The rise in popularity of orange wines can be attributed to various reason. From its centuries-old winemaking technique to its relatively novel status,orange wine captivates wine lovers with its appealing amber hue and intriguing flavor and structure. In a world bustling with modernity, the "slow" and artisanal method of making orange wine harkens back to a time when craftsmanship took precedence.

For sure, the Renaissance story of an ancient wine adds to its mystique, but sommeliers are quick to stock orange wines in the cellars and present them to customers for a simple reason, orange wines are highly drinkable and versatile in food pairing. As the fourth color of wine, orange wines offer a plethora of food pairing options to explore.

Orange wine offers more food and wine pairing options (Photo: Aleksandra Dementeva, Unsplash)

The Versatility of Orange Wine

There exist some golden rules in food pairing: red wine with red meat, white wine with seafood, salads, and poultry. Orange wine, also known as skin-macerated white wine, is produced by undergoing prolonged contact between grape skins and juice during fermentation. This extended maceration period imparts a spectrum of flavors and textures, ranging from delicate floral aromas to robust oxidative notes. Simply put, orange wine can be described as a white wine made the red way.

Unlike traditional whites, orange wine tends to possess more body on the palate, along with added structure, tannins, and complexity, rendering it a versatile choice for food pairing. Its versatility lies in its ability to balance flavors in food with acidity, weight, and tannin structure, allowing it to complement a diverse array of dishes, whether savory, spicy, or sweet. Orange wines feature a unique flavor profile of citrus peel, dried apricot, herbal, and spicy notes, making them excellent accompaniments to dishes with complex flavors and textures.

Orange wine is versatile in food pairing (Photo: Alexandra Torro, Unsplash)

The Solution to Hard-to-Pair Dishes

One of the most intriguing aspects of orange wine is its ability to effortlessly tackle hard-to-pair dishes. Dishes with bold, complex flavors or contrasting textures often find a perfect match in orange wine, bridging the gap left by traditional wine pairings.

Spicy dishes with a rich texture present a challenge for wine pairing. On one hand, spiciness requires a hint of residual sugar or an aromatic profile without an overwhelming presence of tannin and alcohol to balance it out. Many aromatic or off-dry white wines are too light-bodied to complement the richness of such dishes.

Indian food, Mexican meat-based spicy dishes, Middle Eastern, or Moroccan cuisines, although challenging for most red and white wines, pair well with orange wines. Indian curries rich in turmeric, cardamom, and cinnamon harmonize beautifully with orange wine, thanks to its ability to balance spice and acidity. The wine's weightier mouthfeel complements the richness of the curry.

Indian curry and other spicy dishes pair well with orange wines (Photo:Bruna Branco, Unsplash)

Another food pairing dilemma arises with contrasting flavors and textures, as seen in some Asian stir-fried dishes or rich-flavored Mediterranean dishes featuring vegetables or seafood. A wine with acidity and body is needed to balance the rich sauce without overpowering the delicate flavors and mouthfeel of the seafood or vegetables. While options are limited within reds or whites, orange wines handle this challenge perfectly.

Bitterness poses another tricky flavor to consider when it comes to food pairing. Kale, asparagus, and chicory salad with walnut find a perfect match in orange wine. The wine's subtle phenolic extraction and minerality complement the bitterness of the vegetables, creating a well-balanced and satisfying pairing.

Finally, orange wine offers a sweet spot for dishes containing a variety of ingredients, such as grill platters with a mix of vegetables, mushrooms, and meats, or fondue with an assortment of charcuterie, bread, and potatoes. It's inconvenient to have white wine for vegetables, rosé for fish, and red wine for meats at a grill party. With orange wine, there's a balance of protein-loving tannins and plant-loving acidity that harmonizes well with the diverse ingredients on the plate.

Tips for Orange Wine and Food Pairing

Pairing orange wine with food can be a rewarding experience, but it requires careful consideration of flavor profiles and textures. While orange wines share some common characteristics, variations exist depending on grape variety and winemaking processes, affecting taste profiles.

  • Match the flavor profile: Pay attention to the characteristics of the orange wine you're pairing. Is it more aromatic or leaning toward the mineral and earthy side? Does it have pronounced oxidative notes like nuttiness and dried fruit? Pair wines and dishes with a similar flavor profile to elevate your senses. For spicy dishes, choose an orange wine made from aromatic grape varieties.

  • Consider Texture: Orange wine's weightier mouthfeel and subtle tannins make it a great match for dishes with rich textures. However, depending on the grape variety, the time for skin contact, and the aging process, the body and tannin structure of orange wine can vary. Orange wines with long skin-contact maceration and aged in oak or amphora pair well with creamy, fatty dishes.

  • Don’t be Afraid to Experiment: Don't be afraid to experiment with unconventional pairings. Orange wine's versatility allows for creativity in pairing it with a wide range of cuisines and flavors. Try pairing it with dishes you wouldn't normally associate with wine, and you may be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Orange Wines to Pair with Indian Curries or Spicy Dishes:




Orange Wines to Pair with Mixed Grill or Strong Cheese:




Sylvia Ba

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