La vie en orange, translates roughly to “the Orange life” which basically summarizes my journey with orange wines thus far. Every chance I’ve been given, I’m trying out new and different orange wines imported from all over the world. I’m quickly finding that most of them don’t come with a users’ manual. Many people are confused on the best ways to showcase these wines. What’s the best serving temperature? Is a decant needed? What would be a desirable food pairing?
I’ve been sent so many questions like the ones above. Given my innately inquisitive nature, I had to dive in and find out for myself!
What I’ve ultimately found: The answer to these questions can vary greatly and are on a case by case basis given the unique qualities of the wine in question. However, a few commonalities exist that I find to be pretty solid guidelines. Here are my top 5 orange wine tips so you too can la vie en orange.
Tip #1: Invest in a decanter.
Because orange wines have tannins like red wines, more times than not, it’s beneficial to decant them. You could start with 15 minutes, even go as long as an hour or more. However, always take your personal preferences in to mind. I always do a first impressions tasting to see if the wine is tasting a little “tight.” Usually, Orange wines need to breathe in order to express their full potential. If you’re not terribly familiar with decanting, I did a YouTube video on the basics. You can view it Here.
Tip #2: Don’t serve your orange wine too cold or too warm.
Orange wines don’t fully express themselves when they’re very chilled like champagne. Many of the flavors, aromas, and nuances can be muted. Some showcase very well with a light chill, while others serve best at room temperature (which actually means between 15 °C (59 °F) and 18 °C (64 °F). When I’m trying out a new wine, I like to start with it chilled and gradually let my wine come to room temperature, tasting it periodically. Yes, a little experimentation is involved. However, this way you know best for next time.
Tip #3: Take a peek at Tech Sheets
Reputable importers will usually have tech sheets available online. Typically, I start by typing the name of the wine (ie, Radikon or Gravner) followed by “tech sheet” in the Google inquiry box. This will tell you all about the particular wine you’re interested in. Tech sheets are full of really great information like: How long was the skin contact period? The fermentation length, type of yeasts used, oaked or amphora, etc. If you’re lucky, there might even be ideal serving temperatures listed or food pairing suggestions. It’s actually a great piece of information for any wine!
Tip #4: Don’t drink orange wine if you’re just going to chug it
I’m sorry, was that bitchy? But in all seriousness, you chug wines like rosé for a reason: Not too complex, usually mass produced, not a lot to think about; it’s what I like to call easy wine (and sometimes the mood calls for it)! Orange wine is a thinking man’s wine. There’s complexity, intrigue, and elements not found in mass produced wines. Take your time, enjoy the experience, orange wines are living works of art. These wines are made by wine makers who have decided to go against the norms of modern wine making. They’ve made the decision to return to old methods (like 8,000 years old) of low intervention wine making. This is wine that takes time and patience to produce. What is old is new, what is new is old.
Tip #5: Try as many different orange wines as you can
I feel this last tip goes without saying, but if you need permission consider it granted: Drink more orange wine. Orange wine isn’t a one size fits all. It’s not a predictable product that will be the same year after year. It’s made all over the world by different people and in different places. There are so many variables to consider: different grapes, different fermentation methods, yeasts, and of course, let’s not forget about the terrior. The terrior is really the most interesting aspect of these wines because it influences so much. I’ve tried wines where I could taste the earth in all its beauty, smell the flowers that grew in between the trellises, and feel the sunshine on my face. When you try a wine like that, you’ll never forget it. Keep trying new wines, keep experimenting, the journey is more than half the fun.
Amanda Claire Goodwin