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Some call it orange, some call it amber, we call it delicious but despite its name it’s not actually made from oranges! Skin contact wine is a white wine made like a red wine (White wine is made when you ferment red or white grapes without the skins). The wine is left on the skins of the grapes for days, weeks, or sometimes even months. This will result in an array of different colours from golden to dark blood orange. With those different colours we experience very different flavours, the wines left on the skins for longer will be darker, more intense on the nose and a palate with significant tannin's in some cases.
Orange wines tend to have a more natural style and are usually grown organically, Biodynamically or, produced with minimal intervention. Most orange winemakers use only native yeast with no inoculation (to add active yeast, as yeast is always present in the fermentation) and little or no additives such as sulphites. These techniques and methods mean they taste very different from conventionally made white wines and have a sour taste and nuttiness from oxidation.
Skin contact wines have a long history in winemaking dating back hundreds of years in Slovenia and thousands of years in the Eastern European wine producing country of Georgia. Skin-fermented white wines were common in Italy up until the 1950s and 1960s, but fell out of fashion as technically 'correct' and fresh white wines came to dominate the market, but as we can see history is repeating itself and it's making a comeback.
A common misconception is that the colour comes from oxidation which is not the case, it comes purely from the skin contact. The winemaking style if often oxidative (open top oak, concrete or plastic fermenters) typically producers will seal vessels after fermentation to ensure the wine is fresh. What I love about skin contact wines is that they can combine the weight, texture and complexity of red wines with the freshness of whites. When it comes to tasting notes the most common are tropical fruit, hazelnut, bruised apple, wood varnish, juniper, sourdough, and dried orange rind, delicious right? There’s an idea that orange wines are funky or dirty. There are some examples out there that are like that, but that could be a common criticism of natural wines in general – not orange wines. There are examples of good winemaking and bad winemaking everywhere.
My favourite skin contact wine we have in store is the Heinrich Naked (£19.60). It is delicately hazy lemon-yellow with subtle rose petals on the nose, the tannins are light and it has a wonderful chalky minerality giving you that long lasting finish! The wine is organic and biodynamic and has been aged for 14 months on the lees in large oak casks, it is also unfiltered which is what gives this wine a lot of personality (texture) I love to enjoy this wine with a mild curry but it would also be great with a salmon dish.
Other skin contact wines we have in store that are equally as delicious are; Jasse Castel El Abanico Blanc 2018 from the Languedoc France (£33.00), Jaroslav Osicka Chardonnay Velke Bilovice Moravia 2014 from the Cezch Republic (£26.60), and the very unique Phinca Hapa Rioja Blanco, 'Elvillar' 2017 (£32.00). So whether you are trying skin contact wines for the first time or like me are a huge fan we can’t wait to hear your thoughts.