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What is Orange Wine?

In Vino Veritas

What is Orange Wine?

What you need to know about skin-contact wine

What exactly is orange wine? It all began in Georgia — the country, not the state. Over 8000 years ago, wine was being fermented in clay vessels, where the grape’s skins, seeds and even stems would come into contact with the grape’s juices for extended periods of time. This process gave the wine a distinctive amber colour — and along with it, complex and nuanced flavours.

Photo credit: Dan's Daily

Italian Revival


It wasn’t until the 20th Century when Italian winemakers in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region began experimenting with this traditional winemaking process. Fermenting white grapes with their skins on brought orange wine into a much broader wine community, and as interest spread, winemakers in Slovenia, Croatia, and eventually the United States and Australia began producing their own versions.

Photo Credit: Sonoma Wine Garden

In the early 2000s, the global wine industry took off and orange wine began to gain traction. Those interested in traditional winemaking methods, oenophiles who searched for a strong sense of terroir, and producers who preferred minimal intervention in the winemaking process, all turned to orange wine. Wine enthusiasts and adventurous consumers, looking for unique flavour profiles, also began to experiment with this wine that features complex aromas, tannins and flavours.

Photo credit: Vine Pair

What does orange wine taste like?

Because orange wine involves less manipulation, fewer additives are involved in its creation, allowing the grapes’ natural characteristics to shine through.  When you taste it, you might find notes of dried fruits, nuts, honey, tea, or spices. You’ll also find that its structure and quality is more akin to a red wine, and a versatile option for food pairing (orange wines, just like bold styles of Rosé, should be chilled before serving).

Hopson Grace Classic Waiter's Corkscrew
Luca Maple Wine Stopper

Who makes the best orange wine?

As the birthplace of orange wine, Georgia remains a key region for high quality orange wine. Italy’s Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, which played a significant role in its revival, is a significant production hub. Slovenia’s Brda region, which shares a border with Italy’s Friuli, is known for producing notable versions with a focus on local grape varieties like Rebula (Ribolla Gialla) and Malvasia. Croatia, the Alsace region of France, Australia, California and Oregon are all experimenting with the nuances of “skin-contact” winemaking. Some are made by boutique wineries whose focus is on natural and minimal-intervention practices. Others are larger producers who are experimenting with both traditional and innovative production techniques, resulting in emerging flavours. As the orange wine trend continues to evolve, so will the opportunity to taste a greater range of the world’s newest “old” wine.

Jancis Robinson x Richard Brendon wine glass

Trending now


The visual appeal of orange wine — with its distinctive amber hue — has made it fodder for Instagram, and social media platforms have played a role in spreading this trend. Regardless of where you heard about orange wine, if you value transparency and authenticity in your wine, if you’re a history buff, if you’re a foodie, or if you’re simply adventurous when it comes to exploring new flavours, you’ll want to consider giving it a try.

In Vino Veritas