The name is a little misleading, as it is not wine made from oranges- rather orange wine is made from white grapes, but due to its processing, it takes on a deep golden, orange (I’d call it marigold) color. Now, normally when you make white wine, the stems are removed, and the grapes are pressed immediately. You don’t want the juice to have contact with skins and seeds, and you definitely don’t want to crush the seeds up in with the juice, since they contain lots of bold, bitter, spicy components such as tannins. However, with orange wine, the grapes are kept whole (sometimes even including the stems!) and fermented for a few weeks. Often they’re even fermented in clay vessels, allowing for a little (or a lot) of oxygenation and breathability that traditional stainless fermentation tanks do not offer. The resulting wines are unusual in that they more closely resemble red wines in taste and smell than they do whites.
The one I sampled, a 2008 Cosimo Maria Maini Daphne, comes from Italy and retails between $25-$30. It is made from Trebbiano grapes and according to the label, was not fined or filtered before bottling. I can see a little cloudiness in the glass, which in that case, makes sense.
It smells like a red wine. It has a teeny floral aroma from the traditional Trebbiano characteristics, but has a spicy, leathery aroma. If I were blindfolded, I’d definitely peg this as a red. It also has a sharp, botanical aroma that reminds me of a spirit, like maybe a gin… I expected it to have a more alcoholic taste based on this smell.
The first thing I tasted in the mouth was a fresh, tart, lightly floral flavor. However, then the bitter took over and ran back along the sides of my tongue. Even though it is only 14% alcohol (which is high for a white wine,) it did taste almost fortified because the herbally flavors have a burn reminiscent of spirits.
I tasted it alone, but am thinking it would benefit from some food. Even just cheese and crackers. It’s likely not something I’d choose to sit and sip on its own, but I’m glad I tried it. If you are in a restaurant that serves orange wine (it’s pretty trendy right now, so you might have an easier time than you’d think,) order a glass. It’s definitely worth experiencing- once… or more if you love it!