robust and complex than standard white wines.

Due to its unique production method, orange wine brings together qualities of both red and white wines.

It boasts the rich, full-bodied nature of reds along with the refreshing and crisp characteristics of whites. Some common tasting notes include bruised fruit and jackfruit, adding to the overall intrigue of this lesser-known wine variety.

History and Origins

Orange wine can be traced back thousands of years to the ancient winemaking traditions of Georgia.

Georgia is considered to be one of the world’s oldest wine-producing regions, with archaeological evidence of winemaking dating back over 8,000 years.

The traditional Georgian method, which is still in use today, involves fermenting white grapes with their skins in large, egg-shaped clay vessels called qvevri, which are buried in the ground during the fermentation process. This contact with the grape skins gives the wine its characteristic amber or orange hue.

In the modern era, the term “orange wine” was coined by British wine importer David A. Harvey in 2004.

While the ancient origins of orange wine lie in Georgia, its popularity has spread across the globe, with many winemakers in countries such as Italy, Slovenia, and the United States now producing their own versions of orange wine using both traditional and contemporary methods.

Orange wine’s ancient origins and strong ties to winemaking traditions, combined with its modern resurgence and global appeal, have led to its current status as a compelling and unique category within the wine world.

Key Regions and Producers

Orange wine, although an ancient winemaking technique, has seen a resurgence in popularity across regions such as Georgia, Italy, and Slovenia.

Within each of these regions, unique and talented producers are crafting these intriguing wines for a growing audience.


Georgia, known as the birthplace of wine, has been producing orange wines for over 8,000 years.

Winemakers in the country use traditional qvevri – large, clay vessels that are buried underground – for fermentation, giving the wines a distinct profile. Some prominent Georgian orange wine producers include:

  • Pheasant’s Tears
  • Iago’s Wine
  • Alaverdi Monastery


In Italy, the orange wine movement was popularized by winemaker Josko Gravner who first attempted an orange wine in 1997.

Key Italian regions for orange wines include Friuli-Venezia Giulia, where indigenous grapes such as Sauvignon Vert (Friulano), Ribolla Gialla, and Pinot Grigio are used. Some notable Italian orange wine producers are:

  • Josko Gravner
  • Radikon
  • Stanko Radikon


Slovenia, located just across the border from Italy’s Friuli region, shares its winemaking traditions and styles.

Slovenian winemakers are known to produce orange wines with exciting flavors and textures, often using biodynamic practices. Popular Slovenian orange wine producers include:

  • Simcic
  • Movia
  • Klabjan

Orange Wine Varieties

Orange wine, a unique and flavorful beverage, is made from white wine grapes that are left in contact with their skins during the fermentation process.

This contact with the skins imparts the characteristic amber or copper hue and adds complexity to the final product. In this section, we will explore the different grapes used and the distinct styles of orange wine that can be found.

The variety of white grapes used in making orange wine is vast, allowing for a wide range of flavors and styles. Some of the more common grapes include Ribolla Gialla, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and Rkatsiteli. The terroir and winemaking techniques also play a role in the final flavor profile.

As the grape variety can greatly influence the wine’s characteristics, they can be grouped into three general styles:

  • Light and Fresh: These wines are generally made using shorter periods of skin contact and have a lighter, more approachable style. Grapes such as Sauvignon Blanc and Vermentino are well-suited for this type of wine. Expect citrus and floral notes with a touch of tannin.
  • Medium-Bodied and Complex: Wines in this category have a moderate level of skin contact, which often results in a more tannic and textured experience. Grapes like Ribolla Gialla, Malvasia, and Chardonnay are often employed here. These wines showcase flavors such as ripe lemon, apricot, and peach, with additional complexity from the skin contact.
  • Full-Bodied and Bold: Created using extended periods of skin contact, these wines display prominent tannins and deep, rich flavors. Grape varieties such as Rkatsiteli and Pinot Grigio can be found in this style. Notes of bruised orchard fruits, nuts, and spices may be present along with a profound texture on the palate.

It is important to note that the distinctions between these styles are fluid, and winemakers often employ blending or other techniques to create unique and distinct expressions of orange wine.

As such, exploring and tasting various orange wines can reveal a fascinating world of diverse flavors and textures.

Tasting Profile and Food Pairing

Orange wine is known for its unique and versatile taste profile, offering flavors that are bold and complex.

The color of these wines can range from pale amber to deep orange, with a characteristic haziness due to minimal filtration. The taste typically features elements of sourness, nuttiness, and sometimes a noticeable tannic structure, making them an intriguing option for a variety of food pairings.

When it comes to pairing orange wines with food, their bold characteristics complement a wide range of dishes.

The tannic structure and complex flavors allow them to hold up against strong, flavorful ingredients. Some of the top pairings for orange wines include:

  • Curry dishes and Moroccan cuisine: The spices and flavors in these meals harmonize with the boldness of orange wines.
  • Ethiopian cuisine: Injera, a spongy sourdough flatbread, is a great companion for the acidity and tannins found in orange wines.
  • Korean dishes with fermented kimchi: The tangy and spicy notes in kimchi complement the natural sourness in orange wines.
  • Lamb and goat: Spicy slow-cooked shoulder, kebabs, or tagines work well with orange wines due to the meat’s robust flavors.
  • Cheeses: Semi-hard and hard sheep cheeses, as well as other versatile cheeses, pair well with orange wines because of their saltiness and texture.

Given the unique and diverse taste profile of orange wines, it is essential to consider the specific characteristics of each wine when selecting a food pairing. The type and intensity of flavors in the wine should be matched with complementing dishes, ensuring a delightful culinary experience.

Serving and Storage

Orange wine, while unconventional, has unique characteristics that warrant specific serving and storage guidelines.

Like other wines, the serving temperature and proper storage are crucial in retaining the wine’s quality and enhancing the overall drinking experience.

Serving temperature can impact the wine’s flavor and complexity. Heavier, more tannic orange wines, such as those made by Radikon or Gravner, should be served close to room temperature. This allows the wine’s intricacies to come forward.

It is advised to start by serving these wines at 12°C-14°C, and gradually increase the temperature if the flavors do not seem expressive. Lighter orange wines, with fewer days of skin contact, should be served cooler, at around 10°C-12°C. This emphasizes their crisp and refreshing qualities.

When it comes to storage, orange wines should be treated similarly to other white wines. Proper wine storage guidelines include:

  • Keeping the wine bottle on its side to maintain contact between the wine and its cork, preventing the cork from drying out
  • Storing the wine in a cool, dark place, such as a cellar or climate-controlled wine fridge, maintaining a constant temperature between 10°C-15°C
  • Avoiding exposure to heat and direct sunlight, as they can damage the wine’s quality and accelerate the aging process
  • Maintaining a humidity level of 60-70% to prevent the cork from drying out and losing its elasticity

Following these serving and storage guidelines will ensure that your orange wine maintains optimal freshness and flavor, providing a satisfying tasting experience.


Orange wine, also known as skin-contact white wine or amber wine, is produced from white wine grapes with the grape skins remaining in contact with the juice for days or even months.

This process results in a deep orange hue and unique flavor profile, setting it apart from traditional white wines.

While the popularity of orange wine has risen in conjunction with the natural wine movement, it remains a niche choice for wine enthusiasts. Its distinct taste and vibrant color have made it an increasingly sought-after option in recent years.

With its unique production method and potential health benefits due to the presence of higher levels of beneficial plant compounds, orange wine offers an interesting alternative to more widely consumed white wines.

Enjoying orange wine can be a novel experience for both casual drinkers and wine connoisseurs alike.

Please drink responsibly, be fully accountable with your alcohol consumption, and show others respect.

Written by Lauren McKenna

Lauren is a soon to be Temple University graduate. Her love of travel has introduced her to food and drinks from all over the world. She provides MyBartender with a global view of all things alcohol.

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