Vin d’orange is a traditional Provençal aperitif made from wine, often local rosé, infused with bitter Seville oranges to delicious, easy-sipping effect. It’s an ideal way to preserve the fleeting citrus at its peak.
It’s rare to spy bitter oranges, according to David Lebovitz in his new book, Drinking French. When he sees the elusive fruit at Paris markets, “I snag ’em and put up a batch of this aperitif wine so it’s ready for spring.” The same impetus inspired Samantha Sheehan, winemaker and founder of Mommenpop vermouth, to infuse California citrus into her d’Orange bottling. She first encountered the bright-hued sipper stateside, at Berkeley, California, restaurant Chez Panisse. At the time, the legendary spot served a house-made version. Sheehan fell hard for its “marmalade characteristic,” she says, and the notion of holding onto a season.
“Wine is seasonal, citrus is seasonal,” she says. “I was excited about the idea of liquid marmalade.”
Typically a small-batch product rarely seen stateside, true vin d’orange is tough to come by for purchase. However, the following selections offer a similar flavor to sip straight or lengthen with sparkling wine.
Lillet Blanc: The fruity vibrancy of this aperitif wine often draws comparisons to vin d’orange, though its flavor skews more toward tropical fruit.
Bigallet China-China: Made with a blend of sweet and bitter orange peels, this is technically an orange amer, a bitter liqueur hailing from France that some liken to Italy’s amaro.
Martini & Rossi Fiero: This rosy-hued Italian aperitivo is made with a base of white wine infused with Spanish orange, among other botanicals. The flavor is reminiscent of juicy grapefruit.
Adapted from Drinking French: The Iconic Cocktails, Apéritifs and Café Traditions of France (Ten Speed Press, 2020), by David Lebovitz
In large glass jar, combine 2 bottles dry white or rosé wine, 1 cup vodka and ¾ cup sugar.
Cut 3 Seville (bitter) oranges, 1 sweet orange and 1 lemon into 8 pieces each. Add citrus pieces and 1 stick cinnamon to wine jar. Cover jar and shake until sugar is dissolved.
Store in cool, dark place for 1 month. Shake every few days. Use mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth to strain wine. Decant into clean bottles, and seal tightly with cork. Store in refrigerator or cool, dark place until ready to drink. Makes about 2 quarts.