This story originally appeared on Coastalliving.com.
What, exactly, is orange wine?
No, it's not made from oranges, but rather from white wine grapes that have the skins left on through much of the fermenting process. Because making these wines is an ancient method only recently resurrected, they're produced in tiny quantities that sell out fast. The tasty result is a wine possessing the mouthfeel and tannins of a red combined with the minerality of a white. That unique texture and acidity make orange wine extremely versatile with food, particularly anything fatty or smoky.
Up next, four stellar orange wines to try now. Serve them slightly cool, not chilled, and preferably with a sunset in view.
How to shake up the stodgy Napa Valley wine landscape? Welcome in a former tech sales rep from Atlanta who bucks all conventional wisdom. It’s the reason winemaker Hardy Wallace gravitated to Mourvèdre instead of Cabernet or Pinot Noir when first launching his Dirty & Rowdy label. And it’s why he’s embraced Bordeaux’s second-string white grape, Semillon, and subjected it to two styles of fermentation: one part macerated on the skins in open fermenters, the other half in a concrete egg. The results? Alluringly smoky, with notes of figs and tarragon. Yountville, Napa Valley; $30.
Third generation Slovenian winemakers Teja and Andrej Erzetic have become industry leaders when it comes to orange wines’ most oxidative iteration. A pinot gris that’s exposed to air in an amphora (a clay vessel, just like the ancient Greeks and Romans used to employ), along with considerable time in wood, it’s big on chewy, full-bodied viscosity. Expect aromas of hazelnut, toasted almonds, and caramel. Sherry lovers take heed! Goriska Brda, Slovenia; $30.
Named after the Pacific fog that blankets the steep Sierra Foothill vineyards where they source their grapes, Andrea and Chris Mullineux’s Fog Monster project utilizes carbonic maceration (the whole cluster technique most closely associated with Beaujolais) in its production of chenin blanc. Compared to most other examples in the category, this is a true orange-hued wine that displays an intense nose of white peach, apricot, and spice. Amador County, California; $70.
New York winemaker James Christopher Tracy has made Gatsby country (at least Channing Daughters’ research vineyard in the North Fork) a must-visit for serious oenophiles. That can be credited to Tracy’s ways with bold, adventurous blends like his Meditazione, inspired by Italy’s so-called vino da meditazione, or meditation wine. This co-fermented and barrel-aged mix of pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc, and chardonnay (with Tocai Friulano, Muscat Ottonel and Pinot Bianco also added in) offers notes of baked apples, pears, and dried herbs. Long Island, New York; $40.