10 best orange wines to raise a glass to this summer

·10-min read
The orange hue is down to prolonged contact between the grape skin, seeds and juice (iStock/The Independent)
The orange hue is down to prolonged contact between the grape skin, seeds and juice (iStock/The Independent)

A rapid rise in the popularity of orange wines is apparent for all to see. These funky-hued bottles are appearing alongside more familiar red, white and rose offerings in everywhere from subversive natural wine bars to the shelves of major supermarkets.

Not that the drink is anything new. The origin of these charismatic wines – the colour of which comes from a production process that encourages prolonged contact between the grape skin, seeds and juice – bears the hallmarks of techniques used in one of the world’s oldest winemaking nations, Georgia, 5,000 years ago.

According to David Farber, co-founder of wine bar Porte Noire in King’s Cross, London, their return to favour is far more than just a fad. “Orange wines have a true place within the wine scene – mostly thanks to the huge range of possible food pairings it brings to the table,” he says. “The most surprising element of their flavour profile is the tannins that come from the skin contact process. Many who pick up an orange wine expect the fresh, citrusy flavours of a white wine but instead what they find is a full-bodied, nutty, tannic wine derived from white grapes.”

Varying wildly between grape varieties, growing region and winemaking technique, Farber identifies several key styles worth noting: those made from higher acidity grapes, which most closely resemble more familiar white wines; “classic” orange wines, which offer nuttier flavours; and historical Georgian wines, which are aged for six to 12 months in a kvevri (a large earthenware amphora used for the fermentation process), which are amber in colour with integrated tannins to create a full-bodied but velvety wine. “There are different levels and qualities of orange wines – we could consider a minimum of 30 days of skin contact to qualify as a high-grade orange wine," he adds.

As for food pairings, Farber lists a diverse range of dishes for which the complexity of orange wine provides the perfect complement. “Orange wine works fantastically with Lebanese food, such as kebabs and tahini, and Indian food – particularly biryanis,” he says. “It works well with hard cheese, like an aged comte, or a mushroom risotto. And if you’re planning for Christmas, get some orange wine on your list as it pairs perfectly with turkey and chestnut stuffing.”

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How we tested

To compile our list of favourite orange wines, we sampled a range of styles across a spectrum of price points, served at the ideal recommended temperature. We noted each one’s key characteristics in direct comparisons, while experimenting with several food pairings to establish our favourite bottles for various settings, before compiling our following favourites.

The best orange wines for 2022 are:

  • Best for funky intensity – Bizarra Extravaganza orange wine 2019: £16.50, Shopcuvee.com

  • Best for sophisticated sipping – Remhoogte free to be 2021: £23, Wanderlustwine.co.uk

  • Best affordable complexity – Reca Estate orange natural wine 2021: £13.50, Tanners-wines.co.uk

  • Best for orange wine naysayers –  Tbilvino qvevris orange wine: £10, Ocado.com

  • Best for savoury refreshment – Gönc Winery harvest moon 2019: £29.75, Humblegrape.co.uk

  • Best orange on a budget – Rigal vin orange: £10, Morrisons.com

  • Best crisp summer refreshment – Kalogris dialogues rose 2017: £17.50, Wanderlustwine.co.uk

  • Best for aromatic finesse –  Zibibbo Secco orange abbazia san giorgio 2019: £34.95, Thewhiskyexchange.com

  • Best for serving with seafood –  Anima Mundi pells skin contact macabeo 2021: £21.66, Decantalo.com

  • Best British Biodynamic wine – Tillingham Qvevri orange 2020: £35, Juicedwines.co.uk

Bizarra Extravaganza orange wine 2019

Best: For funky intensity

Rating: 9/10

  • ABV: 12.5%

  • Size: 750ml

Sure to shock those unfamiliar with orange wines, this bold, brilliantly fruity offering is made from gros and petit manseng grapes grown in Uruguay’s Juanico region using sustainable methods. It’s an unfiltered wine that boasts a rich amber colour defined by a cloudy appearance, and its flavour profile is equally memorable. We loved the strong notes of stone fruit, quince and honey that come through on the nose that – alongside a persevering spiciness and apple on the palate – make this an excellent conversation starter with guests.

Buy now £16.50, Shopcuvee.com

Remhoogte free to be 2021

Best: For sophisticated sipping

Rating: 9/10

  • ABV: 13%

  • Size: 750ml

This sublime skin-contact chenin blanc comes courtesy of family-run winery Remhoogte in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Made using a process that sees grape skins left to ferment with the wine for two weeks, the resulting wine has a complex structure and tannic texture that makes it stand out. Beyond its nuanced notes of stone fruit and orange zest, it offers freshness and salinity, making it an enjoyable choice drunk alone, while its bright acidity also means it would pair well with mild or soft cheeses.

Buy now £23.00, Wanderlustwine.co.uk

Reca Estate orange natural wine 2021

Best: For affordable complexity

Rating: 8/10

  • ABV: 12.5%

  • Size: 750ml

Romania’s top wine exporter, Cramele Recaș, first turned its attention to orange wine in 2018, and this well-balanced blend of pinot noir, pinot gris, sauvignon blanc and riesling is an effortless way to acclimatise yourself to the style. A delicate pale colour proves deceiving as this organic wine packs some serious complexity; citrus aromas sit alongside candied apricot and floral notes, while a fruity, full-bodied structure and bold acidity provide plenty of energy on the palate before a dry, nutty finish. We particularly enjoyed this served as a summery cheeseboard accompaniment.

Buy now £13.50, Tanners-wines.co.uk

Tbilvino Qvevris orange wine

Best: For orange wine naysayers

Rating: 9/10

  • ABV: 12%

  • Size: 750ml

This hugely impressive wine takes its lead from ancient methods, using the traditional Georgian vinification method with amphora, which are buried underground to mature, and one of the world’s oldest grape varieties in rkatsiteli. With a rich amber colour and bold notes of pear, melon and honey on the nose, it has a fruity, well-rounded mouthfeel with a butteriness that would give many Loire Valley whites a run for their money. With plenty of finesse and a dry, lengthy finish, this is a versatile wine that impresses as an aperitif but would also stand up to more complex spiced dishes.

Buy now £10.00, Ocado.com

Gönc Winery harvest moon 2019

Best: For savoury refreshment

Rating: 9/10

  • ABV: 13.5%

  • Size: 750ml

Named after Neil Young’s 1992 album, this rock’n’roll bottle by Slovenian winemaker Peter Gönc borrows the ramato style of winemaking from Italy’s Friuli region, transforming pinot grigio grapes into something truly unique. Extended skin contact in the production process gives Harvest Moon a golden-orange tone and full-bodied, medium-tannin structure with high acidity that we found incredibly easy to drink in warm weather. The peachy, apricot aromas and complex palate also evolve beautifully after opening.

Buy now £29.75, Humblegrape.co.uk

Rigal vin orange

Best: Orange on a budget

Rating: 7/10

  • ABV: 12%

  • Size: 750ml

Testament to how far orange wines have come, this Morrison’s-stocked bottle offers supermarket shoppers a fantastic example of the style. Coming courtesy of Cahors-based winemaker Rigal, which uses gros manseng grapes harvested from sun-soaked plots in the Gascony, this satisfyingly complex orange wine has peach and citrus on the nose, a nutty, spicy palate and a surprisingly lengthy finish with toasty notes. We found it paired perfectly with both roasted vegetables and hard cheeses.

Buy now £10.00, Morrisons.com

Kalogris dialogues rose 2017

Best: Crisp summer refreshment

Rating: 8/10

  • ABV: 11.5%

  • Size: 750ml

Sat somewhere between a rose and orange wine – as evident in its pinky tone – this zesty offering by Kalogris, the first organic producer in Greece’s Peloponnese region, makes a vibrant, refreshing option for warm-weather entertaining. Made from the moscofilero grape, it’s a crisp, dry wine with a hazy appearance and bears orange zest and citrus on the nose. Having spent time ageing in oak, it has a complex, well-balanced palate with a healthy hit of acidity and a long, saline finish, all of which made it a great match for barbecued fish.

Buy now £17.50, Wanderlustwine.co.uk

Zibibbo Secco orange abbazia san giorgio 2019

Best: Aromatic finesse

Rating: 8/10

  • ABV: 12.5%

  • Size: 750ml

We found this dry orange wine from Abbazia San Giorgio – based on Pantelleria off the coast of Sicily – a super sophisticated aperitif with nuanced notes that really come to life over time. Made from zibibbo grapes, otherwise known as moscato d’alessandria, which are often used in sweet wine, here it finds form with a striking skin-fermented white with a big-hitting flavour profile. There are tropical hints of pineapple and mango alongside floral hits of elderflower on the nose and fruit-forward intensity on the palate with a touch of mineral earthiness contributing to a wine that serves as a highly memorable example of skin-contact wines.

Buy now £34.95, Thewhiskyexchange.com

Anima Mundi pells skin contact macabeo 2021

Best: For serving with seafood

Rating: 8/10

  • ABV: 13%

  • Size: 750ml

There’s plenty to impress with this charismatic biodynamic offering from the Penedés region of Catalonia. Made from macabeo grapes from 50-year-old vines, this hazy apricot-hued wine features intense aromas of lemon peel and honey on the nose. It boasts some serious complexity following six months spent on the lees in the barrel, which adds structure, with grippy tannins and a hit of minerality on the finish to leave a lasting impression. While it’s a great wine to serve on its own, we found it also worked wonders with grilled fish and chicken.

Buy now £21.66, Decantalo.com

Tillingham qvevri orange 2020

Best: British biodynamic wine

Rating: 9/10

  • ABV: 10.5%

  • Size: 750ml

Sussex-based natural wine specialist Tillingham serves up a charismatic orange wine that embodies the oenological principles used by Georgian winemakers 5,000 years ago. A combination of four varieties – bacchus, ortega, pinot gris and muller-thurgau – are aged in qvevri for six months followed by another eight months in barrel, resulting in a peachy appearance and fragrant marriage of flavour profiles. Expect citrus and spice on the nose, the dominance of stone fruits on the palate and a grippy finish. And, clocking in at just 10.5 per cent, it’s a light, easy drinker that’s tailor-made for accompanying barbecues this summer.

Buy now £35.00, Juicedwines.co.uk

The verdict: Orange wines

This most diverse of wine sectors is a thrilling one to experiment with. With flavour profiles spanning the subtly fragrant to the out-and-out funky, there’s vast variations depending on how adventurous you’re feeling.  We found the Uruguayan Bizarra extravaganza a compelling journey into the category at its most bonkers, with its out-and-out fruitiness a truly memorable bottle. Elsewhere, more subtle, nuanced nods to skin contact could be found with the Remhoogte’s free to be chenin blanc. And at just £10, the Tbilvino qvevris, on sale at Ocado, packed plenty of charisma for an accessible price point.

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