The problem with orange wine

More than two decades after two Collio winemakers bottled a skin-fermented white wine, orange wine still polarises opinions, says Simon J. Woolf.

Josko Gravner/Simon Woolf
Josko Gravner/Simon Woolf

in 2019, orange wine finally gained official recognition from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), who added content about the category to their diploma syllabus. Specific reference was also made to the Collio, and neighbouring Slovenian Brda. Students sitting the 2019 Master of Wine exams were also expected to recognise the technique, as a Georgian qvevri wine was included in the blind tasting paper, though not for the first time. Thai winemaker Nikki Lohitnavy bottled her first Elements Chenin Blanc, a skin-fermented cuvée vinified in qvevri at GranMonte winery in the Asoke valley. It brought the total number of countries where orange wine is made commercially to 35. Lohitnavy joins more than a thousand global winemakers, who produce an estimated minimum of 20m litres of orange wines a year. 

Autumn 2019 was also when the New Yorker’s Troy Patterson took a wrecking ball to all things orange. Branding it a fad, he described the wines as “an assault on pleasure” and “aggressions against taste buds”.  American writer and broadcaster Elizabeth Schneider published an episode of her podcast Wine for Normal People where she too stuck the proverbial boot in, describing orange wines as “a novelty” or “not very pleasurable” and ultimately suggesting that most American wine drinkers would not like them. 

Is there any substance to the idea that orange wine is a transient fashion?

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