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Culture: Why Is Orange Wine Suddenly Everywhere?

Culture: Why Is Orange Wine Suddenly Everywhere?

Allthough orange wine has been around for centuries, it remains a bit of an enigma to many drinkers. So, what is this amber-hue wine and how is it produced? And why have we been seeing more and more of it popping up on menus at restaurants and bars over the last few years?

I sat down with Doreen Winkler to find out. Winkler is a sommelier, orange wine expert and the founder of Orange Glou, the only brick-and-mortar wine retail shop in the world solely dedicated to the category.

You May Also Like: 8 Orange Wines We’re Loving Right Now

Listen as Winkler explains the origins of orange wine and how the ancient style is produced. She also dishes on why she hates it being referred to as trendy and if orange wine is the same thing as natural wine. Finally, she breaks down why restaurants are increasingly adding orange wines to their wine programs.

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Episode Transcript

Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting.

Speakers: Jacy Topps, Doreen Winkler 

Jacy Topps  00:08 

Hello, and welcome to the Wine Enthusiast podcast. You’re serving drinks culture, and the people who drive it. I’m Jacy Topps. This week we’re delving into the wonderful world of orange wine. So just what is this amber hue wine? And how is it produced? And why have we been seeing more and more options popping up on menus at restaurants and bars over the last few years? I sat down with Doreen Winkler to find out. With over a decade of experience in the industry. Doreen is a sommelier, orange wine expert, and the founder of Orange Glou, a wine retail shop specializing in orange wines here in New York City. In fact, it’s the only retail shop in the world solely dedicated to the category. So, listen on, as Doreen explains the origins of orange wine; how the centuries old style is produced; why she hates it being referred to as trendy; Is it the same thing as a natural wine; and why restaurants are increasingly adding bottles to their wine programs. 

Jacy Topps  01:20 

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Jacy Topps  02:30 

Hi, I’m Jacy Topps, a print editor here at Wine Enthusiast. And my guest today is Doreen Winkler working in the wine industry for over a decade. Durian is a sommelier, orange wine expert and the founder of Orange Glou, a wine retail shop specializing in orange wines here in New York City. Welcome Doreen, I’m so glad you can join us today. 

Doreen Winkler  02:55 

Thank you, Jacy! I’m so happy to be here.  

Jacy Topps  02:58 

Okay, so let’s just jump right in. Our topic is going to be orange wine and you are an expert. What is orange wine? And where did it originate from?  

Doreen Winkler  03:10 

Orange wine is made from white grapes. They’re utilizing the grapes, the skins, the stems, and the seats. So when you have white wine, you just press the white grapes. But when you make orange wine, you’re using all of the goods that the grape pass. 

Jacy Topps  03:29 

Okay, so just to be clear, there are no oranges in orange wine? 

Doreen Winkler  03:37 

No oranges have been harmed in the process. 

Jacy Topps  03:41 

I mean, you know, it’s not it’s kind of a fun question. But it’s not to poke fun at anyone. But I know I’ve had people when I tried to explain orange wine like oh, are there oranges and what kind of oranges, and so I just kind of want to be clear that orange wine is not made from oranges.  

Doreen Winkler  03:57 

I’m getting this question every single day. My team always says if they get $1 for every time, they get asked that they would be rich. So I fully understand.  

Jacy Topps  04:11 

So what is your background with orange wine? Like how did you get into the wine industry and start studying orange wine?  

Doreen Winkler  04:19 

So I’m a sommelier. I’m originally from Germany. I was one of the youngest sommeliers out there. My first job practicing being a sommelier was 22. And yeah, I was actually having a very traditional sommelier career, you know, worked with all the Bordeaux’s and the Burgundy’s and the Champagnes and all these leading wines of the world. And then something really has switched, where I was like, I was getting more educated about how mine was made. Really, because even you’re a sommelier and you know a lot of things about the regions and the one wines., But nobody actually talks about how these wines are made and how many additives are in there and why to taste every single year, very similar, and so on. And I was dabbling in natural wine. And back then that was literally 10 years ago here in New York City. There were a lot of restaurants that were kind of interesting. But they didn’t want to go full. And then I met a chef th

at worked at Noma in Denmark. And he wanted to hire me and wanted a full-on natural wine list. And that’s when it all started. I was pairing a 19-course menu at this restaurant. And I just really saw how well orange wine pears just extremely versatile. And my obsession of orange wine really started there. That was 10 years ago, yes. And I have ever since like, kind of seeked out then started seeking out the restaurants that have some orange wines, but they were not so many. And I started creating my own little job that is like a sommelier on retainer. So I worked with a lot of small restaurants in the city and in the Hamptons, but on retainer and their wine programs, and also their staff training and everything that belongs there, then the numbers. And I put a lot of orange wines on these lists, and it was really like driving and I felt like you know, I can really educate on that. And I can get the team involved and get them super excited. 

Doreen Winkler  06:38 

And I was very happy for a long time having all these retainers. And working with different restaurants. It’s just awesome. Like putting different concepts together and really like honing it in. And I wanted to do something that’s more personal for myself. And so, I started the Orange Glou wine club.  

Jacy Topps  07:00 

Oh, wow. Okay,  

Jacy Topps  07:01 

And that club turned into the store. Correct?  

Doreen Winkler  07:02 

it’s all a whole progression. And yeah, the wine club took off. In the pandemic, I started in the fall of 2019. And it was so lonely. Just a wine club, you’re not supposed to like, it’s not a one off. It’s really like a commitment. And yeah, during the pandemic, I lost all the retainers, which was very scary, because there were four retainers. My rent was paid. It was doing really good. And yeah, all of a sudden, like you’re standing there, you’re like, oh. ut I put every single ounce that I had into this wine club. And I think that my wine club is very, very honest. And there’s no fillers in there. And it’s just really like my little baby, my little love project. So to say. And to this day, it’s going very well.  

Jacy Topps  07:59 

And that club turned into the store, correct.  

Doreen Winkler  08:04 

Correct. So when you grow sometimes there are issues with the way and yeah, it’s just we also did a lot of pop ups. Like I just feel like I’ve been just living out my wild dreams in that way. I wanted this personal orange wine club. Nobody has done an orange club at that point. I even said like people should really do orange wine club would be cool. And then I was like, but who should be doing that. I mean, you know why you’re not giving yourself that kind of like confidence. And then it was the wine club. And then like, people were asking for one off, and they were asking for sending people like gifts and stuff. And that grew. And then we were doing like, as I said, the pop ups we would like to have 25 different wines in the restaurant. And like just serve them by the half a glass and like it was it was insane. We had orange wine, magnums, we were popping up in LA we were we were everywhere. And it was just like so fun to throw these parties. Then the club grew the order screw and then there were issues working with the stores that we were using to fulfill the orders. And they all kind of had some issues and then we had some issues because of that. We’re not gonna get into that too much. I was having to make a decision if I want to continue doing this orange life or if I want to continue consulting, which I have been very successful with. And since we already had this layer, it wasn’t as scary like I already had my lair the club money is coming in, you know, like I can do more events in the store and I’m doing them off site as well. Now we’re doing them virtually And, as well, and I just thought like, you know, it’s not as scary. But you know, I’m glad I don’t I don’t know what I know now. 

Jacy Topps  10:10 

Okay, well, let’s back up for just a second. So, you started in wine, and you were really excited about natural wines. Are most orange wines natural or organic? They are often categorized the same way. Is that true that won’t wines are natural, organic? 

Doreen Winkler  10:27 

So they don’t have to be natural, most of them are. And it’s complicated, because like, who can you trust? For me? There’s a lot of research that goes into it. But for the regular consumer, I think it’s very hard to find out if, if this is a natural orange wine or not. 

Jacy Topps  10:46 

What about in your store and in your club, are you selling mostly are all natural wines or organic wines, 

Doreen Winkler  10:53 

All my wines are as natural as they come. So we’re not selling organic wines, because to me, that means just it’s organically harvested, and made from organic grapes. So a lot of additives can still be added to it. Most of my wines in the store are biodynamically. farmed, because I always feel like that’s like, you know, there’s more of a commitment to it. We have a lot of wines that are 00. And I must say, what has been happening in the last years with that, that people actually can really a winery can really work with no added sulfide is very interesting, because years ago, it just would become brown juice after an hour of opening it. So that’s, that’s been very exciting. But yeah, I’m really looking at very low sulfur levels. Really how the production is going. I’m asking a lot of questions. I always like to work with some newer wineries. But of course, we have a lot of like, are located very established wineries with us. But yeah, as minimal as possible with sulphites and as natural as possible. 

Jacy Topps  12:03 

And just for some of our listeners who aren’t familiar, where did orange wine or skin contact? I think we should talk about that as well, because I think a lot of distributors and producers in the states can we call it orange wine, but it’s also called skin contact? Where did it originate from? 

Doreen Winkler  12:23 

So, it originated in the Republic of Georgia. And it has been like this hidden secret for a very long time. 

Jacy Topps  12:31 

Yeah, like centuries, right? Like 1000s of years. 

Doreen Winkler  12:35 

So it’s going back 8000 years ago, and they just literally wanted to make white wine. But back in the day, you know, they didn’t have a press, they foot stomped, which many people still do to this day. And then they left the skins, the stems and the seats in there. And it started turning into this amber color. But they didn’t want to throw away the alcohol. experimented with it? 

Jacy Topps  13:04 

I read somewhere that orange wine is to white wine as rose as to red. 

Doreen Winkler  13:10 

So I would say absolutely not. 

Jacy Topps  13:14 

No, okay. 

Doreen Winkler  13:16 

Just simply because red is more like orange wine. Orange wine is literally made the same exact way. If you were just press the red grapes, you can make white wine out of it. Just as you can make from the white grapes white wine as usually do. But if you must operate it on the skins as you do with the red wine, then it becomes red. And in this case, it becomes orange. 

Jacy Topps  13:43 

Because the color then tannins come from the skins not the juice. 

Doreen Winkler  13:47 

Yes, exactly. Okay. I mean, I always highly recommend people to do harvest because then you can see it all the way. Red wine soaks for a very long time. But also depending on the grape variety, and that’s that’s really important when it comes to orange wine. grape variety. 

Jacy Topps  14:06 

So can they be made with any white grape or they’re very specific ones that are better for Amber’s wines. 

Doreen Winkler  14:13 

So, I would really say this is a winemaker question. But I feel like I’m always getting surprised I was very much thinking that Riesling doesn’t work. And then I saw examples many years after off orange wine that’s made from Riesling and it just literally blew me away. So I don’t think I would say it can’t be done but I really think when it comes to orange wine, there’s so much that comes from the grapes and people always like white grapes or white grapes but it’s not it’s not like that because they have all kinds of different shades of colors. When it comes to those grapes. They have a different thickness of the skin. Used to have different phenolics that differently built. I mean there there’s so much to it and the winemaker really knows their grapes well, and within the region, they don’t have to study all the, the 20 1000s of grapes. They know them well in the regions and they know kind of they can see like how long a masturbation for the specific variety is good. So I feel like it can be done and I feel like other grapes are better suited for that and some grapes are better suited than others. 

Jacy Topps  15:34 

Okay, yeah, I think that’s a great answer. I feel like orange wine. The ones that I’ve tried are fresh and very little aging, but I have heard of oak aging. So are you familiar with a lot of orange wines that are aged in oak as well. 

Doreen Winkler  15:51 

So first of all, there are many different orange wines that are actually ageable, and so we have a lot of them in the store. And so it’s like the same as with other wines. Some are made for enjoyment now, and some are made for like you can store them for many years and enjoy them in 10 years or 20 years. There is sometimes oak aging involved, but it’s usually natural oak or neutral oak as it’s called. So it’s not like freshly toasted oak barrel in the first use. Because when it comes to natural wine, and that’s mostly what orange wine is, we’re not looking to add any kind of flavoring to the wine. So yeah, I see a lot of large barrels, 600 liter food, wrists, and so on, that have been used for for many years and never, you know, and then they’re being used for orange wine. 

Jacy Topps  16:54 

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Jacy Topps  17:35 

This is so fascinating. I think. I mean, I’ve, I’ve been drinking orange wine a lot in the last few years. And I’ve realized that the category is so wide, like it’s such a spectrum.  You know, like, natural or not aged or not. So it’s it’s so fascinating. I think it’s great. 

Doreen Winkler  17:54 

Yes, I’m, I must say that there are always new vessels happening. And that’s really, really exciting. The newest trend is apparently marble in Italy. It’s a lot cheaper in Italy to get marble apparently. Cement x of course in Georgia, the queries are still very large and I’m for ours are now produced in many other countries. Because they were always originating from Georgia. Now I see them being made in Spain and Portugal and and other countries. And you have the fiberglass. I mean, it’s it’s kind of like it’s endless. What is now being offered for vessels to age wine in. 

Jacy Topps  18:40 

So you know, this was orange wine. Amber wine has been around for centuries. But you know, it’s only been the last three, five years where you see it popping up on restaurant menus and bar menus and now orange wine shops. Okay, you’re the only one in New York City. Awesome. That’s great. The world in the world. 

Jacy Topps  19:04 

Wow, that’s awesome. Why do you think it’s just now in the last five years where it’s becoming more of a trend? I wish I would feel especially in the States. I feel like in Europe, maybe not so much. It’s not necessarily a trend but here in the United States. It’s definitely trending. 

Doreen Winkler  19:22 

Well. Well, I would say so maybe to just step back for one second. So it might be 8000 years old, but it was kept a secret until 40 years ago from the rest of the world because the Republic of Georgia was never a touristic country. So like people didn’t know about it, they weren’t flying there and like getting exposed to it. But about 40 years ago, two very famous winemakers today Gravner and Radikon, they actually went to Georgia got one of those queries, and they started trying to make that style. And as you know, they’re very successful with that. And from there, it’s spread from Italy, to Slovenia, to Croatia, to the rest of Europe, to now Australia. I mean, we have a wine here, that’s from Japan, that’s orange wine. So that’s kind of like how this all happened. I would say that people just have not been educated about orange wine. Like, I feel like it’s all a progression. Let’s look at like, you know, nobody wanted me to make a natural wine menu 1010 years ago. They wanted me to maybe put a couple of natural wines on the list, but then they wanted me to right behind it. biodynamic, organic, sustainable. And it confused everybody and make people afraid of that kind of wines. Let’s get just get something normal. And in the last years, just like, you know, they’re full on natural wine bars, full on natural restaurants, which I get that I guess I helped some of them built. And there was just more education out there. When I look at like, five years ago, I’ve been doing this list here on the Lower East Side, we had 15, orange wines put 15 Orange wines on, on that list, and we put three of them by the glass, we had a Piquette. We had a lighter, still orange wine and the full one. And just people like really became more like educated and more exposed to it. I would say it’s just I feel like the wine industry maybe has done something for these wines and has, you know, we are building the trends in that sense, you know, the winemakers, the wine industry, the importers to help the costs of this, and then the kids hear about it. And then they’re like, you know, go to the environment. Like, I want to try orange wine. 

Jacy Topps  21:51 

Yeah. I think that’s what I did, you know, like, like, several years ago was like, oh, there’s an orange wine. Okay, sure. I’ll try that. 

Doreen Winkler  21:58 

Yeah, I, I don’t like the word trendy. I just think, you know, I don’t I’m not closing the shop tomorrow. Orange wine will not be any more a trend tomorrow. You know what I mean? Yes, I think there’s just more education out there, and it will just develop and there there’s only a couple of 1000 wineries making orange wine at the state, and it’s definitely growing and there many more people experiencing the fat, but it’s still a very small amount out there when you compare it to, you know, the production of white wine. 

Jacy Topps  22:34 

Okay, so I know that also like in my opinion, orange wine is very versatile and very food friendly. Because of the way it’s fermented because it has contact with the skins and the tannin. Do you find that as well? 

Doreen Winkler  22:49 

It’s extremely versatile. And really, that’s how it kind of started when that when I said like I was pairing this 19 course menu, and this restaurant in 2013. And it was actually a very complicated menu. A lot of things were pickled and smoked, and so on. And it was a Scandinavian restaurant. And I just, it’s just really versatile there is like you can have like sushi with some of the sparkling and even the lighter still orange wines. You can have fried chicken with the richer like sparkling orange. There’s like you know we have a really cool Sauvignon Blanc from Austria that go like really nice for scallop crudo. There’s even some oysters you can have some of them, then different kinds of cheeses, chocolate or re always leave lend to it. There are wines you can have some lamb chops, and yeah, it’s literally like it doesn’t stop. There’s a lot of Asian cuisine that works well, ramen. It’s pretty endless. It’s very versatile. I really like that. And when people come in the shop, they can actually always see some tasting notes, but also the pairings and they’re always like, Oh my God, you’re making me hungry. Sometimes some people really like go with it. And they’re like, Yeah, that’s what we were gonna do it tonight because you know, you always need some inspiration. What to do for dinner or what to get for takeout. 

Jacy Topps  24:18 

Exactly. Yes. You’re definitely making me hungry. So, when people in your experience, actually try it to actually come into your shop and you know, when you have tastings and are they really into it at that point, like are you seeing as soon as they try it, people are really into it. 

Doreen Winkler  24:37 

So in our tastings, I always make sure we have a variety of different wines. So they are not starting with like a 10 year, aged one year skin contact. It’s usually like evolution. We do like so once a month. We do like a deep dive that we really deep into a specific region and we taste different grape varieties in Spain. Applying and still. And so you learn a lot about that. Then we have regular tastings that are usually also like from a specific country. And yeah, they usually just, if they’re new, they’re very surprised. And they think it’s actually easier digestible, that they would have thought it is, you know, there’s always like, people are always a little scared. Sometimes it’s mine, it’s delicious, you know, something for everyone in this category. It’s so, you know, it might be so niche, but it’s so broad. And the end of the day, there are different ways of even making the sparkling wine. It’s not just orange pet nut, there are different kinds of different types. And look at like, there’s minerally still wines, there’s floral, there’s tropical, there’s umami, there’s that it’s just such a big spectrum. 

Jacy Topps  25:55 

So are the ones that you sell in your store? Are they able to go to all 50 states or like someone able to log on to your website and purchase them that way? 

Doreen Winkler  26:06 

We can ship to the 44 states. 

Jacy Topps  26:09 

Okay. 44 states and your particular store? Is it a club? Or is it do you have wines that you sell just single? 

Doreen Winkler  26:20 

So we don’t sell the club wines. The cup wines are just for the club. And then we have about, we have anything between 70 and 100 Orange wines on our shelves. So they can just be selected? 

Jacy Topps  26:34 

Yeah, I came into your store, what was it two years ago. So it was during COVID. But it was, it was great. I loved your store. So I just have one final question for you. What are you drinking these days? What’s in your glass? 

Doreen Winkler  26:55 

So I’ve been a little bit obsessed with piquettes lately. So, they’re just made from the second press of skins, some water and some yeast. It’s just super easy to drink in the summer. And when you work as much as I do, it’s good to have like a lower alcohol drink. And just like a small amount at the end of the day or not every day, of course, someday, but I also like it kind of depends. I’m always like in a different kind of mood. You know, what am I pairing? What am I doing tonight? Am I going to a friend’s rooftop? What am I bringing? I just I love the Rhydian like I get bored really easily. But with orange wine, I don’t get bored because there’s so much more to explore and so much to drink. So like yes, I’m been drinking a lot of Piquette, and I wish more people would be making PCAT please winemakers out there. It’s so good. And but yeah, I kind of have I’m in a different mood all the time. 

Jacy Topps  27:56 

I agree with that. I definitely love a like a nice chilled piquette. It’s like there’s nothing better a great aperitif or you’re gonna get some food it’s great. During thank you so much for joining us today and I cannot wait to stop by your story again. I’m so lucky that I live in New York City. 

Doreen Winkler  28:16 

Thank you so much Jacy. 

Jacy Topps  28:22 

From the various white grape varieties used to the length of maceration. The diversity is endless. It’s no wonder orange wines; aka skin contact wine is popping up on beverage menus everywhere. Okay, so orange wine is not actually made with oranges. It is however sparking innovation among producers, and interesting conversations and dialogue among wine drinkers. And that’s always a good thing. What are your thoughts? If you liked today’s episode, we love to read your reviews and hear what you think. You can email us your comments and questions at podcast at Wine Enthusiast. dotnet. And hey, why not tell your wine loving friends to check us out to remember, you can subscribe to this podcast on Apple, Google Spotify and anywhere else you listen to podcasts. You can also go to wine backslash podcasts. For more episodes and transcripts. I’m Jacy Topps. Thanks for listening.

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