The Rise of Orange Wines in Jersey and Beyond

Orange wines are more full-bodied than most whites and offer a range of engaging flavors, from floral to tropical to savory.

Orange wines have a piquantly pleasing personality. Courtesy of The Natural Wine Shoppe

The ways we categorize wine often come down to appearance, as in red, white, rosé or sparkling. But in recent years, restaurants and retailers have introduced a new section on their menus and shelves: orange wine.

The name can confuse. “A lot of guests think orange wine tastes like oranges,” says Tania Calabrese, co-owner of Nettie’s House of Spaghetti in Tinton Falls. “And that’s just not the case.”

Also known as skin-contact or amber wines, orange wines are made from white grapes (often chardonnay or sauvignon blanc). But instead of removing the skins during the winemaking, as with traditional whites, the skins stay in contact with the juice to soak and ferment for hours or days (sometimes even months), much the way reds are produced. The extended skin contact adds texture as well as color, which can range from pale gold to ruby-hued brown.

“You really can’t compare it to a rosé or a red,” says Doreen Winkler, founder of Orange Glou, an orange-wine subscription service and shop. “Orange wine has more texture than a white. It has a wide spectrum of flavors and textures.” The flavors, often robust and full-bodied, can be tropical, floral or savory, with notes of dried flowers and dried fruits.

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Orange wines have exploded in popularity in the last 20 years, embraced by trendy sommeliers, millennials and natural-wine enthusiasts seeking unique tastes. But wines made this way stretch back thousands of years and have long been celebrated and cherished in places like Georgia (the country, where wine is fermented in clay vessels called amphorae), Greece, Slovenia and Friuli in northeastern Italy. Now, winemakers around the world are making skin-contact wines—New Jersey included.

In Cape May, Turdo Vineyards makes a copper-colored orange called Arancio (Italian for orange) with sauvignon blanc, catarratto and grillo grapes. Perhaps the most interesting is from Beneduce Vineyards in Pittstown. Its Intermezzo bottling is made with aromatic gewürztraminer grapes fermented in open containers with 10 days of skin contact.

You can also find orange wines from California, Australia, Germany and South Africa at the following shops: Amanti Vino in Montclair and Morristown; Wine Dad’s in Hoboken; Riverview Wines and CoolVines in Jersey City; Court Liquors in Long Branch; and WineWorks in Marlton. The Natural Wine Shoppe, a Jersey City–based online natural-wine retailer, offers a rotating selection.

Orange wines pair well with a wide range of cuisines. They’re lively and acidic enough to accompany a salad but rich enough with tannins to make them suitable for grilled meats. “It’s really amazing how versatile orange wine is,” says Winkler. “There’s no category like it.”

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