Beer & Wine Wine

The 7 Best Orange Wines in 2021

From funky to refreshing, here are our favorite skin-contact white wines.

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Orange wine is finally having the moment it deserves. However, there are a few things to know before diving in. First and foremost, orange wine, often referred to as skin-contact wine or amber wine, is produced worldwide—and most importantly, it’s definitely not crafted from oranges. These golden-hued wines are basically white wines vinified using red wine techniques. In short, rather than directly pressing the juice from the grapes, juice from white grapes destined for orange wine production spends some time macerating on the skins. 

“Orange wine is available in sparkling and still formats, ranging from light to full-bodied, and flavors also cover a huge spectrum, from tropical to umami,” says Doreen Winkler, founder of Orange Glou. When looking for quality orange wine for her curated monthly subscription (dedicated exclusively to skin-contact wines), Winkler explains that what matters most is how it’s made. “All of the wines we select are considered natural, produced from hand-harvested fruit, have nothing added / very low to zero sulfur, and there is no masking oak use,” she explains. Winkler notes that orange wines can be enjoyed at any time of the day or year, as there are endless shades, textures, and flavors available.

In other words, the spectrum of orange wine is pretty vast, and knowing where to start can be tricky. We’ve rounded up our top skin-contact picks, produced from various winemakers, regions, and grape varieties around the world. We could’ve just stuck with one simple style… but orange you glad we didn’t do that?

Best Overall: Cos Pithos Bianco

Cos Pithos Bianco

Courtesy of Vivino

Region: Sicily, Italy | ABV: 11.5% | Tasting Notes: Apricots, Yellow raisins, Mandarin 

Produced in the heart of the Cerasuolo di Vittoria appellation of Italy, COS wines have become some of the most beloved natural wines across the United States. Crafted at the hands of Giusto Occhipinti, one of the most influential winemakers in all of Italy, this varietal skin-contact Grecanico jumps with juicy flavors of apricots, yellow raisins, and mandarin. For those looking for a fresh, easy-drinking expression of orange wine, check out this delicious bottle. Made with organic/biodynamic fruit, native yeasts, and 30+ days of skin contact. (Note: Pithos is the Greek word for amphora.) 

“I enjoy orange wines as often as possible, with as many friends as allowed,” says Eric Plambeck, co-owner of Maracuja, a bar in Williamsburg. Plambeck also affirms his disdain for the idea of “seasonality” of wine. “I drink rosé in the winter and bubbles any chance I get,” he says, noting that with regards to food, orange wines pair well with basically everything. “I dare to say orange wine almost always has acid or tannin, so it goes well with almost anything. You’ll see the same bottle popped at Wu’s [Chinese cuisine] and a BYOB Italian joint.”

Best Budget-Friendly: Field Recordings Skins

2019 Field Recordings SKINS orange wine

Courtesy of Woods Wholesale Wine

Region: Central Coast, California | ABV: 12.1% | Tasting Notes: Apricot, Orange blossom, Spice

This easy-to-find orange wine is produced right in the heart of California’s Central Coast. Winemaker Andrew Jones pursues a more crisp and refreshing style with this skin-contact blend of chenin blanc, riesling, and pinot gris. Notes of apricot, orange blossom, and hearty spices lead to a thirst-quenching finish. Serve with blue cheese, charcuterie boards, or farro salads.

What Our Experts Say

“[Orange wine is] very versatile and fits any occasion and season. The wines are great with food—cheese is always a great call, as well as fried chicken and charcuterie.” — Doreen Winkler, Natural Wine Sommelier


Best Splurge: Gravner Breg Anfora Bianco

Gravner Breg Anfora Bianco

Courtesy of Vivino

Region: Friuli Venezia-Giulia, Italy| ABV: 14.5% | Tasting Notes: Orange blossom, dried fruits, sweet spice 

In the world of skin-contact wines, Radikon is the cream of the crop. Produced by the renowned Gravner family in northern Italy, these long-aged bottles promise a mind-boggling experience for those who love orange wine. Breg is a blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling Italico, and Pinot Grigio, macerated in amphora and aged for six years in oak barrels. The wine oozes with textured, grippy flavors of dried fruits, honey, orange blossom, and sweet spice. If you haven’t tried an extensively aged skin-contact wine yet, it doesn’t get much better than this! Bottled unfined / unfiltered. 

Best Ramato: Attems Pinot Grigio Ramato

Attems Pinot Grigio Ramato

courtesy of wine.com

Region: Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy | ABV: 12.5% | Tasting Notes: Tropical fruits, Grapefruit, Peach skin

Call it rosé, call it orange wine—either way, this stuff’s delicious. Ramato, which means copper in Italian, is a unique skin-contact wine born in northern Italy and is generally associated with the Pinot Grigio grape. Scarbolo has been crafting this flavor-packed, amber-hued cuvée for a while, pioneering the category worldwide. Expect flavors of tropical fruits, grapefruit, and peach skin.

Best French: Anne Pichon Sauvage Orange 2020

Anne Pichon Sauvage Orange

Region: Ventoux, Rhône Valley, France | ABV: 14% | Tasting Notes: Apple blossom, citrus rind, crushed stones

For a skin-contact wine that packs a serious punch, check out Anne Pichon’s Sauvage. Anne founded her eponymous estate with her late husband, Marc, in the heart of France’s Vaucluse region. They quickly converted their 15 hectares to all organic farming and dedicated the estate to creating site-specific wines unique to the area from which they come.

Sauvage is a blend of roussanne and sauvignon blanc that spends 12 months aging on the lees in barrel. Full-bodied notes of apple blossom, citrus rind, and crushed stones lead to a palate-coating, long-lasting finish. Serve with pungent cheeses, mezze platters, or roasted root vegetables.

Best Off Dry: Domaine Glinavos Paleokerisio

Domaine Glinavos Paleokerisio

Courtesy of Total Wine

Region: Ioannina, Greece | ABV: 10.5% | Tasting Notes: Peach skin, orange, grapefruit rind

Can’t decide between semi-sparking / off-dry or skin-contact wine? Good news – there’s no need to juice. This slightly sweet, low-ABV bottle from Domaine Glinavos is the perfect solution. Crafted from the local varieties of Debina and Vlahiko, this pleasant bottle of refreshing bubbles jumps with flavors of peach skin, apple blossom, ripe oranges, and grapefruit rind. Sip with brunch, weekend lunches, or dinner (especially if spicy takeout is on the menu) – you really can’t go wrong here. 

Rovine reveals that he personally isn’t a big “pairings person,” and that ultimately, the quality of a given food and wine matters most. “The best pairings are the best wines with the best foods,” he says, stating that orange wine can (and should) be enjoyed all year long.

Best Georgian: Pheasant’s Tears Rkatsiteli

Pheasant's Tears Rkatsiteli

Courtesy of Vivino

Region: Kakheti, Georgia | ABV: 12.5% | Tasting Notes: Apple blossom, orange marmalade, yeast

Founded in 2007 by American expat John Wurdeman and Georgian native Gela Patalishvili, Pheasant’s Tears hones in on the traditions, culture, and gastronomy of Georgia. All of the duo’s wines, including this skin-contact Rkatsiteli, are produced using traditional qvevri (underground clay pot) winemaking methods and see maceration times of three weeks to six months, depending on the variety and the size of the qvevri. This textured and tangy wine shows flavors of apple blossom, orange marmalade, tangerine, and yeast. 

Mara Rudzinski, sommelier of Harlem-based Contento looks for balance in skin-contact wines. “This is my mantra in life and wine!” she exclaims, noting that ample fruit, balanced acidity, and the most defining feature of all, texture, are what she seeks out most in orange wines. “Whether this comes in bitterness from the tannins or the weight and body imparted from contact with the skins, texture is the most unique and defining feature of orange wines.”

Final Verdict

Overall, Cos Pithos Bianco (view at Vivino) provides some of the best quality-to-price ratios on our list. For those just dipping their toes into the world of orange wines, Field Recordings Skins (view at Vivino) from California's Central Coast is a bright and lively introduction that is food-friendly and won't break the bank.

What to Look For

It all depends on your personal preferences! If you prefer grippy, more tannic styles of orange wine, seek out bottles that see 30+ days of skin contact. For fresher, easier drinking examples, look to bottles that see just a few days of maceration. As always, we recommend seeking out wines that are produced sustainably and responsibly, made from healthy fruit and with minimal intervention in the cellar.

FAQs

How long does orange wine last after opening?

Every wine is different, though we recommend consuming orange (and most) wines within 2-3 days after opening. Some wines will last up to a week, though those with bubbles will generally last less than two days.

How do you store orange wine?

Orange wines should be stored like all other wines, that is, in “cellar conditions” – think dark, humid places free of light and at 50-60 (approximately) degrees Fahrenheit. Once opened, store wines in the refrigerator to prolong freshness/shelf life. 

What’s the best temperature to serve orange wine at?

Orange wines are best served between 55 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. As with most wines, they will be most enjoyable when consumed with a slight chill.

Why Trust Liquor.com?

Vicki Denig's writing has appeared in Decanter, Departures, Food & Wine, and Wine Enthusiast. She has contributed to Liquor.com since 2020. Splitting her time between New York and Paris, she is a certified wine specialist and has worked in the wine trade since 2013.

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