What is Orange Wine? … And an Intro to Our Most Elegant Natural Orange Wine Yet

What is Orange Wine? … And an Intro to Our Most Elegant Natural Orange Wine Yet

If you’re the type of person who eagerly indulges in orange wine but doesn’t actually know what makes orange wine different from red wine and white wine (other than the obvious color difference), we get you. We guarantee you’re not the first person unaware of the difference between orange wine and other wines, but that’s why we’re here — to explain what makes orange wine unique in a way that’s easy to understand (with a little shameless self-promo for our own natural orange wines). If your friends confuse you for a wine connoisseur the next time you’re all enjoying a glass at dinner together, don’t be alarmed — that’s our intention!

Is Orange Wine New?

Orange wine may be something that’s not as familiar to you as red wine and white wine, but don’t mistake this lack of familiarity for thinking orange wine is a new concept. In fact, orange wine actually dates back thousands of years in Eastern Europe (some say Georgia) and is a process that has been used for hundreds of years in Slovenia and the Italian region Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Some historians actually say orange wine was likely the first wine ever created!  

What Is Orange Wine?

So, what is orange wine? Yes, it’s wine. Yes, it’s orange. But why is it orange and what makes it different from other wines? 

First things first: Orange wine is still white wine. (Yes, that means there aren’t actually any oranges in orange wine!) Made with many of the same grapes as white wine, the color of orange wine is actually the result of how the grapes are treated during the winemaking process. 

Essentially, making an orange wine is taking white grapes and treating them the same way you would a red varietal for a red wine — a process known in the winemaking world as “sitting on skins” resulting in what’s known as a “skin-contact” white wine (aka orange wine). So, orange wine is really just this simple formula: White Grapes + Red Winemaking Techniques.

How Does the Orange Winemaking Process Work?

natural orange wine

When grapes come into a winery, they first go through a process called “maceration.” Simply put, maceration is the time the grapes spend on their skins while fermenting. The skin-contact maceration process happens before the grapes go to press. During this time, the grapes literally hang out “on their skins” for a number of days before they get tossed into a press and squeezed for their oh-so-precious juice. 

The longer the fruit stays on skins, the more color, tannin, and flavor is imparted into the liquid. Generally, this means that the longer a white grape sits on skins, the darker the orange wine will be in color and the fuller it will feel in your mouth. One thing to note is some white grapes pick up more of an orange hue than others (skin contract Riesling will be more “orange” than skin contract Pinot Blanc). Winemakers may let grapes sit on skins anywhere from a day to several months — depending on what color, structure, and taste they’re aiming for — before sending the orange wine to age in a barrel. In the end, this fermentation process results in an orange wine that is ready to be bottled and shelved for consumers like yourself. 

Our Best Natural Orange Wine

natural orange wine

We launched our first natural orange wine with Orange is the New White from the 2020 vintage. A blend of different macerated Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, and Pinot Blanc, Orange is the New White was the blueprint for The Gift — a natural orange wine from our 2021 vintage. 

Much like its predecessor, The Gift was a blend of Pinot Blanc (both 7 day and 15 day skin contact) and Riesling (a mix of direct-press, 15-day, and 21-day macerations). Because of the multiple varietals and blends of macerations and treatments, The Gift fondly became known as our Frankenstein of skin-contact wine. 

Because a large part of winemaking is very much an art, no one person can ever fully predict how different blends and treatments will interact together. The Gift was popular among folks who follow Jumbo Time, but we also wanted to offer a more elegant natural orange wine. Final Credits was born out of our desire to experiment with extended maceration of white grapes, in this instance Riesling.

Final Credits, our most recent natural orange wine, spent 93 days sitting on skins. That number may seem random because well it is. We didn’t set out to ferment the wine for a specific number of days, instead we watched closely until we felt the wine was ready to press. For the first vintage 93 days was the sweet spot but for the 2022 vintage (still in barrel) it only went for 56 days! Final Credits is our most elegant natural orange wine to date. Unlike our first two skin-contact wines, Final Credits is our first extended, single varietal Riesling maceration. We let this wine take its time, and the result did not disappoint. Spending so much time on skins helped to:

Extract Color 

Final Credits is a deep caramel color — almost like the Werther’s Original candies that your grandmother forced you (us) to eat as a child. Our natural orange is a wine you’ll want to drink, not something that needs to be forced.

Provide More Body/Structure

The more body a wine has, the fuller it feels in your mouth and the heavier it is on your palate. The fuller body of Final Credits creates an intense, mouth-filling sensation with every sip.

Give The Wine More Nuanced Flavors

Because we let this natural wine take its time and sit on skins for 93 days and then in barrel for nine months, the result is a big natural orange wine with notes of warm spices and sun-ripened golden fruit. With nutty overtones, Final Credits is rustic at first before revealing a chalky and caramelized texture.

What to Pair With Orange Wine

Final Credits is the perfect natural orange wine to open at the end of the night when you’re wanting the party to go on just a little while longer. We recommend pairing this class with an elegant cheese board for dessert, after the main course of your dinner has been served. Indulge in a relaxing nightcap with a few of your favorite people and then continue to finish the bottle the following day with a bowl of frothy clams or anchovy pasta.​​

We only produced 30 cases* of Final Credits and we are down to under a case left, so be sure to get your hands on this elegant natural orange wine while supplies last!

*Don’t worry, we’re going to release our second vintage of Final Credits this Fall (we know so far away!), this time with Riesling coming from a super special site. Plus, if you’ve been missing The Gift, you can also expect a new, slightly different blend of our iconic natural orange wine coming soon this summer!