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  • Writer's pictureNiall

It's Not Made From Oranges: An Intro to Amber Wine.

Orange, amber or skin contact; whatever you want to call it, it can be absolutely joyful but it can also be a bit challenging sometimes. First of all, the prevailing nomenclature - orange wine - is probably the driving factor to the confusion as to what the hell this beverage is. It is wine, it's made from grapes, and it's been made like this for thousands of years. The easiest way to put it is that it's a white wine made like a red (or rose) - in that usually (but not always) for a white, the producer wants to promote crisp fresh and straightforward wine, meaning when they crush and press the grapes they get the juice away from the skins as soon as they can. Lots of flavours, tannin (that causes the drying effect from a red wine) and colour comes from the skins, so in a red wine you usually see some skin contact or 'maceration' to give that colour and tannin. Orange wine is exactly that, but with white grapes; when you get some skin contact it gives off an orangey tint - hence the name - but also promotes a load of interesting, delicious but often esoteric flavours. Think of apricot and peach SKIN rather than fruit, wild fresh herbs rather than lemony citrus, and usually a bit more texture on the palate. A lot of them tend to be more 'natural' and experimental so could even have less fruity flavours, with things like hay and straw popping up, but all of this culminates to a very interesting bottle of wine that's gonna make you think as well as smile.

Pouring an 'orange' wine with short amount of skin contact

There's hard and fast way of categorising the styles, but generally speaking the longer the time sits on the skins, the more intense those fruit skin and herbal aromas, as well as the amount of tannin there will be. Most wines will see between 3-10 days on the skins, but there's lots of very punchy bottles out there that can see 3-6 months and beyond.