Unlike Visciolata or Perry, Orange Wine is not made from oranges – but you already knew this didn’t you? In fact, the name derives from the colour of the wine. However, this is somewhat misleading since the colour varies according to an array of factors: the length of contact with the peels, the material of the container – whether it is made of clay, cement, wood, etc. – in which the vinification occurs, the intrinsic characteristics of the grape and so on. Overall, the colour of the wine can actually vary from a pale yellow to a rusty colour. Therefore, it is often referred to as “skin contact”. As a matter of fact, that is precisely what it is: a white grape wine for which the skins have not been removed and which therefore extracts more colour pigments and the tannins which are absent in white wine. “I find the name ‘orange’ shows little respect towards macerated wines, which are the result of complex procedures in which colour is of little importance, as demonstrated by the wines that undergo long maceration and remain pale yellow and those who undergo a maceration process of a couple of days and turns amber,” says Sandro Sangiorgi, the founder of Pathos, an established voice in natural wines. “The maceration on the skins for whites is a very ancient practice, all white wines underwent this before the invention of soft presses capable of having the must without the extraction of colour. For about fifteen years now, maceration has been reintroduced for natural wines in order to favour spontaneous fermentation, nevertheless an identical opportunity is now also achievable from the free-run must of soft pressings.
In Italy, macerated wines have been born again on the roots of Georgian tradition. This is mainly thanks to Josko Gravner, a follower of Steiner’s holistic philosophy who twenty years ago decided, against all trends at the time, to vinify grapes according to a millenary tradition in Georgia. From Georgia he imported qvevri, large terracotta vessels which are buried in order to limit temperature changes, allowing for a spontaneous vinification process which is not overly dependent on technologies, keeps the grapes rigorously and naturally healthy and does not compromise the final product. Granaver’s wines are now iconic and the benchmark product for macerated wines, and many of his disciples are getting Italian macerated wines known across the world. “Unfortunately, there are interpretations which depart from the natural predisposition of this method which are used by those who want to partake in this trend and have no concern for its nature,” warns Sandro Sangiorgi.
Initially it was exclusively for wine geeks; today is it being referred to as the wine of millennials. It represents them: it’s nonconformist, it’s never easy to interpret and it is complex, it’s at times naked in its imperfections, prone to change and provocative. It’s definitely not a Coco Chanel of wine, nor is it a Zara. Rather, it’s an article of identifying design for a niche which is aware of the unique experience that wearing it represents. And this is why, even though “orange wine” is not a phenomenon of recent years, we are here presenting it as a trend for the new year: it’s an “experience wine” which will fill your evenings with meaning.