Is the orange wine trend actually going to take off in summer 2017?
Orange wine has been the centre of a good deal of media attention in the past couple years, but how true are claims that 2017 will be the year of orange wine? Elliot Gardner finds out more about the drink and looks into the current state of the market.
Orange wine and the so-called ‘orange wine movement’ has been a hot topic within drinks for several years now, with a host of stories dedicated to raising awareness of the trend appearing throughout 2015 and 2016.
Despite the Evening Standard claiming in June last year that “we'll all be drinking orange wine this summer” and the Independent hailing 2017 as the year of orange wine, there is still a lot of confusion over what the drink is, with many still making the mistake of thinking the name belies a citrus flavour.
An unfortunate naming convention
Orange wine is technically a misnomer, but what’s in a name? Well, unfortunately a lot when it comes to food and drink, as at least as much space has been dedicated to educating the public about its core ingredients as to reports on the orange trend itself.
While white and red wine grapes are noticeably dissimilar from one another, and within those categories there are thousands of individual varieties, the main difference between white and red wine is the production process. For the most part, white is generally fermented using only the grape juice, while red undergoes the maceration process, meaning flavour is leached from the grape skins and other plant material before the solids are removed, leading to a vastly different flavour and a heavier body.
Rosé uses a mix of the two methods, though is much more akin to white then red. Orange wine then, is the other end of the spectrum to rosé, using the red method of maceration, with white wine grapes, leading to a fuller body than white, but with different level of flavour complexity than that of a red. The name simply comes from its colour, as no extra ingredients are added at any point of the production process.
According to decanter.com the name ‘orange wine’ was first used by David Harvey of Raeburn Fine Wines in 2004, with his explanation being that “I didn’t set out to invent a word, I just used it naturally and it stuck... The name may not be ideal, but this style needs its own category. If customers order a white wine and it turns out to be this surprising dark colour, they might not be so happy.”
The future’s orange?
But wine aficionados have been predicting the rise of orange wine for the past 2-3 years, and the majority of casual wine drinkers still appear to be in the dark about its existence as an alternative, so how much of an impact has orange wine actually had within the industry so far?
To reach mass-market, orange will have to shake its current image of an ‘alternative’ wine rather than an addition to current offerings. Foodandwine.com in their description of the drink call orange wine “a current favourite of hipster sommeliers”, indicative of how it’s still perceived in professional circles.
Despite this image, orange wine varieties have still seen significant movement considering its lesser-known status. The London Ritz has added five orange wines to its 800-strong “Livre du Vin” list. Five out of 800 might not seem like a lot, but when you account that the list is famed for its traditional approach to the drink, it demonstrates the drink’s spike in popularity.
Still, even with the advances of the past few years, orange wines are still made in incredibly small batches when compared to red, white and rosé, meaning it’s unlikely that orange wines will be a regular on the supermarket shelf anytime soon, and are more at home in chic wine bars independent. This will hold orange back significantly as a mass-market approach is much more difficult, and production is driven by demand, creating a potentially vicious cycle.