Try a different kind of orange crush

Left to right: M&S Tbilvino Qvevris, Gérard Bertrand Orange Gold, Litmus Orange Bacchus

Ahead of this year’s National Orange Wine Day on Thursday, October 6, Times wine editor James Viner uncorks three ‘orange’ white wines that are certain to make an impression…


Like red wines, these ‘orange wines’ – a term created in 2004 by UK-based wine merchant David Harvey – are white wines that are fermented and then aged in contact with the grape skins and juice, which imbues them with a deeper colour and a relatively pronounced astringency. While the most extreme can certainly be demanding to drink (tasting oftentimes like yeasty, funky farmhouse cider) there are now lots of engaging, drinkable wines made in the same style, in a variety of hues: some darker, some lighter, all with relatively light alcohol and airy to medium tannins.


Though never very cheap, these wines are slowly becoming more mainstream – and not just a tipple for hipsters – with plenty of modern examples that are not oxidised, ludicrously quirky or a decidedly acquired taste. Maceration extracts tannins and flavour compounds, which is why orange wines tend to have a clear textural character, light-medium tannins, a savoury edge, firm acidity and huge food-pairing appeal – perfect for a range of different fare as we usher in autumn. Here are three tiptop (not feral or especially chewy!) ones for more adventurous drinkers to toast tomorrow’s ‘National Orange Wine Day.’ Serve lightly chilled. Cheers!


1 A dark gold Georgian orange wine bargain from Marks & Spencer

M&S Tbilvino Qvevris 2020 orange wine, Kakheti, Georgia (£8 offer, down from £10, Ocado until 18 October, 12%)

Like its neighbour Armenia, Georgia has a very ancient wine tradition (dating back 8,000 years) and countless, singular, first-class, local grapes. Lively white Rkatsiteli grapes, the antique, cold-hardy, high-acid Georgian white grape variety, lend themselves well to skin-contact amphorae-based fermentation, known as the Kakhetian method in eastern Georgia (also look out for orange wines made from the white Mtsvane and Kisi grape varieties). This charming bargain bottle is gloriously deep-gold in colour and full of flavour: dried orange peel, wild herbs, quince, pear, bruised apple and spices, as well as some tea leaf, with a chalky, flowing texture. Its name comes from ‘qvevri,’ the large, handmade, lemon-shaped Georgian clay vessels, lined with beeswax and buried fully underground – requiring no temperature control (unlike Spanish tinajas and amphorae) – that are used to ferment and age red and white wines on their skins in Georgia. One to go with chicken tagine, tandoori chicken or seafood. Get it on the offer.


2 Must-try organic orange wine from Languedoc-Roussillon

Gérard Bertrand Orange Gold 2020 vin biologique, Languedoc-Roussillon, France (£18, Ocado, 12%)

Made from Chardonnay, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Marsanne, Mauzac, Muscat and Clairette grapes, this luminous certified organic wine is a sunset-orange colour. The flavour profile here is the essence of spiced peach, apricot, tangerine peel, jackfruit, hay, white flowers and dried herbs. Both light tannins (from vinification and fermentation in whole bunches), stone fruits and bright acidity wash cleanly through the finish. Pleasingly honed and refined, rather than brazen and forceful. A great bottle for those uninitiated in orange/amber/skin-contact white wines. Autumnal, buffed and modern are the words that come to mind as you smell and taste. Impossible to hold back pouring another glass. Chill very lightly (12-14°C) for lightly spiced Indian or Asian cuisine (hello Vietnamese noodles) and a cheeseboard.


3 An orange wine from Surrey

Litmus Orange Bacchus 2021, Surrey, England (£17.49-£21, Grape Britannia, Litmus English Wine and Harvey Nichols, 12%)

This is a tangy, pale gold, kumquat, floral orange blossom and yellow peach of an English orange wine – made by Australian-born, Surrey-based winemaker John Worontschak – with a lengthy, gently smoky finish. Fresh, with a pleasing sprightly touch of astringency, it was fermented and aged on skins for four weeks without sulphur dioxide and is unquestionably at the cleaner, less funky and grippy end of the orange wine scale. Sassy stuff here – it sings of currants, grapefruit pith, marzipan and elderflower. Not your usual soporific Bacchus. Try it with a green Thai curry.


James recommends 6 other producers of top-quality orange wine…

  • AA Badenhorst Family Wines, South Africa
  • Better Half, Bulgaria
  • Bauer Winery, Romania
  • Dobrá Vinice,Czechia
  • Joško Gravner, Italy
  • Marjan Simčič,Slovenia


Follow #OrangeWineDay and James on Twitter @QuixoticWine

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