Slovenia Orange Wine
Orange wine is a big thing in Slovenia. Orange wine is not made out of oranges but it is the world’s oldest wine style, rarely heard of and usually misunderstood. Orange wine has become the fourth color on wine lists all around the globe besides whites, reds and rosés. Over the past decade, however, orange wine has gone from ancient, to hipster’s trendy, and mainstream. In Slovenia there are more and more winemakers who decide to produce orange wines from many different varieties, mostly local or regional specialties in order to keep a tradition so as to give complement to our forefathers and to give the wine lovers from all around the globe the taste of our »terroir«.
What is orange wine and how it is produced?
Orange wine is nothing new. All the white wines in the past were orange. The term orange wine describes a process, a winemaking technique. Orange wines are produced mainly on boutique wine-growing estates. These are the wines with a personal touch because processing of grapes and wine requires plenty of love, manual work and proper aging. Skin-contact wine, skin-fermented wine, macerated white wines, amber wine, or orange wine is a type of wine made from white grape varieties where the grape skins (sometimes even stems!) are not removed, and stay in contact with the juice for days, weeks or even months during fermentation process giving the wine an amber or orange color. Fermentation is taking place in an open-topped vessel when a winemaker need to make frequent punchdowns with a long stick in order the carbon dioxide escapes. Winemakers decide on different maceration times – depending on the type of grape as well as the wine production philosophy. After fermentation vessels are topped up and sealed to prevent oxidation. The wine stays with its skins for a certain time (3-6 months) before it is pressed and racked off the skins and transformed into another vessel where it is aged for many months and years before it is bottled. The wine is bottled without filtering. Skin contact wines may be goden-yellow, pinkish-grey, orange, amber, even ochre.
Main orange wines characteristics are spontaneous fermentation and long aging periods in wooden barrels – no adding wine yeasts, no cooling in the fermentation phase. They are usually not filtered before bottling. Orange wines don’t need any kind of winemaker’s intervention.
The term “orange wine” is relatively new. It was formed by the Anglo-Saxons to give an exact description of wine made of white grape varieties and left in contact with grape skins over a certain period of time. Term orange wine become the more popular term on wine lists all around the globe.
As one of my previous guests who attended Wine Tasting Experience said: ”Orange wines has the freshness and acidity of a white wine and the grippy dry tannins of a red.” To sum up and to make things more understandable. There are red and white grape varieties. Winemakers produce wines from the juice (whites, rosés) and wines from the skin (reds, orange wines). Simple, right?
Where orange wines come from?
The process of making orange wine is very old, but the reinvigoration of this ancient wine making process has only resurfaced in the last 25 years. Many modern-day orange winemakers look as far back as 8000 years in Georgia where wines were fermented in large vessels called Qvevri. The orange wine process was popularized in Italy by 2 visionary winemakers (Joško Gravner, Stanko Radikon) from Italian Collio who put macerated white wines back on the table in late 90s. The guru of orange wine Joško Gravner drove a lorry from his estate in Italy’s Oslavia to Georgia to pick up the giant clay amphorae (for fermenting) that are now buried below his cellar. He forged a »new-old« style of wine and link it with winemaking culture in Georgia, a cradle of skin-fermented wine making process.
Nowadays orange wine is produced in almost all traditional wine growing regions of Europe, New Zealand, Australia, USA. But orange wine’s hot spot can be found in the Collio vineyards in Friuli-Venezia Giulia (Italy) and wineries across the border in Slovenia (Goriška Brda, Vipava valley, Karst, Slovenian Istria).
Goriška Brda has a long history of orange winemaking. Collio/Goriška Brda region almost lost its ancient winemaking culture due to political upheaval and modernity. Between 1914 and 1991 ethnic Slovenes living in Goriška Brda would go from being Austro-Hungarians, to Italians, to Yugoslavs, and to Slovenes. Under Tito’s rulement farmers had to deliver the majority of their grape harvest to one of the state cooperatives. Quantity not quality was the watchword so as their traditional style of macerated white wine disappeared in the post-war decades, as modern winemaking technology gained ground. Before the technology the winemakers used fermentation »on the skins« to easier press the wine in old mechanical presses, they kept wines »on the skins« to get tannins in wine which are natural conservatives, etc. Long-skin maceration solves the oxidation problem so that the family wine would last the whole year without spoiling. This technique of macerating white wines for days or even weeks was common all around the Adriatic which improves the flavour and durability of the win. This old method of making white wine fell out of fashion in 60s and 70s because new technology allowed winemakers to easily press the grapes using pneumatic presses, helped them control the fermentation process by cooling down the must, and protect the wine against spoilage by using sulphure.
Food pairing with orange wines
Orange wine pairs excellently with dishes whose flavors might better match a white wine but require the fuller body of a red wine. Taste your buds with a glass of orange wine and pair it with Indian spicy dishes, Moroccan, Thai and Indonesian cuisine, Korean dishes with fermented kimchi, traditional Japanese cuisine, raw oyster, charcuterie, gnocchi and pasta dishes, pizza, stews, meat dishes, semi-sweet desserts, or aged cheeses. Cheers with orange bubbles which is a perfect food wine!
Where to buy orange wines?
Visit a home to some globally renowned orange wine producers, buy orange wines from small artisan producers. I am sure you will fall in love with orange bubbles. Orange wines are winemakers’ compliments to tradition and knowledge of our forefathers. In Goriška Brda, Vipava valley, Karst, and Slovenian Istria (Slovenia) you can find orange wines produced with the indigenous grapes of the region, including Sauvignon Vert (Friulano), Ribolla Gialla/Rebula, Istrska Malvazija, Vitovska, Klarnica, Pinela, and Pinot Grigio.
Enjoy a glass of this most distinctive wine style which becomes a hype thing these days. Cheers!
Orange wines from Goriška Brda
Orange wines from Vipava valley
Orange wines from Karst region
Orange Wine Festival
On the last Friday in April, Orange Wine Festival attracts lovers of natural macerated white wines in Izola.
Where to sleep in Brda region, Vipava valley, Karst region?
Don’t know where to sleep? Search no more! There are various accommodation options in Brda region, Vipava valley and Karst region. For Brda region have a look here. For Vipava valley check Ajdovščina or Vipava. For Karst region find information here.
But if you want to avoid the crowds, you are more than welcome to experience Herbal Rooms Homestay in Soca valley (a hill away from Brda wine region).
_________Thank you for reading!______________
If you crave some more local experiences, join my local experiences! What is more, if you need help with your travel planning to Soca valley and/or Slovenia beyond the usual tourist menu , do not hesitate to contact me. Welcome/Dobrodošli!