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What You Need to Know: Orange Wine vs. Skin Contact Wine

Wine is one of the most complex and fascinating beverages out there. Each bottle holds its own unique story of terroir, winemaking techniques, and grape variety. Recently, two distinctive types of wines have become trendy: orange wine and skin contact wine. Yet, many people confuse them or think that they are the same thing. In today’s blog post, we’ll delve into the differences between the two, the winemaking methods involved, and what makes them so special.

To understand the difference between orange wine and skin contact wine, we need to go back to the basics of winemaking. White wine is typically made by pressing white grapes and fermenting the juice without the skins or seeds. Red wine, on the other hand, involves the entire grape and fermenting the juice with the skins and seeds. The skins give red wine its tannic structure and color.

Orange wine is essentially white wine made like red wine. The grapes are destemmed, crushed, and the juice is kept in contact with the skins and seeds during fermentation. This contact adds tannins, texture, and a coppery-orange hue to the wine. It’s important to note that orange wine is not made from oranges, but from white wine grapes like Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, or Riesling.

Skin contact wine, also known as “macerated white wine,” is a broader term that encompasses all white wines that have undergone some degree of skin contact during fermentation. In theory, orange wine is a type of skin contact wine, but not all skin contact wines are orange. Skin contact wines can range from a slight pinkish tint to a deep amber color, depending on the length of skin contact. Winemakers use skin contact to build complexity, structure, and a savory element to the wine.

The popularity of orange wine and skin contact wine can be attributed to their uniqueness and natural winemaking methods. These wines are often made by small, independent winemakers who farm organically or biodynamically and use minimal intervention in the cellar. They also pair well with a range of foods and offer a different flavor profile than traditional white wines.

When it comes to tasting notes, orange wine is often described as having a nutty, oxidative quality with hints of dried fruit, honey, and tea. The tannins give it a grippy mouthfeel and make it great for pairing with fatty foods like charcuterie or roasted meats. Skin contact wine, on the other hand, can have a wide range of flavors depending on the grape variety, region, and skin contact time. However, they tend to have a more savory quality with notes of citrus, stone fruit, and spices. They pair well with seafood, grilled vegetables, and even cheese plates.

In conclusion, orange wine and skin contact wine are two distinct winemaking techniques that produce unique and compelling wines. While orange wine is a type of skin contact wine, it’s important to understand that not all skin contact wines are orange. These wines offer a glimpse into the world of natural winemaking, showcasing the artistry and complexity of winemaking. The next time you’re perusing the wine aisle, be sure to try a bottle of orange or skin contact wine and taste the difference for yourself.
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