Hey guys, I hope you had a fantastic week!
I was wandering what to write about and I though a deep dive over orange wines was due by now. This style of wine is becoming increasingly popular over the last few years as more and more producers (natural and conventional) are capitalizing on the trend. But what it is? And why is becoming so popular?
Well, let's start with some history and explanation. Orange wines, or macerated white wines, are wines that are produced by leaving the grape skins in contact with the juice for a longer period of time, going from few days to few weeks and months. Basically these are white wines made like red wines (from a winemaking technique perspective).
There are few regions worldwide where this style of wine has been traditionally produced over the centuries. One of the pioneer and best examples are to be found in Georgia, home of orange wines made in amphora.
In Italy for example are white wines made in Friuli (North-East corner, bordering Slovenia). Here the so called "macerati friulani" are a very typical stile to look for. Generally are made with indigenous grape varieties like Friulano, Malvasia and Ribolla Gialla. Very interesting and complex white wines, mineral and bright, with a long ageing potential.
But what happens during maceration/skin contact? Well, imagine wine at this stage like brewing tea. The longer the teabag is in the cup, the more extraction, therefore flavor and body, will be in your final beverage. Same as in tea, during maceration, we can extract from the grapes not only the aromatic compounds and color present on the skin, but also a bunch of other particles, like poliphenoles just mention one.
So, during the maceration, the wines goes from white to orange, and from light body to heavier body. But like in tea, the longer doesn't mean the better, as a excessive extraction will generate and unbalanced and bitter wine. And we don't want that.
One last thing that I want to point out is the fact that during this time so many microbiological processes are occurring. This means that it is mandatory to start the maceration with extremely healthy material and monitor it with a very close eye. It is very easy to generate off flavours (like volatile acidity) and spoil the wine.
But when everything goes as planned, you will treat yourself with a wine that has so many layers of flavor, that is just a discovery every single time. In addition to that these wine are often lower in sulphur as the poliphenoles extracted during the maceration act as preservative for the wine.
Cheers to that!