3 orange wines to try now

Orange wine has a reputation for being weird and funky. If you’re not a wine person, you might not know what the style is, and strangeness can cause distrust.

“There’s a misconception about orange wine,” said Alisha Blackwell-Calvert, certified sommelier and Reeds American Table beverage director. “Believe it or not, a lot of people think that orange wine is made from oranges. So, that’s the first hurdle – orange wine is made from grapes.”

Whether it’s because no one wants a chemistry lesson when they’re just trying to order a drink or we’ve been made to feel stupid by snotty oenophiles, we don’t ask enough questions when it comes to wine. Even winos don’t all know that the color of wine comes from grape skins, not juice.

Orange wines come from white grapes made in a red style, meaning they’re fermented with the skins. Think of super light rosés – that translucent, faint pink is made with red grapes but limited skin contact. It’s skin contact that makes reds red, rosés pink, whites (fermented without grape skins) white and orange wines – you get the idea.

With skin contact comes more tannins, a bigger body and that carroty color. Many different varietals and different amounts of time with the grape skins make for a whole spectrum of color and character. These wines vary from bottles that totally pass as whites (perhaps with a deeper golden tinge and a mysterious, soulful gravitas) to wild, tannic natural wines that look like Sunkist.

We asked Blackwell-Calvert to recommend an all-orange rainbow that shows how diverse the style can be.

1. 2011 Edi Simčič Sauvignon
Medium straw in color, this Slovenian orange looks and tastes like a white wine. “It’s a great place to start for people who are just getting into skin contact,” Blackwell-Calvert said. “You get all those aromatic notes people really like about sauvignon blanc – the acid is there, the fruit is there – but because of that extended skin contact, it has a rich, voluptuous body and creamy mouth feel.”

2. 2017 Cacique Maravilla Vino Naranja
“This is an orange wine that actually tastes like oranges,” Blackwell-Calvert said. The unfiltered Chilean bottle is made from moscatel grapes (a relative of moscato) and has a cloudy, pale orange color. If you like sour beers, Blackwell-Calvert said you’ll enjoy sipping on this citrusy, floral glass.

3. 2013 Cradle of Wine Gogi’s Wine
“This is a really good example of true, traditional orange wine,” Blackwell-Calvert said. It comes from the country of Georgia, which has the oldest winemaking tradition in the world and, like Slovenia and northern Italy, is known for extended skin-contact wines. “It’s an intense wine – not for the faint of heart,” Blackwell-Calvert said. “It’s nutty – there’s not a whole lot of fruit – but it still has a lot of acidity that makes it great with food. This one definitely needs food.”

All bottles available at Reeds American Table in Maplewood

Heather Hughes is managing editor at Sauce Magazine.