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Orange wine gives drinkers another colour option

By Richard at Great Grog

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Orange wine is fermented white wine made from grapes with their skins left on.
Orange wine is fermented white wine made from grapes with their skins left on.

What colour of wine are you going to be serving this festive period?

The colour in wines comes from the skins of the grapes as it leaches out into the wine during the fermentation process.

The difference between white wine and red wine is that red wines are fermented along with the skins. White wines are not fermented on their skins. They are just grape juice fermented.

Grape juice is transparent and that is why the wine is clear and the wine called white. The grape juice is separated from the skins by putting it through a wine press which squeezes out the transparent juice. The winemaker will then bung some yeast into the sweet grape juice and the wonder of white wine is born.

To make red wines, the winemaker puts the entire grape (skins, pips and often stalks) into the tank. The grapes are mashed up a bit to start the fermentation off and mix the yeast into the grapes. Red wines are pressed after fermentation to separate the wine from all the solids left after fermentation. It is more of a sieving process to take the lumps out before barrel maturation or bottling.

Because red wines are fermented along with their skins, they also have tannins in them. Tannins are the bitter, gritty molecules which make your mouth dry up and your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth.

They are also a great match against many foods and this is why red wines are often best consumed along with food, whereas white wines are fine by themselves. This is why slurping white wine while watching Strictly on the TV is the best, whereas a slap-up meal of winter stew is best matched with red.

Tannins are fantastic molecules, as they combine with cholesterol in your bloodstream and prevent various cholesterol-related ailments. Because red wines have tannins they are technically a “super food” and could be classed as one of your five a day.

Sadly white wines don’t have these miraculous health benefits. Sorry about that.

Pink wines are a halfway house between white and red. They are made with a limited time of skin contact during fermentation. This is done by emptying the fermentation tank into the wine press halfway through fermentation.

The slightly pink, pressed mix of half grape juice and half wine carries on the fermentation without skins and hence doesn’t get any darker. How dark the pink wine gets depends on how long the skins are in contact with the juice. The longer they are left in, the darker the pink. Darker pink means more flavour and more tannin and that means it is better for you too!

There is another weird type of wine, namely orange wines.

You may have come across them if you have been to restaurants such as the Timberyard in Edinburgh which specialises in them.

They are white wines that have been fermented from grapes with their skins left on. This results in the wine having lots of colour and lots of tannins.

One thing that white wine drinkers don’t really like is tannins, that is why they are drinking white wines not reds! This is also why orange wines will always be a fringe event. They taste weird, have a bitter texture and aren’t fruity in the classic sense.

They are generally quite an odd bunch, and that also refers to the winemakers too. I’m afraid I’m not a fan.

Should you try orange wines? The answer is probably not if your favourite tipple is Sauvignon or Pinot Grigio as you will be aghast at how they taste. If you like a wee drop of Fino Sherry or Vin Jaune from the Jura in France, then you might quite like them.

I can remember a French holiday a few years ago in the Jura where my wife tried some Vin Jaune which is made from the “Savignan” grape. She thought it said “Sauvignon” and was expecting something light and fruity.

What she got was a fright. It was something fruitless and orange and oxidised. She won’t be making that mistake again. I don’t think we will be reaching for the orange wines this Christmas in our house.

Richard Meadows worked with a national wine chain for 10 years before setting up his own company in Edinburgh in 1999. Richard, a regular visitor to the Highlands, now employs 15 people and sells all over the UK via mail order and the internet as Great Grog.

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