Make room rosé. Time to meet your new bff, orange wine. This trendy wine has largely been flying under the radar in restaurants and wine bars across the country, from wood-burning pizzerias in Brooklyn to swanky eateries in L.A. Orange vino has been a pet project among some of the more crafty, avant garde producers out there, but truth-be-told, it’s actually a throwback to old-world wine making techniques. What’s old is always new again. Like meditation. And mom jeans.
So, let’s take a sip. First thing’s first: Orange wine is not made from orange grapes (do those exist?) or oranges (as in the Florida variety). Frequently referred to as “skin contact” wines, the flesh of the white grapes is left in contact with the skins during production. It’s a white wine produced like a red, so think of it as a crisp white with red vibes—higher tannins and acidity. Some are more approachable than others, so try a few before choosing a favorite. Your local wine merchant can definitely help you out there, and we also received a few stellar recommendations from our friends at Corkbuzz, so ask for these if you’re unsure: Vinatigo Ancestrales Gual ’16 – Canary Islands, Three Foxes Clairette Blanche ’13 – Wellington South Africa, Red Hook Element Sauvignon Blanc Blend ’15 -North Fork of Long Island, New York.
Our favorite thing about orange wine, though, is its ability to stand up to a variety of powerful dishes. While you wouldn’t normally pair a white with a steak, give orange a spot in the game. Needless to say, any friend of food is a friend of ours.
Great for transitioning from summer to autumn, orange wines can carry you all the way through winter. We love our rosé, but after Labor Day, it just makes us sad that summer is over. Try it with these pork chops, or maybe a nice bibimbap. Orange wine is so versatile, it can hold up to all the bold ingredients. If it’s a warm day, serve it slightly chilled. As the weather cools, serve it at room temperature. Either way, you’re about to seriously up your wine game.
If you’re hoping to taste orange wine in its true habitat, we have a few verified vineyard recommendations for you. They are all natural wine makers, inspired by the ground beneath them and traditional wine making—resulting in flavors that are rich, unfiltered, and totally tangy. Hot tip: If (when) you begin your travels, keep your eye out for osmiza, farmhouses in the Carso region along the Italian/ Slovenian border that open briefly as wine pop-ups. You’ll see a cluster of branches hanging on the door, indicating the place is open for visitors. Okay, go book your flights.
Photos courtesy of Plated’s VP of Loyalty Marketing, Jean Bartels. She really loves orange wine.
Giorgio Clai has been working in wine for 15 years, starting from a tiny cellar, learning expert maceration techniques, and eventually working with larger barrels to keep the taste of the sediment evenly distributed in the wine. With three hectares of olive trees and eight hectares of vineyards, he produces six different wines from three grapes—the Malvasia Istriana grape is a definite favorite. As for the wine itself, the Ottocento is a great place to start. If you’re feeling more experimental, the Sv. Jakov is definitely more complicated. (Jean loved the Sv. Jakov so much she didn’t wait for them to put a label on it before taking it home with her.)
Fun fact: Giorgio is all about tradition. Once, he even tried to press his grapes a la I Love Lucy—with his hands and feet. It didn’t work out.
Gravner, Italian/ Slovenian Border
Josko Gravner has been working his vineyards for over 40 years, and currently has 18 hectares under vine, with eventual plans for 25. He follows an ancient wine-producing technique using amphorae, fermenting grapes in large, Georgian clay pots for the highest possible quality. Our recs: The 2008 Venezia Giulia Bianca Breg (the aggressive one), the 2009 Ribola (the elegant one).
Fun fact: Using amphorae is actually quite risky. The pots are very tall, but only two centimeters thick. During creation and shipment of said pots, about 50% break. Gravner also uses his own specially designed glasses (pictured above), as an ode to how wine was traditionally tasted.
In a small, small town in the village of Gorjankso, the Čotar (pronounced Chotar) family first began producing wine for their restaurant. When visiting this vineyard, you’ll be welcomed in like family, encouraged to enjoy freshly sliced charcuterie alongside seven or more delicious wines. Try the Malvasia here—it’s a wonderful expression of a typical orange wine, or the Vitovska which has a deeper orange color and drier finish.
Fun fact: An exciting discovery was a Crno wine from the Teran grape. It’s often called “a glass of black,” due to its deep purple, inky coloring. Also, it’s delicious. Lastly, keep an eye out for the white-haired Sr. Čotar as he tools around on his Vespa.