Orange from White

Colours don’t often wake up my taste buds.

Mauve. Nothing.

Black. Nope.

Does White have a taste or a bouquet? Blue, Green …..

Orange?   Yes.    Citrus and tangy zestiness jump out – because its a fruit. estrecho-monastrell

I now accept ‘Orange Wine’ as a category as valid as I do Red, White, Sparkling and Rosé. It has taken me a while as I’ve been prone to  confusion as to what Orange Wine actually is. Hint: it’s not the colour of the wine….

In Alicante recently I was privileged to be served wines at Bodegas Enrique Mendoza. They were truly exquisite – especially his Quebrada 2010 and a monumental Estrecho 2012 (I reckon even his agents will be lucky to reserve this …. mature, hand-harvested Monastrell, gobelet pruned and grown at 700ms: edges of herbs, rose water, rich dark cherry and some peat smoke. Fabulous wines.) It was quite a chilly morning and maybe the ‘peat smoke’ was from the blazing fire that had been lit for us and fueled by large chunks of air dried vines! Either way it was a captivating scene. Imagine then when the tasting began we were served an Orange wine followed by a red Natural wine both of which, we were told by our jovial host, were the wines he serves up to his family and friends.

Enrique’s Orange Wine (which by its very nature is also a  Natural Wine in Enrique’s camp) was a Muscat that had been on its skins for 60 days in a large tinaja buried into the earth.

I didn’t get a photo of Enriques tinaja’s but across the wider area of Valencia tinajas continue to be used and at more than a few wineries they are making a come back….check these out at Celler del Roure where the local white grape Verdil benefits greatly from ageing in 500 year old tinajas! Great grape btw.


Enrique Mendoza’s Muscat Orange wine is brilliant. Honey, orange zest with edges of passion fruit; orange rind on palate with fine acidity and excellent depth of flavour and an impressively dry finish. A great example of a Natural Wine made from white grapes that have been allowed to ferment on their skins  – Orange Wine. It’s not orange of course but as many of these wines take on a deep (off white even though  no wine is actually white either!!) colouration they have been described as being Orange.fiano-530x1024

Yesterday at a very fine Borsa Vini Italiani tasting in Dublin (organised by the Italian Trade Commision- ICE) I was very pleased to see some great organic wines and then to be really impressed by a couple of Orange wines shown by the CAIAFFA family from Puglia. The Caiaffa Fiano 2016 shows cleanliness, an exciting palate and a  very fine finish. The Caiaffa family’s commitment to organic is absolute and their understanding of how and why to make an Orange wine would appear (after our short conversation) to be an intuitive thing. It was a bit like I had asked, ‘What is a White wine anyhow?!!!’

 It’s probably a shame the category has been labeled ‘Orange’ as it evokes a definite colour (and even a distinct bouquet and taste). That said it is a simple and memorable title and makes a valid distinction both within and without the Natural Wine category. Now that more of these wines are being presented without funky off bouquets and flavours (which I  don’t like) or structures akin to red wines – (leave tannins to red wines)  they will become more widely available offering us all a new (and wider than ever before) range of taste sensations to enjoy.

Orange. The New White

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