The Future is Bright, the Future is Orange!


In Cork Talk, I’m hardly likely to be talking telecommunications, the less so, knowing my ineptitude with most things technological! No, I’m talking about a ‘new’, or rather, re-invented (there’s evidence to suggest that wines of this style were made 5,000 yrs ago!) style of wine – dubbed, because of its colour, Orange Wines! Put simply, Orange Wines are made with white wine grape varieties (yes, Sauvignon Blanc et al) where, as with red wines, their skins are kept in contact with the juice (macerated), often for long periods of time.

Wine tasting is so much more fun when not alone! The lovely Claire-Marie ( also enjoying the ‘Orange Wines’ of Juan de la Casa, Benissa, Alicante.

Whilst the colour of the wine gives its name to the style, this is not the main reason for this extra skin contact – the orange colour is a by-product. The skins of grapes destined to be made into wine contribute significantly to the flavour, aroma, structure, body and even feel of the finished product – not just the colour.

I was delighted to hear recently from my friend, colleague and fellow wine judge, Juan Manuel Gonzalvo, telling me that I really should visit Bodegas Joan de la Casa, which, coincidentally, is only a few kilometres! A quick phone call resulted in a late morning visit to the bucolic bodega, just off the N332 on the way from Benissa to Calpe, which is the now modernised (to a point!) HQ of his small, family winery.

Joan is driven! He is a great believer in the Orange Wine style and, although he also makes two red wines (watch this space!), all his white wines – are Orange!

Firstly, I think it’s best to put out of your mind the concepts of: White, Rosado and Red. Just as we can’t compare wine with beer, I don’t believe we can compare Orange wines with any of the others. It should be a category of its own as it’s so – well, different!

Nimi 2015, made, as are all the portfolio, from approximately 40 year old vines is a dry wine whose juice, as we’ve said, spends time with the skins. Fermented in stainless steel and kept with its lees, with very little stirring, the wine has an immediate aroma of mandarin skin with a little bitter marmalade in there too, developing into a floral fragrance with some nuts (hazelnuts/almonds?) as well. 8€

Because it’s such a different style, concept even, it looks like its oxidised or maybe a sweet wine, but it is neither. A wine with attitude, body and presence – made from white Moscatel grapes! Fascinating.

Nimi 2013 is older of course, pleasingly dry again,with longer maceration time, in fact about 20 days (unheard of with white wines!). Darkly coloured, which puts one in mind of an Oloroso or Amontillado (though that is where the similarity ends – this is no sherry!) there is a slightly more intense aroma of orange skins with mixed nuts & sultanas too, and even more presence on the palate. The wine, like the other, is also elegant. 8€

My favourite, Nimi Tossal 2015, is made with grapes grown on the summit of the hill nearby and so has had the benefit of cooler breezes during the day and more favourable temperatures at night. Fewer bunches are produced and the grapes are therefore a little richer. Juan determined that the combination of these factors would suit some oak!

Fermented in barrel after a long maceration, it rested for a further 12 months in oak, with its lees contributing to the finished wine. Everything in this wine is in perfect balance – it’s dry and fresh, there’s a little butter blending with panaderia notes and a very slight saline touch on the finish – I love it! Enjoy a glass on its own and have it with mixed and seafood paella; meaty fish dishes, including with sauce; pork, turkey; and various pâtés. 12€

The final Orange wine, also made with Moscatel, is a sweet one – but with that crucial fresh acidity. I thought it a masterstroke to serve this wine with dark chocolate, a super pairing! The harvested grapes are dried on matting, as was done in this area decades ago. The water content evapourates leaving a sweet deposit which is pressed and then placed in French barricas for fermentation, and to rest for 12 months.

On the nose some orange and clementine aromas with a tantalising caramel note too, as well as a touch of honey. Before you reach the dark chocolate stage, try this wine with Foie Gras and with cheeses, semi-mature and mature too, though, for me, not with blue cheese. 12€ (50cl bottle).

An excellent visit and my first foray into the world of Orange Wines – I’ll be back!

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