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Depending on who you ask, orange wines are on the rise, possibly poised to be the new rosé. New York-based sommelier and natural wine expert Doreen Winkler, who also founded orange wine club Orange Glou, is among those leading the charge. But what are orange wines, exactly? “Orange wines are made with white grapes, but in a way typical for reds where the juice stays in contact with the skins after pressing, resulting in hues ranging from pale straw to golden to very dark orange—hence the name,” Winkler says. “Wines have been made this way for millennia in Georgia, but have recently become popular among winemakers and wine drinkers worldwide.” Here, Winkler and other industry pros share their favorite bottles to try this season and beyond.
Eric Hsu, co-founder of Coast and Valley wine bar in Brooklyn, is partial to this Californian blend of Chenin Blanc, Riesling, and Pinot Gris. “Winemaker Andrew Jones has been killing it in Paso Robles since 2007 with single vineyard site wines showcasing a sense of place and personality,” he says. “And with a wine with an as-clear-as-it-gets name called SKINS, Andrew claims it'll make anyone a believer in non-red wine. Honey and white flowers with notes of apricot and orange make this wine incredibly fun and crushable.” Jones recommends pairing this award-winning wine with some funky cheese, like a bleu, or a hearty duck sausage.
“I am a forever fan of Donkey & Goat,” says Stephanie Watanabe, co-founder and CXO of Coast and Valley wine bar in Brooklyn. “They are longtime natural wine producers in California, and everything they make is super interesting and very drinkable. This orange wine is aromatic, citrusy, and has a perfect crispness that I crave during this spring [and] summer weather.” Expect earthiness and umami, barnyard vibes on the palate—one of the winemakers describes this Pinot Gris as “Funkytown.”
At The Owl’s Head wine bar and store in Brooklyn, small producers are king, hand-selected by owner and sommelier John Avelluto with care and passion. This New Zealand pét nat—a naturally sparkling wine—is no exception.
Avelluto shares the story: “When I heard this year’s vintage of Theo Coles’ The Hermit Ram skin-macerated Sauvignon Blanc pét nat was landing in the U.S., I had to get my hands on it. I was excited by the almost hedonistic bouquet it offered: lemongrass, clover honey, mandarin pith, and ripe grapefruit find an echo on the palate. The textural contrast between the unfermented juice and unfiltered yeast creates a light sparkle with the perfect limestone edge. My favorite wine I have tasted this year so far!”
“I’ve been recommending this one to loads of people new to orange wine recently,” says Niclas Janssen, co-owner of natural wine subscription and online shop MYSA Natural Wine. “Sauvignon Blanc is an aromatic white wine that most wine drinkers are already aware of, but it’s not super common to see an expression like this one (30 days skin contact, whole cluster fermentation using native yeast). It’s grippy, acidic, and fresh while retaining those tropical and stone fruit Sauvignon Blanc qualities we love.”
“This wine tastes like summer: tangerine, pineapple, grapefruit, orange blossom—super refreshing,” says Winkler. Made up of a blend of at least 13 different grape varieties hailing from the same vineyard, this unique orange wine is the product of a collaboration between two young winemakers who happen to be best friends (the name of the wine is their two nicknames combined).
“Very few bottles of this one-of-a-kind wine are coming to the U.S., but I was able to secure a small amount which will go into Orange Glou’s six-bottle membership box in June,” Winkler shares. If you want to get your hands on one of these bottles, join Orange Glou before June is over.
If you’re looking for a versatile, delicious orange wine to pair with almost any dish, Montinore L’Orange 2018 is your best bet. This wine is made by one of the country’s largest producers of certified wines made from biodynamic grapes; this blend is equal parts Pinot Gris (left on the skins for up to 36 hours) and Muscat Ottonel that’s been fermented in a clay amphora, making for a bright, aromatic, balanced, tannic, and structured wine that can stand up to even the heaviest foods. On the nose, expect notes of apricot, fresh flowers, and honeydew with elegant citrus and baking spice on the palate.
“If you're going to be drinking skin-contact wines, you might want to seek out its provenance, which is said to be Georgia,” says Bishop, noting the country’s 8,000-plus years of winemaking history, which hasn’t changed much over the centuries. This organic wine is from the Kartli region and is made by Gotsa, a family winery dating back to the mid-1800s, and is a blend of two native grape varieties: Rkatsiteli and Mtsvane.
“This particular wine ages in Kvevri for about six months, which produces a wonderfully aromatic wine with fairly soft tannins and subtle flavors of almond and peach skins,” Bishop adds. The Kvevri vessels, Bishop says, are buried into the ground in the winery’s cellar.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Céline Bossart has been tracing the rise of orange wines since the early days of her career as a wine and spirits writer. Is it the new rosé? Debatable. But you’ll certainly find her reaching for it all summer long.