The winefully Magazine
THE ORANGE WINE BETWEEN EDGES AND SYNTONIES
If we had to summarize what orange wines, or macerated wines, are, we could say they are wines produced starting from white grapes, but using the production process of reds, so keeping the skins in contact with the must. The time of this contact is variable: it can go from a few hours to several months.
There has been growing interest for some years in this type of wine, which at first glance can lead one to think of a new phenomenon. In reality, orange wines have very ancient origins, we are talking about thousands of years ago. They have always been produced in Georgia using kvevri, traditional terracotta amphorae typical of the region. This is not the only area that has a historical link with the macerated wines. The area that develops around the border between Friuli and Slovenia also has a close connection with orange wines. This geographical area, in particular, has played a fundamental role in the rediscovery of this particular production method.
In recent years much has been said about orange wines. They have often been framed as extreme wines, as the right choice when you want to try something daring, perhaps even a little difficult. In short, like difficult wines. On the one hand, this perspective has some truth to it. The presence of tannins, due to contact with the skins, gives the wine a third dimension made up of hardness and edges. Furthermore, the combination of white grapes and maceration gives the wine hints that for many may be wild, or unfamiliar. Another point: often the macerated wines, especially in the case of prolonged contact with the skins for months, result in textured wines of great consistency. So much so that someone, jokingly, sometimes calls them “eat and drink” wines.
This important structure, on the other hand, opens up an equally significant and less highlighted theme: orange wines are very versatile, especially when it comes to food pairing. The reasons for this adaptability are varied. One, just mentioned, is certainly that of the body. A more present structure than that of the classic whites allows the orange wines to leave the most common pairing perimeters, which want them combined mainly with delicate dishes, often based on fish.
The maceration times, and the relative intensity that derives from them, are decisive for precisely evaluating the most suitable combinations. We can say, for example, that it is often a good choice for white meats and medium and long-aged cheeses. Going more specifically to wines characterized by long macerations, a fundamental point is the resulting intensity.
Precisely this intensity opens up various pairing opportunities, which in some circumstances can resolve cases of complex combinations. This is the case, for example, of spicy dishes, typical of oriental cuisine. An orange wine of good intensity often has the right characteristics to support the comparison with another important intensity, that of spices. The important thing, in this case, is to keep an eye on the tannins. If too accentuated, their edges could conflict with the strong personality of the spices.
A very important issue is then that of temperature. Playing with the degrees, in the world of orange wines, can give interesting results. Starting from the assumption that the serving temperature of these wines is around 15 degrees, it must be considered that lower temperatures emphasize the hardness, therefore acidity, sapidity and tannins, while higher temperatures bring out the softness, therefore the sugars, the alcohol and the glyceric component. If this happens for any type of wine, with orange wines the breadth of scents that unfold at different temperatures is, in my opinion, truly remarkable.
So much so that it often happens to me, at the restaurant, to choose just one wine for the entire dinner, an orange wine, characterized by a significant maceration time. Served fresh, to start with, it can accompany many types of appetizers, such as veal meatballs. As the wine rises in temperature, it is as if it gradually becomes adaptable to each passage of the dinner. A little less cold to accompany a first course, for example fresh pasta with duck sauce. And then, with a slightly higher temperature, an important second course, perhaps a meat of great intensity, for example lamb.
As already said, everything is related to the amount of time the wine has spent on the skins, and consequently to its intensity. In the case of less marked macerations, the combinations must be reconsidered proportionally. Munjebel VA Bianco 2019 Di Frank Cornellissen can be a good example. Born on the slopes of Etna from a blend of native white berries grapes and the processing involves 4 days of maceration. It is an elegant, complex wine, made even more special by the fact that the cuvée comes entirely from old ungrafted vines that are between 60 and 90 years old. The contact with the skins is a gentle touch that further accentuates the characteristics of breadth and finesse. And in this specific case, going back to talking about food, the right choice can fall into the world of white meat or that of fish, for example with a Mediterranean soup.
Over 15 years in communication, today Graziano Nani is Branded Content Lead in Chora, where he deals with podcasts. Sommelier Ais, he writes for Intravino and takes care of @HellOfaWine on Instagram. He teaches wine communication at the Catholic University. He deals with the same theme in the “La Retroetichetta” podcast, of which he is co-author, and with speeches at dedicated events.