Oenophiles, whether experts or simple enthusiasts, all know Red, White and Rosé Wines, the colors come from the manipulations during the production. Specifically, they come from the skin of grapes. Virtually all wine juices are clear and relatively the same.
White wines produced by separating the juice from the greenish skins immediately after crushing. Red wines allow the grapes and blackish skins to begin fermentation, only to separate later. Perceptually, one can feel that rosé wines are that area between the other two, just less skin time.
Three is a comfortable potential pick we’re comfortable with, sort of a Goldilocks solution. We easily manage three. A winemaker obtains the color and tannin characteristics of a wine during fermentation. Just like in brewed tea, the longer the tea bag is in hot water, the darker the color will become and the more astringent the drink will be. In many ways, it’s an apt comparison: because the same tannins that make a wine like Cabernet Sauvignon as harsh as a young wine, also produce the bitterness of tea.
This factor softens in wine with years of ageing, both in barrels and in bottles. It improves alternatively by associating itself with a less tannic wine like Merlot or Malbec, typical in Bordeaux. The grape variety is also a factor in controlling color and bitterness. Pinot Noir is a lighter, thin-skinned variety that will never produce a dark black color, and is generally a softer, silkier tasting wine with less tannin.
This factor is also due to the thin skin of this grape variety, as opposed to the thick skin of the red Bordeaux grape varieties. Other factors that influence the wines are the weather conditions during the various stages of growth, which can include cold weather at bud break, rains with hail in summer, and wet and humid conditions during harvest. While the color of relatively recently bottled wine depends on the skin, white wine has been known to darken with age and red wine to lighten. Somewhere around 75, it’s very difficult to tell white wine from red.
A while ago, some of us were able to taste a 1976 Trockenbeerenauslese Rheinplatz, from Germany, a full-bodied dessert wine, which should have been undrinkable in every respect. The cork was leaking and the wine was cloudy. Without the label and the style of the bottle, we wouldn’t have known it was white wine. We tasted it at a cellar temperature of around 65 degrees. Unclogging was tedious, with several extraction devices brought into use, luckily we had a DM present who could operate all the appropriate tools. All agreed that he was in surprisingly good condition.
We remember that it looked a lot like a Pinot Noir de Bourgogne 1984; we had opened a few years earlier. In 2004, a London wine merchant, David Harvey of Raeburn Wines, was credited with coining the term Orange Wine. The problem is, he doesn’t remember it exactly that way. Admitting the collaboration, and that he was there, he credits the others. A researcher has found a quote from Pliny the Elder about the existence of “white, yellow, red and black wines” in the first century AD.
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Orange wine production occurred near the cradle of human development, in a precursor to the Republic of Georgia, with production attested as early as 8,000 years ago. Probably a fortuitous production, as the uncrushed white grapes dumped into clay pots called Qvevri, buried in the ground, under some type of shelter, and covered for perhaps 6-9 months, with little or no intervention, produced wine.
The result could not be white wine, because it was a white grape, but the skin remained, and could not be red wine, because it was not a black fruit. This orange wine was born, but we guess they just called it wine. This fourth choice has become more formidable in recent years. Orange wine is also known as amber wine or skin contact.
The process involves limited contact of the juice with the skins, sometimes usually as little as a few days to several months. The wine sprouted into the lexicon with production in the Jura region of France, the Western Cape in South Africa, Austria and Italy. Eric Asimov of The New York Times recently wrote a column about a tasting group he organized that tasted three orange wines, all from Italy.
However, other possibilities could have included Greece, Bosnia or the other dozens of countries that have joined the bandwagon. In conclusion, this wine is currently hard to obtain, but if you see it in a wine shop, buy it and let us know what you think.
Stay healthy and cheers.
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