We’ve talked reds and whites and touched the slightest bit on rosé… but orange?
Don’t worry, it’s really simple. No, no oranges were harmed in the making of these wines. We’re still using grapes.
Remember — what color is all grape juice, without that skin contact? White. Clear. Mostly colorless, really.
How does a red or rosé get its color? Skin contact. The grapes are pressed and allowed contact with the skins for a certain amount of time to achieve color.
Good so far?
Orange wine, under other names such as “amber wine” or “skin contact whites,” means that the juice was allowed to ferment with the white grape skins present as opposed to discarded, as is typical with most modern white wines. Doing so adds both an amberish color and various aromas/flavors the the finished product.
Yup, I said “modern.” The technique for making orange wines goes back several millenia to Europe, where the grapes, skin and juice and all, were buried in the ground in stone urns called qvevri for sometimes several years to ferment. Many winemakers who recreate this style have elected to revive the older methods instead of using more current techniques, meaning less control over wine quality and consistency, but offering instead a very different flavor profile for the curious and adventurous.
Two key summary points:
- skins are left to ferment with the white wine (whereas rosé usually discards them after pressing the grapes, and prior to fermentation), and
- orange wines are typically left alone to ferment with minimal outside intervention (no lab-grown yeasts here!)
I could easily go into several tangents with this. I won’t, though. However, I’ll promise to link this page to several other explanatory posts and back again as I compose them.
Orange wine, currently back in fashion, mostly hails from its ancestral home of Georgia (the country). However, they’re also made in Slovenia and Italy, with growing popularity elsewhere, including Australia and the United States. I have tried a couple that were made in Colorado… unfortunately, I found those examples less than memorable outside of a mention, which is why I won’t name them.
The fact is, if you look hard enough you can find an example of orange wine. As with anything, quality varies greatly, so I’d recommend researching a brand or estate prior to purchase.
I could honestly go on for a good while on this topic, but I’m happy to connect you to further reading here, here, and also here. There’s also a great book called Amber Revolution if you want a more in-depth resource (and yes, I already own it).
Tonight’s wine, already unusual because of its type, proves even more so because it comes in a can. Further, it’s a Greek grape I have never tried before, so I had to do some digging to figure out what I was getting into.
Cheating? Nah, I don’t think so, when reaching such a high level of “uh, what?” unusual. I’ll even link the tech sheet here and refer to it throughout my notes.
Tonight’s grape: the Greek variety known as rhoditis. To my surprise, several sources name this pink-skinned species as the most widely planted in Greece. Other interesting factoids include that rhoditis has an oily quality, has high acidity, and is used for single-varietal wines as well as in blends with other grapes. Like the previously tasted moschofilero, white wines are more common than reds from rhoditis.
Challenge Wine 13: Archer Roose Rodi Rosé Limited Release
Okay, I have to lead by saying that the name of this wine alone sends me into a fit of unladylike snort-giggles because it sounds whimsically ridiculous. Add to that the image of a woman riding a moose and… well.
Whimsy aside, Greek vintner Thomas Anastou reportedly fell in love with wine through poetry during a stint in the Navy.
Feel free to read that again. I think he automatically takes an extra rank in sheer badass points just for his backstory.
On to the wine itself!
Producer: Archer Roose
Region: Naoussa, Greece
Style: Dry “skin contact white” or “orange” wine
Grape: 100% Rhoditis
A clear, medium salmon with orange tints. Wowie, this is a fantastic color!
Clean, with medium intensity aromas of chamomile, rose, quince, yellow pear, and peach. This is a simple wine.
Clean and simple, with medium intensity flavors of underripe grapefruit, peach, wet stones, and apple cider.
This wine is dry, with high acidity, medium-low alcohol, and a medium-light body. The finish is short and definitely has a striking, oily finish that seems to be an indicator for rhoditis.
Lacking complexity and length of finish, but having decent balance and medium intensity, this orange wine sits squarely at an “acceptable” level. It’s delicate and approachable, offering a fun option for warm outdoor parties. I can easily see cider lovers enjoying this wine, the zesty short finish leaving you wanting another sip of its fresh fruit notes.
Best enjoyed as an aperitif because of its low alcohol and lower flavor intensity, one might also pair it with simple foods lacking powerful sauces or spices that might overwhelm it.
I’ll definitely continue to enjoy the Rodi Rosé to close our my evening. Until next post, friends.