“Orange” Wines from CA and Italy by accident and on purpose with pairings #WinePW

You know about red wine: you know that it’s red because “red” or dark skinned grapes get pressed and the juice and the skins hang out together for a little or a long time.

You know about white wine: you know it’s white because “white” or light skinned grape get pressed with little contact with the skins and the juice gets fermented.

You drink rose all day and all May and you know that rose can be made by quickly pressing red grapes so there’s almost no skin contact OR it’s made by mixing red and white wines.

But what about ORANGE wine?

Simply put, an orange wine is a wine made from a white wine grape like chardonnay that then has been made more like a red wine by leaving the juice on the skins for an extended period.

Orange wine is short hand for extended skin contact white wines.

While extended skin contact white wines have been made since ancient times, this process fell out of favor in much of the world. While I’m not going to go down the rabbit hole of ramato wines, I will point out that this process never really went away in Italy where pinot grigio, a grayish pink grape is made into a coppery colored wine.

Generally, it is made intentionally as it is made in Italy from the Albana grape by  or by La Maliosa in their Saturnia using Trebbiano and Procanico grapes.

But it can also be a happy accident in the case of Clos des Amis when far too much beautiful chardonnay all came in at once.

The Italian wines are imported by Sheila Donahue’s company Verovino which specializes in wines made by winemakers who are passionate about their craft and about making unusual wines in unusual places with unusual grapes. In addition to representing these two orange wines and others, she will be helping to get Clos des Amis wines out into the world.

WINES: tasted in order of intensity

  • 2017 Clos des Amis – White Wine – Ventura County CA
  • 2015 Campo Mamante – Braschi – Albana 
  • 2018 La Maliosa – Saturnia Bianca

MENU: based on research by Sue

  • Home-made hummous with home-made pita chips
  • Home-made Naan with Trader Joe’s chutney
  • Shrimp Curry with jasmine rice
  • Sweet Sticky Rice and Mango

Clos des Amis – White Wine – Ventura County California –
13% alcohol SRP $12

So when is a white wine an orange wine? Well as you know, all orange wines are technically white wines, but in this case, instead of putting orange on the label, winemaker Bruce Freeman went with “white” because he wasn’t sure how people would respond to this extended skin contact wine! Turns out, he needn’t fear– especially at this price!

The grapes are 100% chardonnay from a small vineyard on the hillside above Santa Paula’s Olivelands Elementary School in Ventura County. It’s surrounded by eucalyptus, chaparral and avocado orchards and less than 10 miles from the Pacific ocean.

Color: Golden, pale orange tinge

Nose: Light sulphuric notes, green apple

Palate: Green apple, but at the back of the palate there is a caramel apple richness. It is bright and tart up front and creamy and rich on the finish.

Pairing: I had to go back and have another hummus chip because it was so great, the wine becomes very clean, refreshing and bright. This wine loves the Indian spices in the curry and the chutney. It brings out the fruit in  the wine and the complexity in the curry. Sue enjoyed the sticky mango rice with the wine. I just wanted the rice for breakfast.

2015 – Campo Mamante – Braschi – Albana
Amphorae – 14.5% alcohol

Color: Orange cognac color, coppery

Nose: Sour oranges, like an orange that is just starting to turn– the sweet smell of the orange, and the funk of the mold. Petrol. Fascinating!

Palate: Gretel said “Oh Wow!” right off the bat. She found it to be very spicy almost like paprika, like a smoked paprika on the finish. I got a roasted orange like when an orange is roasted with a chicken. Such richness!

Pairing: The humus brings out a beautiful sweetness, takes away any petrol characteristics, brings out the orange and elevates the wine making it very elegant. The coriander seed in the curry was just perfect. The chutney on its own is too sweet with the wine, but when combined with the curry all is good.

2018 – La Maliosa – Saturnia Bianca – 12.5% alcohol

This wine is a blend of Trebbiano and Procanico, and made in the Metodo Corino which is a vegan version of biodynamics.  And you’re invited to a “VeroTalk” on Zoom or Facebook Live on Saturday May 16th at 2pm EDT/ 11am PDT from the vineyards and winery in Piedmont Italy of Lorenzo Corino, a lifelong viticulture researcher, author and winemaker.

“Together with his son Guido they will share the fascinating history of their family estate winery that has been producing natural wines from Piedmontese red varietals, Nebbiolo and Barbera, for 6 generations!” writes Sheila in a recent email. “We’ll have Peter Nelson, Boston based Somm of Puritan & Company moderating and Jeff Bonafede of Uncorked Hermosa Beach leading the wine tasting, making it interactive and fun for all! Don’t miss this rare opportunity to visit closeup with this inspirational grower winemaker and to taste his wines, which you can buy ahead of time in our online shop.”

I attended a previous VeroTalk a few weeks ago about La Maliosa which inspired this post where you can learn more about the wines and the passion for the land that is their foundation. We also wrote about La Maliosa in March of 2019 which you can read here.

Color: Apricot in color with a bright orange rim

Nose: Stone fruit and black pepper, earthen funk, minerals, sour cider.

Palate: Sue got yeast and bread right up front, ciders, beerish.

It is alive, it is fermentation in your mouth! What an adventure!

Pairing: Fantastic with the hummus and olive oil. Likes the garlic and the cumin. The humus takes away the funk and leaves a very nice acidity. This wine really likes the chutney. Sweet and sour going with sweet and sour. The same flavor profiles in the wine and the flavor profiles in the chutney are so similar they go so well together. The sticky mango rice was really nice with the wine. The rice really mellows the wine and brings out a great nutty flavor in the rice.

On Saturday I will post links to everyone’s posts about the orange wines they chose to open and pair!


Join us for our twitter chat or check out what we chatted about with the hashtag #winepw.

5/9/2020 11:00 a.m. EST
Welcome to the #WinePW chat on skin-contact white wines. Introduce yourself, and where you are tweeting from. Share a link to your blog if applicable.

5/9/2020 11:05 a.m. EST
Q1 We are talking about skin-contact white (a.k.a. “orange”) wines this morning for today’s #WinePW. Are these type of wines new-to-you?

5/9/2020 11:10 a.m. EST
Q2 Skin-contact white wines go by many names including orange, skin-fermented, macerate, ramato and amber wines. Do you have a preference for what you call them? #WinePW

5/9/2020 11:15 a.m. EST
Q3 What did you learn about skin-contact white wines that you didn’t know before this event? #WinePW

5/9/2020 11:20 a.m. EST
Q4 Which wine(s) did you open for this month’s event? Share a picture and your tasting notes. #WinePW

5/9/2020 11:25 a.m. EST
Q5 What was your impression of the wine(s) you tried? Do you recall what you thought when you took that first sniff, then sip? Did you find them distinctive in any way? #WinePW

5/9/2020 11:30 a.m. EST
Q6 Which food(s) did you pair your wine with? How was the pairing? Share a link or photo with #WinePW.

5/9/2020 11:35 a.m. EST
Q7 Now that you’ve had a chance to pair these wines with food, please share any take-aways, tips or tricks for enjoying these wines. #WinePW

5/9/2020 11:40 a.m. EST
Q8 #WinePW participants, have you tried skin-contact wines from both the Old World and the New Word? Any preferences or observations about differences between the two?

5/9/2020 11:45 a.m. EST
Q9 Where did you source your skin-contact white wine? Was it available at a local shop? Or did you source your bottle online?#WinePW

5/9/2020 11:50 a.m. EST
Q10 Now that you’ve had a chance to try a skin-contact white wine, would you buy again? Do you think it might be part of your regular wine-drinking “rotation”? #WinePW

5/9/2020 11:55 a.m. EST
Q11 Any final thoughts about Skin-Contact White Wines? Fab or Fad? #WinePW

5/9/2020 12:00 a.m. EST
Next month #WinePW will be focusing Finger Lakes wine hosted by @linda_lbwcsw. Please join us, and make it a great weekend!

21 thoughts on ““Orange” Wines from CA and Italy by accident and on purpose with pairings #WinePW

  1. I don’t think I’ve seen a Chardonnay get the skin-contact treatment before. The Campo Mamante and the pairing reminds me of an experience I had with an Italian “natural” orange wine a couple of years ago. That wine clearly had too much VA going on, but it sang with food!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Always! SO Interesting how food changes the experience of a wine and vice versa. And like I said in the post, it wasn’t intentional to do an orange wine it’s just that the grapes had to get picked and not enough hands to process them so they had extended skin contact! It’s a happy accident and I hope Bruce will try it again but leave the color!


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