From Italy to Georgia: Exploring the Origins of Orange Wine

Surya Yadav

Orange wine, also known as amber wine, is a form of wine created by vinifying white grapes with their skins and seeds intact. This method of winemaking, which has only recently become popular in the West, has been around for centuries. Known for its vibrant amber hue, complex flavors, and rich historical roots, orange wine has captured the interest of wine enthusiasts and sommeliers alike. Explore Tinto  to find a well-crafted collection of orange wines.

From its origins in Georgia and Italy to modern-day winemaking techniques, this article will explore the history and production of orange wine.

The Ancient Roots of Orange Wine in Italy

The ancient roots of orange wine can be traced back to Italy, specifically the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region in the northeastern part of the country. Here, winemakers have been practicing traditional winemaking techniques that involve extended skin contact during fermentation for centuries. This process allows the white grape skins to macerate with the juice, imparting a distinct orange color and enhancing the complexity of the resulting wine. 

The art of producing orange wine has been passed down through generations, preserving a unique winemaking tradition that continues to captivate wine enthusiasts today. These ancient roots in Italy lay the foundation for the appreciation and resurgence of orange wine as a distinctive and sought-after style in the modern wine world.

The Revival in Georgia

The revival of orange wine extends beyond Italy and finds its true home in the country of Georgia. As early as 6000 BC, Georgians were producing wines from white grapes that had been left to macerate with their skins and seeds. This method of winemaking, known as “skin contact” or “extended maceration”, was used to create deep, complex wines with a distinct orange hue.

The Georgians were also the first to age their wines in qvevri, large clay pots buried in the ground. The qvevri served both to protect the wines from oxidation and to impart a unique flavor and aroma. Today, many Georgian wines are still made in qvevri, and the tradition of making orange wines has been passed down through the centuries.

The Characteristics of Orange Wine

Orange wine possesses a distinct set of characteristics that sets it apart from its red and white counterparts. One of its most notable traits is its vibrant amber hue, derived from the extended skin contact during fermentation. This prolonged maceration process also infuses the wine with a tannic structure, resulting in a textured and grippy mouthfeel. The flavor profile of orange wine can vary widely, encompassing floral notes, honeyed aromas, citrus nuances, and hints of dried fruits. 

Some orange wines may exhibit oxidative characteristics, adding complexity and depth to the palate. Balancing fruitiness, acidity, and tannins, orange wine offers a unique drinking experience that is both intriguing and memorable. Its versatility in pairing with a range of cuisines further enhances its appeal, making it an excellent choice for adventurous wine enthusiasts seeking something distinctive and compelling.

The Appeal of Orange Wine

Orange wine holds a strong appeal for wine enthusiasts and connoisseurs alike due to its unique qualities and characteristics. It offers a complex flavor profile that combines the best of both red and white wines. It can display an array of aromas and flavors, including floral notes, dried fruits, citrus zest, and even hints of oxidative characteristics. This complexity makes orange wine a captivating and dynamic choice for those seeking new and exciting taste experiences.

Another aspect that contributes to the appeal of orange wine is its versatility in food pairing. With its robust tannins, balanced acidity, and diverse flavor profile, orange wine pairs well with a wide range of cuisines. It can complement anything from rich and hearty dishes to lighter fare, making it a versatile companion for various culinary adventures. Furthermore, the rise of sommeliers and wine professionals championing orange wine has helped bring attention to this unique style. Their enthusiasm and knowledge have contributed to its increasing presence on wine lists and in wine shops around the world. 

Modern-Day Production

In modern-day production, orange wine continues to captivate wine enthusiasts with its unique winemaking process and distinctive characteristics. While orange wine has ancient roots, contemporary producers have embraced this style and added their own innovative approaches.

Modern orange wine production begins with carefully selected white grape varieties, specifically chosen for their suitability in creating wines with extended skin contact. The grapes are harvested at optimal ripeness, ensuring a balance of sugars, acidity, and flavor compounds. To extract the desired characteristics, the grapes are gently pressed, and the juice is left in contact with the skins for an extended period. This process allows for the extraction of phenolic compounds, tannins, and flavors from the grape skins, resulting in the vibrant amber color and complex aromas and flavors associated with orange wine.

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in natural winemaking practices, and orange wine aligns perfectly with this movement. Many producers adopt organic or biodynamic farming methods, cultivating grapes without the use of synthetic chemicals or pesticides. This commitment to sustainable viticulture not only benefits the environment but also contributes to the purity and authenticity of the final product.

Additionally, some winemakers choose to ferment their orange wines using native yeasts present on the grape skins. This spontaneous fermentation process allows for the expression of unique and terroir-driven flavors, showcasing the true essence of the grape and the vineyard. The use of natural yeasts also adds complexity and depth to the wine, creating a more nuanced and characterful drinking experience.

In terms of aging, orange wines can undergo various techniques depending on the winemaker’s preference and desired outcome. Some wines are aged in neutral oak barrels, allowing the wine to develop subtle oak nuances without overpowering the natural flavors. Others may be aged in clay amphorae, which provide a more neutral environment while allowing for gentle oxygen exchange. The aging process further enhances the texture, structure, and complexity of the wine, resulting in a well-rounded and harmonious final product.


Orange wine has a long and illustrious history, with its origins in Georgia and Italy. Today, it is produced all over the world, using traditional methods such as extended maceration and qvevri aging. Orange wines are unique for their deep copper hue and their complex flavor profile and are becoming increasingly popular in the West.

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