Slowly making their mark in the wine mainstream, the so-called orange wines have become the favourite treat of many avant-garde sommeliers and wine cognoscenti.
Orange wines are made with the same techniques and methods used for red wines, but grape skins are left in contact with the must for a longer period of time in clay vessels. This prolonged maceration is what gives these wines their deep yellow, amber colour.
Italian producers have contributed boosting the popularity of this new type of wine. The bulk of Italian orange wines are made in north-eastern Italy along the border of Slovenia in Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Here an array orange wines are made with indigenous grapes of the region including Sauvignon Vert (Friulano), Ribolla Gialla and Pinot Grigio.
In the early nineties, a group of Friulian producers called the school of Oslavia decided to join forces to help rescue native Friulian grape varieties. They rediscovered local varietals such as Ribolla Gialla and revived traditional winemaking techniques tied with the production of orange wines. The producers from the school of Oslavia included: Dario Princic (Princic), Nicolo Bensa (La Castellada), Silvan Primosic (Primosic), Rinaldo Fiegel (Fiegel), Stanko Radikon (Radikon) and Franco Sosol (Il Carpino).
3 types orange wine
Their manifesto includes ecological principles aimed at respecting their land/terroir and indigenous grape varieties. It promotes harvesting healthy grapes, using strictly indigenous yeasts and a minimal use of sulphites during vinification. Finally, the winemaking process must follow a prolonged skin contact during maceration to extract the desired colour, tannins and extra mineral components.
Italy, alongside Georgia and Slovenia, has become a specialist of orange wines. From its birthplace in Friuli, this technique has spread quickly to other wine regions of the country such as Emilia-Romagna and Sicily. Some of the best producers include La Stoppa (Emilia-Romagna), Foradori (Trento) and COS (Sicily).
Orange wines match well with food that is normally difficult to pair with such as Italian aged cheeses like Parmigiano or Pecorino Sardo. They also work well along dishes that include cured ingredients like anchovies and cured olives.