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Forget rosé: With wine, orange is the new pink

Rosé is pretty, pink and perfect for sipping outside when the weather is nice, but we’re ready to change up the hue of our summer beverages.

Enter: Orange wine. Made from white wine grapes with the skins left on, orange wine is to white wine what rosé is to red, and no, there are no oranges in the actual wine.

“Orange wine is a very traditional way of making wine,” explains Miranda Elliot, sales associate and educator at Chicago’s Connoisseur Wines. She notes that orange wine became a trend with sommeliers a few years back and is now catching on with a wide variety of wine drinkers, not just experts.

As for taste, it’s “somewhere in between a white wine and a red wine,” but not like a rosé, Elliot said. “It has the lightness and citric characteristics of a white wine and has the tannins and power of a red wine.”

Courtney Schiessl, sommelier at New York City’s Marta loves orange wine, calling it “a funky style of wine.” And yes, that’s how it can taste: like “rotting citrus or bruised apples, like cider.”

“It sounds really weird, but it’s actually very interesting,” Schiessl says. She notes that orange wine, formerly only enjoyed by wine nerds, can “range from being super accessible and fruity to really funky, really dirty and really weird.”

Orange wine originates from a longstanding winemaking tradition with Slovenian, Georgian and other European winemakers, but as the style has popularized, small winemakers in the U.S. have begun making their own varieties. 

Some Europeans still use Kvevris or amphorae, clay vessels dating back to ancient times used during fermentation, similar to the way wooden barrels are used today. As Elliot puts it, this “old school” way of winemaking makes the orange wines totally unique.

Served chilled, orange wine is the perfect red wine replacement for summer and, as opposed to white wine, it can handle your summer grill spread, thanks to its extra texture and tannins. 

Elliot recommends pairing it with fattier fish, veal or chicken liver mousse, because the orange wine can stand up to the richness and fat of these proteins. Schiessl loves sipping orange wine on its own but also pairs it with heartier dishes like pork chops. At Marta, she recommends it with the mushroom dishes like funghi pizza, because the richness of mushrooms and brightness of the wine pair perfectly.

If you’re ready to push the pink aside, here are a few bottles of orange wine to get you started.

Schiessl recommends this entry-level orange ($15) “for those who want to get into the style without all of the funk,” she said. Similar to rosé, you’ll find fresh tangerine and strawberry in a sip of this. Pair it with cured meats and cheeses, bonus points if you’re on a picnic. (Further bonus points for explaining to your friends the meaning of the Italian word "ramato": it means coppery.)

Schiessl calls this “one of the most epic orange wines of all time.” Fermented underground in an amphora and aged for at least four years in the barrel until it's a complex, rich, savory, nutty bottle of goodness, you’ll gain major wine-o points for bringing this to any summer soiree ($90).  

Elliot recommends this Italian wine made of 100% Pinot Grigio grapes and fermented in stainless steel before a meticulous French oak barrel aging. Try pairing this peppery, earthy wine with grilled meats at your next summer cookout ($18).

Poured by the glass at Marta, Schiessl loves to introduce this off-beat orange wine ($25) to guests as it’s still “very friendly to the new orange wine drinker.” In a sip you’ll taste yellow apple, overripe lemon citrus and a cidery quality and, if you’re lucky enough to visit the winery in Slovenia, we’re told the winemaker is “such a character.” 

Elliot recommends this family-run California winery’s “orange-ish” wines, which are experimental and interesting. This bottle ($35) is made from organic Sémillon grapes, half of which are fermented with the skins on, half without, so think of it as a midway point between orange wine and your typical chilled white. 

Rosé addicts probably won't be abandoning the pink stuff, but funky, fruity and unique orange wines add yet another colorful hue to summertime happy hours. Orange you glad you have something new to drink? 

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