Cullen Wines

The Rise of Orange Wine, the White Made Like a Red

The Rise of Orange Wine, the White Made Like a Red

By Benedict Brook, March 26th, 2016

Amber-wine-at-Craft-Wine-store “IT’S the new drop that’s tantalising tastebuds yet confusing even the wine snobs.

Popping up in bars, it’s definitely not a red wine and it doesn’t look like a white. With its pastel hue you might think it’s related to a rose. Think again.

And while it’s called orange wine, its name has nothing to do with the wine growing region of Orange. But it could conceivably come from there.

Confused yet? If you are, it’s understandable, but it’s time to get to grips with orange wine which is proving so popular that in some bars one-in-five glasses are of the amber hued drink.

Even super chef Nigella Lawson is a fan, calling one Western Australian orange drop “utterly fabulous”.

“The vast majority of people have no idea about these wines and the first time they try it, it takes some explaining,” says Julien Dromgool, the sommelier at Ester, an eatery in the Sydney suburb of Chippendale.

The restaurant can have up to 15 of the vivid wines, all of them organic, on its menu at a time.

But it’s not just their colour Mr Dromgool likes. He also says they are better at pairing with some foods than either red or white wines and are produced so naturally they are probably the closest link we still have to ancient wine making traditions.

“I find them texturally really interesting to drink. I tell diners it’s white wine made like a red wine which gives them that colour.”


Grape skins are full of colour and tannins. When white wine is made these are quickly disposed of to keep the wine clear and light. In contrast, when making red wine, the skins, stalks and seeds are mashed up, or macerated, to give the drop its rich colour and bold flavour.

Leaving the skin on white wine grapes produces orange wine’s distinctive taste and colour.

Chief winemaker from Margaret River winery Cullen, Vanya Cullen, told Executive Style that their orange wine was an “expression of the land”.

She tried her first orange wine in Rome in 2005, years before it was grown in Australia or even on wine lists here. “A sommelier recommended a Gravner, and it was the most expensive wine on the list. I thought, ‘that’s just insane’.

“I spent the whole night pondering it.”

Mr Dromgool said five or six years ago the only orange wines you could buy were imports from France or Italy but with the drop now being grown in Australia the choice and popularity had grown.

“I’m always impressed and a little surprised that people have such a positive reaction.

“We have about 20 or so white wines and 12 orange wines and the sales reflect that,” he said estimating that more than 20 per cent of glasses sold at Ester contained the amber liquid.

Sommelier Julien Dromgool at Chippendale eatery Ester which can have as many as 15 orange wines on its menu at a time.

Sommelier Julien Dromgool at Chippendale eatery Ester which can have as many as 15 orange wines on its menu at a time.Source:News Limited


Orange wines, sometime known as amber wines, have as much diversity of taste as any other shade but there is tendency for more in-your-face flavours and aromas than a regular white. Some have full on fruit characteristics.

“With the skin contact they hold a lot onto their aromatic qualities and add layers of citrus and spice, stone fruit, peach and fresh orchard fruit,” said Mr Dromgool.

His favourite wine on the menu is a 2010 Ageno La Stoppa which he says is highly aromatic with citrus and apricot, but “bone dry”.

Some orange wines are almost as crystal clear as a white. Others, because of the tannins, are opaque and turbid and almost have the look of fruit juice.

The tannic wines are great with red meats and are not dissimilar to a full bodied red while those with less skin contact are more delicate and can be paired with seafood and shellfish, white meats and cream sauces.

“We have a preconceived idea of the wines we match with these foods but we just went in that direction because the wines we had were the best available,” says Mr Dromgool.

“Orange wines fill the gap that red and white wines can’t with certain types of food.”

Margaret River winemaker Vanya Cullen counts an orange variety among her range.

Margaret River winemaker Vanya Cullen counts an orange variety among her range.Source:Supplied


Despite its increasing popularity you might struggle to find a variety at your local bottle-o. Even though they claim to have the biggest ranges, neither Coles-owned Vintage Cellars nor Woolworths’ Dan Murphy’s stores stock orange wine.

However, they can be found in good local independent bottle shops.

But Mr Dromgool likes it that way. The fewer producers, the less the temptation to industrialise the process and add chemicals and preservatives.

“Orange wines are so unique and different. They are made by small vineyards which are not going to be massive producers listed on the stock market.

“I think it’s pretty close to how we discovered to make wine,” he says. “Some grapes were left in a basket too long and then some natural yeast got into it and then you got wine.”

Orange wine was made by producers “looking to the past,” he said,

“There’s a culture of these wines going back millennia, using terracotta vessels and maceration, and we are rediscovering these techniques and lost skills and I’m not sure at which point winemaking moved away from this.”

By Benedict Brooke, March 26th, 2016

See the original article here.