Wine lovers are accustomed to the question red or white on a night out. In fact, asking for orange would probably elicit a blank stare.
However, aficionados are touting the beauty of a new wine - and it goes beyond the pumpkin-colored glow.
Orange wines are not made from citrus fruits, nor are they to be confused with rosés. A rosé is made from red grapes with skins removed soon after contact. On the contrary, orange wines are made by essentially reversing the process.
This fourth wine type is created by allowing grape skins, seeds and stems to macerate with freshly crushed juice for longer than usual. In reality, orange wines are actually just a subset of white wines. The copper tone is passed on to the white wine from the colored skins.
Many are aged in a way that gives them a nutty, oxidized pungency that some liken to sherry.
Due to the juice's abnormally long contact with skin, deep pigments, tannins, and astringency - typically associated with red wines - tend to define the intriguing vino.
It's a white wine for red wine lovers. It can shine next to bold cheeses and cured meats in ways that other whites simply cannot.
A typical tasting note for an orange wine reads:
Medium copper-orange in the glass, this wine smells of orange rind, honey roasted nuts, and dried cedar boughs. In the mouth it is, like many wines this color, a complex mélange of different swirling flavors. Ranier cherry, orange rind, saffron, dried mango, and Crenshaw melon all make an appearance. The wine has a firm mineral backbone and wonderful, spritely acidity, and a long, lightly tannic finish that plays out in wonderful aromatics with a hint of salty savoriness. This wine benefits greatly from air, and will reward a full 24 hours of decanting with an even broader aromatic palette and more balanced experience for the taste buds.
Tossed around by wine geeks, the name orange wine is really just an attempt to classify something that defies easy categorization.
Creeping into the vernacular of the trendiest sommeliers of late, orange wine made a steady shift from tacky to trendy - but it's not yet mainstream.
While noted wine critics Eric Asimov of the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle's Jon Bonné have done their part to shed some light on the amber-hued drink, orange wine remains under the radar outside of major U.S. cities.
Orange wines can be hard to come by. If you're looking for a bottle in your local wine store, you should begin your search in the whites and expect to pay $20 or more for a decent bottle.
The hefty price tag accounts for the painstakingly artisanal process used to make it.
These character-driven wines typically come from the Brda region of Slovenia and the Lazio, Friuli, and Umbria regions of Italy - though winemakers in California and New York have piggybacked on the recent trend. Regardless of whether they are from Europe or America, orange wines tend to come from small vintners practicing an old-fashioned style of winemaking.
American Orange Wines to Try:
Channing Daughters' 2010 Ramato $20 (New York)
Point Concepcion's 2009 Celestina $20 (California)