Orange Wine. What’s ‘new’ is actually old, and more hip than ever.

Orange Wine is now one of the common colors we see in a wine glass. No longer is it “white, rose, or red” as it is now “white, orange, rose, or red”.  At the recent Orange Glou Fair in Los Angeles, I met up with a handful of winemakers making skin-contact wines here in California and asked them what they love about these wines. I wrote about it in a story entitled “The cool kids drink it. Why should you? for Men’s Journal and share it here.

Orange Wine. What’s 'new' is actually old, and more hip than ever.

Five to ten years ago, rosé wine was all the rage. Sales were growing at double-digit rates and everywhere you went, people asked for a glass of beautiful cotton candy or ballet slipper-colored wine. Rosé wine has not gone out of style, but today it is orange wine that is all the rage.

While “orange wine” was a relatively unknown wine style ten years ago, it is not a new concept. “Orange wines” or “amber wines” or “skin contact wines” have been produced for thousands of years. Orange wine was invented in the Republic of Georgia 8000 years ago. Forty years ago, Italian producers Gravner and Radikon began experimenting with this winemaking style. Orange wines are at home in the natural wine movement and today winemakers around the world are producing orange wines.

What Is Orange Wine?

The juice of most wine grapes is clear. Wines get their color from the skins. If the juice of a red-skinned grape is left on the skins for a long time, you get red wine and if the juice spends very little time (one hour to 2 days) on the skins, you get rosé wines. For white wines, the grapes are immediately pressed and the resulting color is a clear pale yellow. But when you leave the skins with the white wine juice, you get orange wine. Orange wine is made from white grapes that macerate on the skins for a few hours up to a year.

Why Drink Orange Wine?

At the Orange Glou Fair in Los Angeles—created by Doreen Winkler, Founder of Orange Glou, an orange wine club and retail store in New York—I spoke with nine California producers who feature orange wines in their portfolios. I asked them what they enjoy about making orange wines.

Ardure Wines

Orange Wine. What’s 'new' is actually old, and more hip than ever.

Based in northern California, owner and winemaker Jason Ruppert started Ardure Wines in 2018. He makes four skin-contact wines, including LaCrosse and Hybrid Series (Brianna and La Crosse) from hybrid grapes, as well as “DANG” Pet Nat and Ancestor Series from Muscat Cannelli. All his wines have at least one day and up to 10 days of skin contact. “The skins have so much to add,” he said. “They add tannins and phenolics and give the wine ‘umpf’.”

Los Pilares

Orange Wine. What’s 'new' is actually old, and more hip than ever.

Since 2010, Los Pilares has been showcasing the terroir of San Diego’s backcountry and mountains. Their first skin-contact wine was a Muscat Pet Nat in 2013 and now they make three skin-contact wines – “Nakoa” Falanghina, Stage Name “Amber” (Falanghina and Sangiovese), and “LaDonna” Frizzante (Muscat). Co-owner Michael Christian likes the idea of using the entire grape and loves the texture and tannins you get from skin contact.

Disko Wines

Orange Wine. What’s 'new' is actually old, and more hip than ever.

Disko Wines, owned by winemaker Sean Hogan, embraces a natural wine approach to grapes from Santa Barbara County. He liked the aromatics of skin-contact wines he had tasted but felt they lacked acidity. So, he set out to make orange wines with acidity. His wines, like “Flower Power” (Muscat Cannelli and Gruner Veltliner) and Skin Contact Pet-Nat from Albariño, are refreshing, aromatic, daytime wines with high acidity. In addition, Sean said that skin contact “adds a whole layer of complexity on the palate. It softens the wine a bit and adds aromatics to already aromatic varieties.”

Two Shepherds

Orange Wine. What’s 'new' is actually old, and more hip than ever.

At Two Shepherds in Sonoma County, William Allen and Karen Daenen are all about working with uncommon varieties and making the type of wines they want to drink. William started making skin-contact orange wines in 2011 with 12 cases of his Centime wine. Centime has been made with Grenache Blanc, Vermentino, or as a blend of Albariño, Picpoul, and Vermentino and he now makes 600 cases of orange wine. Two Shepherds is the only California winery to also make three grey-skinned skin contact wines from Pinot Gris, Trousseau Gris, and Grenache Gris. For William, he finds that with skin-contact wines, you “actually taste the grapes.” In addition, he added that “orange wines are food friendly, but they do not demand food” to be enjoyed.

Donkey & Goat

Orange Wine. What’s 'new' is actually old, and more hip than ever.

Donkey & Goat, established in 2004, was Berkeley’s first natural winery and one of California’s orange wine pioneers. They made their first skin contact Roussanne in 2007 and today not only make the “Stone Crusher” Roussanne, which spends 14 days on the skins, but also skin contact Grenache Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Marsanne, and Vermentino. In addition, founding winemaker and co-owner Jared Brandt makes three Pinot Gris wines each with 5-day skin contact, as a Pet Nat, from free run juice, and from pressed juice. For Jared, orange wines are “fun, giving different flavors and slight variations.”

AmByth Estate

Orange Wine. What’s 'new' is actually old, and more hip than ever.

Paso Robles’ first Demeter Certified Biodynamic winery, AmByth was started in 2006 by Phillip Hart. Eleven years ago, Phillip’s son Gelert and his wife Robyn took over. AmByth has been making skin contact wine before it was cool. Robyn shared that with their dry-farmed Rhone varieties, “even a small amount of extraction gives you a big expression.” They use skin contact on their Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and “Decorus” blend of Viognier, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc, and Roussanne.


Orange Wine. What’s 'new' is actually old, and more hip than ever.

Winemaker Scott Sampler is one of the world’s most unconventional winemakers. With his three labels, Central Coast Group Project, L’Arge d’Oor, and Scotty-Boy!, each has its own personality but is made with long periods of skin contact. For example, Scotty-Boy! “Uno Numero” is a blend of Viognier which spends 42 days on skins, Chardonnay which spends 183 days on skins, and Grenache Blanc which spends 48 days on skins. There is also Scotty-Boy! “Love The Hand That Klongs You” Riesling and the “Klongbursts & Fizz Fuzz” Pinot Gris Pet Nat are both described by Scott as “porch pounders.” For Scott, skin contact gives the wines “aromatic complexity, depth, and age-ability” and he also “likes the grip.” This is obvious as he has yet to release a traditional white wine.

Tinto Amorio

Orange Wine. What’s 'new' is actually old, and more hip than ever.

Anish Patel is new to the wine industry but since his first vintage in 2021, he has focused exclusively on skin-contact orange wines and carbonic red wines. He produces two skin contact wines, the 7-day skin contact Monje (Colombard, Gewurtztraminer, Zinfandel, Albariño) and the 24-day skin contact Bheeyo (Colombard, Gewurtztraminer, Zinfandel, Albariño). In the end, Anish “makes wines my friends and I drink” and what he likes is that the wines “have structure but are fun and easy. Just two weeks of skin contact can make a huge difference” in the final wine and that is why “it is fun to play with.”

Ryme Cellars

Orange Wine. What’s 'new' is actually old, and more hip than ever.

Producing wines with distinctive character, Ryme Cellars was started by Ryan and Megan Glaab in 2007. Sourcing from organic or sustainably farmed vineyards, they work with varieties that are rare and unusual, including many Italian grapes. They started making orange wines in 2009 and today have skin contact wines made from Fiano, Greco, Vermentino, and Ribolla Gialla. For Ryan, orange wine is “a category I love drinking. The wines have texture and depth and offer a different experience than white wine.” He added that “Vermentino as a white wine is clean and fresh. With red wines, we know the magic comes from the skins. So when you add the skins to Vermentino, it gives you a different perception.”

Looking for wines that are fun and different with texture and body, try orange wines. The “cool kids” drink them, and so should you.

Read the original story in Men’s Journal.