AKA “orange wine.” I recently spoke to a veteran winemaker who suspects that the next winemaking ‘trend’ will be orange wine. Orange wine is made with wine grapes traditionally used to make white wine (like Pinot Grigio, Semillon, or Riesling) but it’s made in the way red wine is traditionally made — with skin contact.
For those unfamiliar with the difference between white and red winemaking, to break it down (very) simply: When white wine grapes are harvested they are immediately pressed to extract its juices, eliminating skins, seeds, and other unwanted plant material, and begin the winemaking process straightaway. With red wine grapes, after harvested they are left to macerate, maintaining contact with those skins and seeds (which gives the wine its red color and tannic texture), before being pressed off for aging.
So with orange wine, the white grape maintains skin contact for a certain amount of time. Thus, depending on the grape variety and winemakers preference, a traditionally white wine can be anywhere from a deep yellow to an almost red color like this one. Texturally, it can be a light, delicate texture as you’d expect from a white wine that saw a bit of new oak, or completely drying as with a hearty red wine. Aroma and flavor wise? Oh that’s when it gets really interesting…
Flavor Profile: More of a blood orange than an orange wine in the glass — but either way this is not what one expects when hearing the words ‘Pinot Grigio.’ Aromas are of red apple, pink roses, wild strawberries, bing cherries, a strong dose of vanilla, and, yes, blood orange. The palate is full, round, soft, with just a kiss of texture. The dominant flavor, at the risk of repeating, is of blood orange. But there’s also red pear, a pink lemonade-like citrus, rose petal, lime leaf, and an aftertaste reminiscent of dried apple rings. There’s an absolute wildness to this wine: the wildness of the vine, the freshness of the harvest — it’s as if you’re snacking on the grapes straight from the bin as they travel from vineyard to winery and are slowly, gently warmed by the rising sun.
Food Pairing: Oh this wine is such fun to sip on its own. If you’re a wine (nerd) enthusiast, you’re going to love just swirling and sipping, sipping and swishing, figuring out all the aromas, flavors, and textures to this wine. I’ve had a few orange wines in the past and I find that some of them are so funky that they either can’t be paired with food, or the food pairing has to be extremely specific. Not so here with Passaggio. This skin fermented Pinot Grigio is quite food friendly. The first night I enjoyed this wine, I paired it with a vegan/plant based pizza topped with eggplant, mushroom, tomato sauce, olives, and seasoned with nutritional yeast. Yeah, no picture of that, sorry—I kind of devoured it.
I honestly couldn’t believe that I had wine left over in the bottle—I thought for sure, between my partner and me, that wine would be gone. But we showed restraint and I was able to enjoy the orange wine a second night with a veggie burger and salad (pictured faintly in the background here).
Alas, it did not last past that night. But good news, it’ll be on sale soon and I definitely plan to stock up on more—this is the kind of wine you want to have in the fridge just for when you’re in the mood for it.
More Info: I received this bottle as a gift. (Cheers, Cindy!) As of this writing, this is one of the most recent release for Passaggio Wines and the bottle has not yet been priced to sell. (Release Date: May 18, 2019) For more information about Cindy, her wines, and to purchase wine directly (and stalk for the latest releases) please visit the Passaggio Wines website.
Personal Anecdote: To that winemaker who suspects that “orange is the new rosé,” I say, I certainly hope not. Simply because that means winemakers who will begin making an orange wine simply because they feel they need to have on in their portfolio to keep up with the cool kids. Nay, this type of winemaking can go horribly wrong (trust me, I’ve talked to winemakers whose experiments have gone quite sideways) and should be left to those who are going to give it time and attention and create quality wines that work with their current portfolio.
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