Eileen M. Duffy, author of Behind the Bottle: The Rise of Wine on Long Island, gives us the scoop on orange wines.
Over the course of one week, our Contributors Editor Sarah sipped orange wine at Roberta's, I noticed that the wine menu at another Brooklyn restaurant was divided into whites, reds, and "contact" wines (referring to grape skin contact during the wine-making process), and Quartz made the case for skipping rosé and drinking orange wine instead. Eileen M. Duffy, author of Behind the Bottle: The Rise of Wine on Long Island, shares what you need to know about buying, drinking, and enjoying orange wines.
First, there are two types of orange wine: one that results from oxidation and another that is the result of contact with grape skins. Eileen explained the former: "Imagine you cut an apple in half, put it on the counter, and it started to turn brown—this is what happens with some orange wines and sherry. The sugars and enzymes react to the oxygen so that the wine exposed turns orange."
Orange wines resulting from contact with grape skins, on the other hand, are "white wines that have been made from white grapes fermented with the skin on." So a "contact wine" is a white wine that has been fermented in contact with the skins—these are more ubiquitous on menus than oxidized wines.
Contact wines have a distinct, slightly tannic taste, like what you get from red wine or a dark rosé. Eileen says that if you like sherry, chances are you'll enjoy orange wine, too. It's also slightly more acidic and complex than rosés, which means it pairs well with foods like cheese and meaty white fish—but Eileen stresses that it can also be enjoyed after dinner as what Italians refer to as a vino da meditazione, or a "meditation wine" to be sipped and contemplated over.
Convinced yet? If you're interested in trying orange wines, Eileen suggests the orange wine from Channing Daughters in Long Island. Otherwise, just ask your local wine store if they carry it. If not (orange wines aren't widely available yet), Eileen encourages you to ask for one at your local store anyway: "Chances are they've at least tasted them before and would be happy to find a customer base for them."
Once you've found your bottle, pour it at cellar temperature (a little cooler than room temperature but not quite chilled), and enjoy it with dinner, or on its own—either way, you can't go wrong.
What's your experience with orange wine? Tell us in the comments below!
Photos by James Ransom