I’m not a wine snob, but I am a fan of interesting flavors and bottles from lesser known regions. On my return to the Houston area after a decade away from the Lone Star State, I began a search for a geeky personal favorite: orange wine.
In recent years, exaltations about what some call the new rosé unfairly peg “skin contact” wines as a trend, secondary to its pink cousins. In fact, orange wine, made with macerated white grapes left to ferment with their skin on, has been continuously consumed in great quantities around the world for millennia.
As these white grapes—seeds, stems and all—ferment, winemakers generally leave them alone to age, from a few days to a little more than a year. The resulting flavor is generally big and bold, but distinct from other wine styles. Oxidation during aging creates fruity, beer-like flavors that skew dry, tannic, and sometimes sour. Though it’s not for everyone, demand for these all-natural, no-additive wines is higher than it used to be.
Still, finding a good bottle or glass requires some ingenuity.
Knowing the traditional regions home to orange wines helps, and three are most likely to show up on wine menus in the city. I look for Rkatsiteli grape varieties from Georgia (the country, not the state); Sauvignon Vert, Ribolla Gialla and Pinot Grigio from Italy’s Friuli-Venezia Giulia region; and Rebula and Chardonnay from Goriška Brda in Slovenia.
Finding quality wines from the regions above requires perusing the shelves at Houston Wine Merchant and ordering from the always-changing wine lists at 13 Celsius and Camerata at Paulie’s. Friuli-focused oenophiles will find favor with Dolce Vita and Poscol’s Italian wine lists. Of course, knowledgeable staff members can always point out the good stuff, along with pairing options and a good yarn about interesting producers.