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orange wines

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By: Millesima

Representing a niche style that has gained in popularity as of late, orange wines have become the new darlings of sommeliers across the country, especially when it comes to wine tasting Los Angeles. In fact, these wines have a fascinating history dating back to 6,000 BC and have enjoyed a modern renaissance beginning in the 1990’s through the efforts of visionary winemakers like Radikon and Movia. But what exactly are orange wines? How are they made and how are they best enjoyed? Discover our foray into the world of these skin-contact white beauties! 

What are orange wines and how are they made?

We are all familiar with the two most common styles of wine: white and red. Lying somewhere between those two are two more styles: rosé (our favorite summer sipper) and the lesser-known orange wine. The former is produced by shortening the “maceration” time of red grapes, or the time the grape skin spends in contact with the must. The latter is produced by lengthening the maceration time of white grapes. A more correct name for orange wines is actually “extended skin-contact white wines.”

Usually, white grapes are crushed shortly after arriving to the winery and then left to ferment without the skins, leading to a pale yellow color in the glass. In the case of orange wines, the juice and the grapes remain in contact, allowing elements like color, tannins and anthocyanins to seep out of the skins and into the juice. This “enrichment” of the juice results in a white wine with a darker hue, ranging from orange to amber, along with a bigger body on the palate. 

The tannins and anthocyanins extracted from the grape skins also serve as natural preservatives. This means that orange wines can last longer without sulfur treatment, which explains why many orange wines are also natural wines. Winemakers specialized in orange wines generally choose natural viticultural and winemaking methods across the board. These include a biodynamic or organic approach in the vineyard, spontaneous fermentations using indigenous yeasts, and bottling without fining or filtration. In some cases, orange wines are made in the oxidative style, with some oxygen seeping into the liquid during the fermentation process.

The History of Orange Wines

Skin-contact white wines have ancient origins. This style dates back to 6,000 BC in the Caucasus (now the country of Georgia). Even to this day, Georgian winemakers continue producing orange wines using large earthenware vessels known as qvevri to ferment their wines. Traditionally, these qvevri were buried deep underground to keep the contents cool during the fermentation process. Outside of Georgia, the extended skin-contact method of producing white wine has also remained the norm in some remote areas of Slovenia and northeastern Italy. 

In the 1990’s, orange wines experienced a renaissance in popularity, when they were rediscovered by visionary winemakers with a more natural approach. Leading this movement were Stanko Radikon and Joško Gravner in Italy’s Friuli-Venezia Giulia appellation, near the Slovenian boarder. Today, orange wines are produced in several regions of Italy and Greece, as well as around the world. While these wines definitely remain a niche style, more and more winemakers are experimenting with them in places like California, Australia and South Africa.

The Aromas and Flavors of Orange Wines

Now that we know what orange wines are, how they are made and by whom, we can get to the most important part: how they smell and taste in the glass. As with any classic white wine, the aromas of the wine will depend on a number of factors, including the grape variety, terroir of origin and vintage of the fruit. Nevertheless, the most common ways to describe the aromas of orange wines include bruised apples, bruised pears, jackfruit, honeyed apricot and dried citrus peel. When produced in an oxidative style, these wines can also reveal nutty aromas and toffee on the nose. 

On the palate, orange wines are usually quite voluptuous and full-bodied, showing a higher degree of tannins than standard white wines. Nevertheless, they also maintain a fresh acidity that is typical in white wines. 

orange wines

How to Serve and Food Pairing with Orange Wines

The ideal serving temperature of an orange wine will depend on the grape variety and style. While lighter-bodied orange wines can be served chilled, just like any standard white wine, fuller bodied orange wines should be served at room temperature to fully enjoy their myriad of aromas. We recommend serving orange wines in a glass with a larger bowl, like the Riedel “Montrachet” glass, which will emphasize the rich texture of these wines when it comes to wine tasting Los Angeles.

As for food pairings, it will once again be important to first consider grape variety when choosing the right dish. Generally, orange wines tend to be quite robust in style, which will allow them to pair with boldly flavored or spicy dishes. Some of our favorite food pairings with orange wines include Moroccan lamb tagine, slow-cooked Ethiopian goat tibs or smoky baba ghanoush. You could also go with your favorite Asian dishes, like Sichuan noodles or Korean kimchi, which you can find almost anywhere when wine tasting Los Angeles. 

We hope you have enjoyed this adventure into the fascinating world of orange wines and that you have learned a thing or two about this weird and wonderful style! We recommend that every wine lover try a skin-contact white wine at least once in their life. Who knows, it might even become your favorite!

About Millesima USA:

Founded in 1983, Millesima is a family-owned fine wine merchant headquartered in Bordeaux, France. Millesima’s USA branch was born in 2006 and includes a retail store in New York City as well as user-friendly e-commerce platform, featuring a vast selection of highly sought-after fine wines from around the world.

Millesima USA

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By: Niosha Nafei Jamali

wine history, nowruz, shiraz, wine educator

Before wine became a cultural phenomenon (think wine moms), it was a cultural symbol saved for traditional ceremonies and celebrations going back thousands of years. As we approach our celebration of the Persian New Year, and the celebration of Nowruz (meaning “new day” in Farsi), I wanted to take a look at the role wine and food plays in this 13-day celebration of a new year, rebirth, joy, and love. 

I’ve heard stories of the importance of wine in Persian culture dating back millennia. Today, pairing different wines with Nowruz dishes throughout the ceremony is not only a delight for the palate, it signifies symbolic and almost holy ritual throughout our 13-day celebration.

To understand Nowruz, one must understand the traditions that guide us. First, we set up the Haft-seen (translating to seven Ss in Farsi), a table of offerings in preparation for Nowruz. On this table we place food to encourage redemption, rebirth, and a good year ahead. As part of the seven Ss, we gather six foods that begin with the letter s, each with a different meaning:

There are many traditional dishes served throughout Nowruz including mixed rice and kabobs, lamb stew, noodles, Persian frittata, fragrant rice, sweets, tea, and nuts. Fish dishes are often paired with a Viognier, balancing the delicate taste of trout, white fish, or herbed rice with the full-bodied taste and bouquets of peach, mango, or vanilla that Viognier is known for.

While many westerners may not be familiar with the towns and cities of Iran, most have heard of one: Shiraz. While the city of Shiraz is known for gardens and poets, Shiraz – or Syrah as it is sometimes called – is a full-bodied red wine known for the black fruit, smoke, and pepper spice that lingers on the tongue. Shiraz is a perfect complement to dishes like Reshteh polo – chunks of lamb with rice and noodles. Cabernets are often paired with meals like brown noodle rice with raisins and dates, or braised chicken. 

For a two-week celebration focused on unity, love, joy, and rebirth, it’s only fitting that Nowruz culminates in the13-Be-dar, a picnic held 13 days after the Iranian New Year. During the 13-Be-dar we gather with our families to eat traditional foods, drink wine, and throw the greenery, wheat grass we’ve grown on the Haft-seen. Like so many other cultures, we exchange gifts, we eat, drink, bask in the joy of each other’s company and look forward to the year ahead.

Join the NICA Nowruz Celebration

In this moment in time, The Story of Nowruz is a beacon of hope. It’s a symbol for looking forward with an open heart, with hopes of being together again. This year to celebrate Nowruz, the Niosha International Conservatory of Arts (NICA) will present two performances of The Story of Nowruz through dance, music, and a few surprises along the way. 

Join us for one of our performances on Saturday, March 19 and Sunday March 20, 5pm PDT at the San Mateo Performing Arts Center and learn even more about this 3,000-year-old tradition and the Persian New Year. Not in California? You can still join us through our livestream! To learn more, get tickets, or sign up for the livestream, visit www.nicart.org. Become part of our community as you watch the story and celebration of Nowruz unfold while sipping your Shiraz and enjoying a delicious Retesh-polo.

wine history, nowruz, shiraz, wine educator

About Niosha Nafei Jamali:

When Niosha came to the United States as a teenager, she brought her love and talent for dance and innate curiosity to her new home. A dancer since she was two, Niosha remained immersed in her Persian heritage after coming to the U.S. After winning the Miss Iran Pageant in 1992 and completing her degree in psychology at the University of California at Santa Cruz, Niosha founded the Niosha Dance Academy, an elite, prolific Iranian dance school, and later the Niosha International Conservatory of Arts Foundation (NICA). In the time between, she toured the US with her troupe, was diagnosed with and beat Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and raised 3 children. Niosha lives in the Bay Area with her husband and children, among the community she loves.

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