Drinking ‘orange’ wines has become something of a trend of late, with examples coming from a number of countries, including Canada, Australia, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia; and, of course, the home or ‘cradle’ of wine, Georgia. Orange wine is made by allowing white wine to maintain skin contact during fermentation. As with red grapes and wines, this process imparts colour and tannic structure.
‘Orange’ wines or ‘Amber’ wines?
Georgians, however, prefer to call their wines ‘amber’ and for me, this is a far more accurate description. The word ‘orange’ too often confuses consumers into thinking there may be orange flavourings, or actual orange juice added (quelle horreur!). The Georgian tradition for making wine includes ripe grapes (in this case, white) with skins, stalks, pips and all placed into a Qvevri (a large clay amphora buried into the earth, the likes of which dates back to the 6th millennium B.C). This is then sealed and left to ferment for 5-6 months before bottling. This maturation on the skins is what gives Georgian white wine its unique characteristics and amber colour.
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What ‘Amber’ tastes like?
But what does it taste like? I hear you ask. Like all wines, it depends on the grape! Georgia has more than 500 unique/known varieties of grapes, though only 45 or so are grown commercially. Varieties like Krakhuna produces flavours of stone fruits with slightly herbaceous and floral notes, while Rkatsiteli is spicier with more honeyed tones. Kisi’s earthy apricot flavours imbued with those classic ‘amber’ tannic structures can taste as though you’re walking through an autumn forest – pure poetry! Amber wines should be served slightly chilled (cool, not cold) and, as with any good red, you may want to decant and allow it to breathe.
Organic and Biodynamic certified wines
Like many amber wines, Georgian wines are often considered natural by the very fact that historic, family-run vineyards are pretty much left in the hands of Mother Nature to nurture, and are made in this traditional way. Only recently have Georgian winemakers begun to benefit commercially from official Organic or Biodynamic certification for marketing and exporting their wines to the wider world. Even large, high-volume wineries, who previously used vineyard interventions for protecting crops from moulds, fungus and other beasties are, in some cases, seeing the light and turning toward organic and biodynamic status as well. However, like any wine (and particularly with natural wines), it’s important to be aware that taste and tannic structure can vary greatly between brands and are always interesting and exciting to try.
Amber wines, as the Georgians who originally invented wine prefer to call them, have been around for more than 8000 years, aren’t we lucky the trend has finally caught on?
Lynn’s top 5 picks of the Orange wines of Georgia:
Photo credit: Stori Rkatsiteli and Kisi Lukasi
- 2017 Rkatsiteli, Stori Winery
- 2017 Kisi, GVino – Call +995 593 68 68 03 OR Email email@example.com
- 2017 Krakhuna, Winery Khareba – Purchase online
- 2014 Kisi, Lukasi Winery –Purchase online
- 2017 Chinuri, Iago Winery – Phone +995 593 352 426 OR Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Lynn Mueting, Senior Marketing Consultant, Writer and a travel, art, food & wine enthusiast.