The Art of Orange Wine

Dear Diary

Recently our Skinny Dipping Riesling received a 92 point score from Wine Enthusiast. To say we were enthused is an understatement as it’s rare to get that kind of recognition for such a unique wine – someone actually gets us! That feedback is encouraging us to keep experimenting with skin fermented white wine, aka Orange Wine.

As I write this, label artist Sunol Maginetti is working on the next vintage of Skinny Dipping labels featuring a mermaid theme across a trio of wines that will all work together as one art piece. To us that’s the full circle of wine art, unleashing our artistic flair in the winemaking process and working with an inspired wine label artist to make the finished product truly a work of art.

There’s a spectrum of styles to orange wine that ranges from a few days on the skins to add a little extra dimension of aroma and body, to our Skinny Dipping Riesling which fermented on the skins for 30 days! It pulled such an amazing amount of aroma, color, and flavor from those skins that it’s an entirely new approach to Riesling. We like to play along that entire spectrum of orange wine, exploring its boundaries to produce the most truly unique wine that we can.

We don’t actually prefer the term orange wine as it tends to create a lot of confusion. The “Orange Wine Is Not A Crime” bumper sticker on my laptop recently elicited a “What the F&#% is Orange Wine?!” from across a waiting room full of people. We tend to prefer the terms Skin Contact or Skin Fermented White Wine, but those don’t really roll off the tongue so easy, so Orange Wine tends to be the common lingo.

These grapes wish they were Orange Wine.

Orange wine is a bit of a mind bender on the palate at first, tasting neither really like a white or a red wine but some space in between. I’ve described our Skinny Dipping Riesling and a Ramato style Skin Fermented Pinot Grigio we produced as “your mouth will be intrigued”, but not everyone is as open to intriguing their taste buds. A lot of that comes down to tannins.

Wine label in the making.

Most white wines pick up no tannins because they are not fermented on the skins or seeds, and the tannins come almost entirely from the skins and seeds during fermentation. So, when we flip the script and treat white grapes more like red grapes in the winemaking process, it creates a mash up of a profile most taste buds have never experienced before. With orange wine, the skin and seeds are allowed to ferment with the juice. They undergo a process called maceration, in which their compounds, including polyphenols (aka color, tannin and antioxidants), leach into the wine, giving it its distinct color, flavor, and texture. It’s a learning curve for your mouth. But, let me tell you, once your mouth has learned it won’t forget.

Anyway, we think the critics at Wine Enthusiast have tasted an orange wine or two in their quest for the best, and their palates have been thoroughly intrigued. We’re excited for our next vintage of Skinny Dipping wines featuring another Riesling along with a Vermentino and a Picpoul. Unusual grapes made into Unique Wines, resulting in Wine Art, that’s our thing.

Here’s a peek at the creative process that goes into our labels. Sunol is playing with color and theme to match the personality of the wines. If you drink these wines you may be inspired to skinny dip and swim like a mermaid – why shouldn’t life imitate art?

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