Orange Wine: Here's What you Need to Know
Two wine connoisseurs share their insights.
It’s been a bit of a slow burn but over the past decade, orange wine has gone from esoteric and obscure to a favorite pour among industry insiders and, in effect, become increasingly prevalent on wine lists around the city. For the uninitiated, orange wine, sometimes referred to as skin-contact wine, is made by fermenting and aging the juice of white grapes with their skins and seeds in a large clay vessel called a “qvevri.” By comparison, white wine is made from white grapes after removing the skin and seeds. With that said, let’s dive a little deeper into how, when, and where you should be sipping this orange-hued variety created from a centuries-old technique. Here, two wine connoisseurs—Byron Bates, co-founder at Goatboy Selections, and Ray Pirkle, co-owner of Rivertown Lodge—share their insights.
What are your go-to NY spots for a glass of orange wine, and what makes each spot special?
Byron Bates: Any good wine bar or resto with a sommelier worth their salt will carry a few selections of orange (macerated white wines). Ten Bells is a casual wine bar on the LES with great bar food and a strong selection by the glass; Frenchette in TriBeCa for the best fine French food in NY and a deep list of white wine with skin contact; Romans in Fort Greene is a top-notch neighborhood Italian and always pours an orange.
Ray Pirkle: Four Horsemen; James Murphy also just opened a new bar called Daymoves, which will be called Nightmoves at night. Also, Diner and Marlow & Sons, Ten Bells, Ops, Racines, Wildair, Chez Ma Tante, Frenchette.
Can you share your tips on how to pick a great bottle of orange wine?
BB: Pick a good restaurant or wine bar and ask the sommelier or waiter. Look for wines from Friuli, Austria, and the Republic of Georgia. Pinot Gris does particularly well with some skin contact.
RP: To pick the best ones, you look for the best importers. Their labels are on the back of the bottles—it’s like trusting an indie record label. Goatboy, Dressner, Jenny & François, and Zev Rovine.
What foods do you recommend pairing with orange wine?
BB: Anything you’d drink with a light red: duck, brisket, skate… a little fat or sweetness in the dish makes for a perfect pairing.
RP: Obviously, it would depend on the actual wine but as a general rule, orange wines tend to be tannic, nutty and full of flavor. They can hold up to oily fish, red meats, charcuterie, and strong cheeses.
WORDS Edwina Hagon