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Orange wine was first made thousands of years ago in Georgia, where grapes were crushed and deposited into Q’vevri (Amphora/clay tanks) buried in the ground, and macerated for 6 months before separating from the skins from the liquid. Production of orange wine was abandoned and many European countries favoured white wine which was younger and fresher. A few hundred years ago winemakers in Italy and Slovenia started producing artisan orange wine again, in small quantities, and it has since become more and more popular.
With all of that rich history, I may come as a surprise that the term “Orange wine” also know as Skin-Contact Wine itself is very modern. I have been coined by British wine expert David Harvey who explains the process of that led to the creation of this term:
“I actively discussed this issue from first principles with Frank Cornelissen, when working with Frank on Etna in 2004, and started to use it thereafter. It was the year of making his Mongibello Bianco No.1 2004 (now Munjebel Bianco): we were daily drinking and talking about Radikon, Dario Princic, Gravner, Vodopevic, Castellana, pre-2002 La Bianca, Massia Vecchia, etc.
The quest for a name arose from my concern that there was no name, let alone category for these wines, which are visually, aromatically and structurally divergent from white wines, and would, therefore, risk rejection in both the on- and off-trades, having worked as Head Sommelier between 1993 and 2002.
The rationale was that they should be labelled by the same criteria as white/rosé/red wine, i.e. by the final colour of the wine, and not the component parts (e.g. colour of the grape,) nor the technique (e.g. sparkling, fortified, skin-contact, etc.) All the other possible colour names were already used in specific appellations, e.g. Vin Jaune (yellow), Rivesaltes Ambré (amber) etc., or were too pretentious, like’ golden wine’, or were not common to key wine-production languages.
Skin-contact, for example, was not considered useful, as very brief contact in French is called maceration-pelliculaire, and, most red wines receive skin-contact. So the term is simply not precise, nor unique.
And, I admit that I did not take very seriously Orange state, Orange county, orange fruit, as origins or materials with potential conflict. (For which, the relevant Australian authorities have since publicly spoken out.)
Georgia was also discussed at some point: someone (who?) told me that in Georgia, ‘red wine’ meant just that, ‘white wine’ ditto, but that ‘wine’, tout-court, meant macerated white grapes. Georgia does have a claim to being an ancient wine country, with the use of ancient vessel types.
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