Natural wines = orange wines = raw wines

“Orange – the fourth color of wine” was the title of a tasting we visited last night. Organized by the LWG = “Landesanstalt für Wein und Gartenbau” (the Bavarian school / scientific center for winemakers and gardeners) we were sure to get a few interesting sips. The rest of the invitation did sound scary though. And yes, it was bad. Really bad.

An all wrong talk about orange wine

Looking at the pic of the first slide I took you see that it was nothing but buzzword bingo played that night. Orange wine, natural wine, raw wine, amphora wine – all terms were used synonymously. The story of how their students made wine in a kvevri was mashed up with the orange wine trend and all announced to be part of the natural wine movement with a pic of Isabelle Legeron being shown as a proponent and Manfred Klimek from Captain Cork as an opponent. The cover of the current issue of the German wine magazine Vinum was displayed featuring an article about natural wine. And then it went on with a talk about must fermentation as the basis of orange wine (which is correct). Many recommendations for ingredients included (starting with yeasts and sulphur but also mentioning ascorbic acid) which really makes the wine un-natural.

There were about 30 people attending, many of them being clearly confused asking for the definition of orange wine. No clear answer. Klemens Rumpel (heading up the organic winemaker community in Franken) also questioned the confusing use of buzzwords and I jumped in making clear how wrong that all was. That was too much discussion already – we’re in Bavaria where you’re supposed to shut up and follow orders!

So we tasted the wines available which was rather disappointing as well. Only two of them were orange, only one of them tasted like kvevri wines from Georgia normally taste and the majority was conventionally produced. So sad. I’d love to say that I like the fact that the subject is being pushed but then I wonder which subject? I just feel sorry for any winemaker who will follow the advice given last night producing orange wine = natural wine = amphora wine and offering it as such to a merchant who is familiar with the subject.

And the definitions are so simple:

  • Natural wine = wine without additives
  • Amphora wine = wine being fermented in an amphora mostly very heavy tannins and often oxidative but not necessarily without additives
  • Orange wine = fermenting white grapes on their skins to get tannins and some orange color

Let’s see if there will be a next time with more than buzzword bingo. But discussing the influence of our terroir and the condition of the soil, botrytis, how to get orange color without the sherry smell, how to deal with the lees, the influence of pumps or how to bottle using no or minimum sulphur dioxide. There is a lot to learn …

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