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We now have four categories of wine - red, white, rosé and orange. Orange wines have a long history of being made and are basically white wines that are made like red wines, meaning the wines spend time on the skins, where they impart color. But many people think of orange wines as those sour beer-like wines that are nothing like what we think of wine. However, not all orange wines are beer-like and many producers are making skin-contact white wines in order to enhance the texture of the wine. I wrote about some of these wines in the Napa Valley Register, which I am sharing here. It used to be an easy choice — do you want red wine or white wine? Then rosé grew in popularity and the choice was between red, white or rosé? But now, more and more, restaurants have a new section on the wine list offering orange wines, also called amber wine.
Orange wines are made like red wines. When we make red wines, the color comes from the skins. For rosé wines, the time the grapes spend on the skin is less than for red wines, resulting in a lighter red shade, or pink, wine. Orange wines are made from white wine grapes where the skins are kept on for hours, days, weeks or months, resulting in wines with orange or amber hues.
Of course when you think about the Willamette Valley in Oregon, you likely think of it as a land of Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir definitely reigns in the region and as a likely partner, Chardonnay is also planted and well-regarded in the Willamette Valley. But, the Willamette Valley is far more diverse than you might think it is and there are a number of producers who are working with other grape varieties and these grapes are well-suited to the region. I explored some of these grapes in my column in the Napa Valley Register, which you can read here.
Say ‘Napa’ and people think Cabernet Sauvignon. Say ‘Burgundy’ and people think Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Say ‘Piedmont’ and people think Nebbiolo. Say ‘Oregon’ and people think Pinot Noir.
It is easy to think of the Willamette Valley in Oregon as one large Pinot Noir-producing region. After all, of the 24,436 acres* of vineyards, 16,536 acres* are planted to Pinot Noir. At the same time Pinot Noir was planted in the 1970s, Chardonnay was also planted. The Willamette Valley shares the same latitude as Burgundy, so it makes sense that if Pinot Noir is suited for the Willamette Valley, so is Chardonnay. However, there are only 1,941 acres* planted to Chardonnay.