Orange wine has increased in popularity, but that’s sort of like saying people watch Vincent Gallo movies more now than 10 years ago. Known for starring in cult classics such as “Buffalo 66” and “The Brown Bunny,” Gallo has fans and continues to attract new generations of film buffs, but he doesn’t exactly have mainstream appeal.
As is the case with Gallo, orange wine is “out there.” While its uniqueness continues to intrigue, it’s not everyone’s thing. Made from white grapes, orange wine is fermented and aged (with skins) for a few days to several months. The color intensifies over time, so the appearance ranges from a light, salmon hue to deep amber. The skins also add tannin. Although orange wines do not have as much grip as most reds, they have more texture than other white wines.
With the Giants in the World Series and Halloween a week away, it seems like the right time to celebrate orange wine. And with colder weather approaching, these hearty, fuller-bodied white wines also are appropriate for the season. Here are three to check out:
Kabaj Rebula, 2011 (Brda, Slovenia): While the Kabaj family made wine for many generations — its first commercial release was just 21 years ago — after Jean-Michel Morel, a Frenchman, married Katja Kabaj. Morel worked in France _ but time he spent in Collio, Italy, where Josko Gravner and others were making extraordinary orange wines _ left a lasting impression. Rebula is the local name for ribolla gialla, a grape believed to have originated in Greece. Fermented on its skins for up to 30 days in large neutral oak tanks, it has white pepper-driven spice, freshly roasted nuts and traces of citrus on the palate. Suggested retail: $27
Monastero Suore Cistercensi Lazio Bianco, “Coenobium,” 2012 (Lazio, Italy): The 80 or so nuns who organically farm this property make two orange wines with assistance from Giampiero Bea, of the renowned Paolo Bea estate in Umbria. Made from malvasia, verdicchio, grechetto and trebbiano grapes, “Coenobium” has a distinct character that falls somewhere between a trappist ale and the best iced herbal tea you’ve ever had. The typical reaction of those who taste it for the first time is almost always fascination bordering on epiphany. Suggested retail: $28
Jolie-Laide Trousseau Gris, Fanucchi-Wood Road, 2013 (Russian River Valley, California): Scott Schultz, assistant winemaker at Wind Gap since 2010, is the mastermind behind Jolie-Laide. He makes just three wines: a red from syrah and grenache, a skin-contact pinot gris and this trousseau gris. Fermented on its skins for five days, this copper-colored jewel captivates with citrus-scented tea leaves, a hint of hibiscus, floral tones and zesty acidity. Suggested retail: $29
Some of these wines can be found at Arlequin Wine Merchant, Bi-Rite Market, Biondivino, Dig Wines, Ruby Wine, K&L Wine Merchants, Ordinaire and Winelandia.
Pamela S. Busch has been working in the wine industry since 1990 as a writer, educator and consultant and co-founded Hayes & Vine Wine Bar and Cav Wine Bar & Kitchen. In 2013, she launched TheVinguard.com, a blog covering a variety of wine-related topics.