Orange wines have been polarizing the wine world for years as many have regarded them as just a hipster trend.
But these wines are far from new. In fact, they are quite possibly produced with one of the most ancient techniques for making white wine. How it works is the grapes are fermented on the skins adding the signature color and often tannins. In short, they are white wines made like reds.
Traditionally these wines were aged in clay vessels. But modern winemakers have employed barrels and concrete tanks to achieve the texture often associated with orange wines.
These pumped-up flavors and tannic wines are not everyone’s favorite but as the category has grown over the years there is plenty to explore.
Eight orange wines to look for
Yetti and the Kokonut 2018 Mt Savagnin (McLaren Vale); $35, 93 points. This is a positively fun minimal-intervention wine made from Savagnin, the Jura variety often made into vin jaune. This expression of the variety receives five days of skin contact and large helpings of Aussie sunshine. It’s vibrant buttercup in color, and aromas of pineapple, orange, honeyed nuts, hay and beeswax rush from the glass and then onto the palate, where a viscous texture is lifted by crystalline acidity. Savory and mineral, this would be a top pairing with autumnal dishes like chestnut soup or risotto. That said, it’s totally delicious on its own. Vine Street Imports. Editors’ Choice. —Christina Pickard
Tenuta Fontana 2017 Vigneti ad Alberata (Asprinio di Aversa); $33, 91 points. Nearly amber colored, this unusual but compelling wine initially has a shy nose that eventually shows dried sage, dried yellow stone fruit, citrus and flinty mineral. Vinified and aged in amphora, the smooth, almost syrupy palate also has a surprising weightless quality, offering dried apricot, mature orange zest and tangy oyster shell alongside fresh acidity. It closes on a hazelnut note. While it’s not for everyone, fans of orange wine will be impressed. Wine Twist. —Kerin O’Keefe
Biokult 2019 Naken Made With Organic Grapes White (Burgenland); $20, 92 points. Pink-hued and funky, this skin-contact orange wine brims with clementine and orange peel notes on the nose, supported by an overtone of honeysuckle. The light palate has a texture reminiscent of citrus pith and tingles with freshness, while clementine and white pepper notes are highlighted by the bone-dry nature. It is compelling and wonderfully light. Natural Merchants, Inc. —Anne Kriebiehl MW
Folktale NV The Lion For Real Skin Fermented White (Monterey County); $34, 90 points. A mustard-yellow shade in the glass, this skin-fermented, solera-style orange wine shows ripe melon, fresh tangerine and apple-juice aromas on the nose. The texture is very grippy on the sip, where apple and orange-peel flavors meet with a slight tonic element, proving rather clean. Editors’ Choice. —Matt Kettmann
Primosic 2016 Ribolla di Oslavia Riserva Ribolla Gialla (Collio); $38, 90 points. Fermented and aged in Slavonian oak, this fragrant, amber-colored wine opens with aromas of graphite, cedar, dried yellow stone fruit and saffron. The understated, structured palate shows elegance and restraint, featuring dried apricot, orange zest, saline and a sprinkling of ginger before a honeyed almond close. Fans of orange wine will love it. Massanois Imports. —K.O.K.
Wrath 2017 Ex Dolio Falanghina (Monterey); $29, 90 points. Winemaker Sabrine Rodems and proprietor/archaeologist Michael Thomas emulate Roman winemaking, with this skin-contact bottling that’s aged in a ceramic vessel. Golden yellow in the glass, the wine offers apple juice and butterscotch on the nose, with a hint of citrus. The palate shows dried citrus and bitter orange. It’s funky but enjoyable. Editors’ Choice. —M.K.
Cramele Recas 2019 Amber Natural Wine White (Romania); $25, 88 points. This Romanian orange wine is actually more golden hued in the glass, with aromas of apple juice, vanilla, apple cider vinegar and rose petal. In the mouth, it is slightly tart on the midpalate, with flavors of apple cider, vanilla, peach and nectarine. Tri-Vin Imports. —Jeff Jenssen
Bizarra Extravaganza 2019 Vino Natural Naranja Bizarra White (Uruguay); $15, 88 points. A burnished gold color and lightly oxidized aromas of spiced pumpkin and dried apricots lead to a round and pulpy palate with modest acidity. This orange wine made from Petit and Gros Manseng grapes tastes of spiced squash and bitter skins, while a chai flavor controls the finish. Cork Alliance. —Michael Schachner