Top Slovenian wine: Orange wine

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This week we explore the tastes of the top Slovenian wine – orange wine. In Slovenia orange wines originate in the Primorska region.

Orange wines represent a relatively small, but very important niche in the global and Slovenian wine market because respect for tradition combined with modern wine production insights have proven to be a winning formula for both producers and consumers. Orange wines are well known in Slovenia.

Orange wines became popular a few decades ago, however, the orange wines are nothing new, as the first orange wines were drunk some 6,000 years ago in Georgia. The revival of this ancient process of orange wine production in Slovenia has occurred in the last twenty years.

About Orange wine in Slovenia

Orange wines in Slovenia are mostly grown in the Primorska wine region. Orange is the “fourth” color of wine, however, don’t mistake the orange wine with rosé. Orange wines are also not made of oranges, which is a common misconception when it comes to this variety of top Slovenian wine.

Orange wines in Slovenia are actually made through a special process. Orange wines in Slovenia are a mixture of white wine made through a process that is intended for red wines. Interesting, right? In Slovenia, orange winemakers use this old process of producing white wines through the process for red wines, which has later spread across the world and gained much popularity among wine experts and wine enthusiasts alike.

The main feature of orange wine in Slovenia is maceration or prolonged contact with grape skins. Winemakers in Slovenia decide on different maceration times for the orange wine – depending on the type of grape as well as the wine production philosophy. Thus, maceration time for orange wines in Slovenia can be either short (a few days) or very long (up to half a year). 

History of Orange wines in Slovenia

Orange wines became popular in the 90s. However, Slovenian winemakers in the Primorska wine region have started producing this top Slovenian wine back in the 80s. The most famous Slovenian orange wine producer is Aleks Klinec. The demand for orange wines in Slovenia is growing every year.

The term “orange wine” is relatively new in the wine world. When traveling around the world you might come across another name for orange wine, which is amber wine due to its color. The name orange wine was no made up in Slovenia, the name orange wine was given to this top Slovenian wine by an English sommelier.

Orange wine, source: Luksuz.net

The term orange wine was formed by the Anglo-Saxons to give an exact description of wine made of white grapes and left in contact with grape skins over a longer period of time (also known as maceration). The same procedure is commonly used for red wine production. Likewise, it has been a tradition in white wine production, since white macerated wines were also produced long ago in Slovenia.

Origin of Orange wine

Orange wines are mostly produced in the wine regions of Slovenia, Italy, and Croatia. Wine producers in the mentioned countries all use the old process, which results in orange wine. However, the origin of Orange wine is in Georgia. There the production of orange wines represents a long tradition. The orange wine production goes on in so-called kvevris – clay amphoras buried in soil, where the orange wine is kept in contact with grape skins for a long time after fermentation.

Orange wine in Slovenia originated in the valley of the Vipava and Karst wine region. Many Slovenian wine producers located in Slovenian Istria have also started to produce the orange wines. Today, many winemakers produce orange wines in all three of our wine-growing regions (Primorska, Posavje and Podravje). Among the orange pioneers are certainly the Slovenians in Italy Joško Gravner and Stanislav Radikon, Aleks Klinec, and Valter Mlečnik from the Vipava valley. There are around 60 orange wine producers in Slovenia at the moment.

Originally Slovenian winemakers started to professionally produce orange wines in the 90s when they gained more traction around the world.

Orange wine tasting and food pairing

The Slovenian sommeliers serve orange wines slightly warmer than a classic white, and slightly cooler than a red. Slovenian sommeliers say the best temperature for drinking orange wines is around 12ºC. It’s also perfectly acceptable to drink orange wines in Slovenia slightly cooler, around 10ºC degrees if it’s hot outside and you want them to be very refreshing.

Orange wines in Slovenia have often been described as robust and bold, with honeyed aromas of jackfruit, hazelnut, bruised apple, wood varnish, linseed oil, juniper, sourdough, and dried orange rind. On the palate, orange wines in Slovenia are big, dry, and even have tannin like a red wine with a sourness similar to fruit beer.

Orange wine at Klinec in Goriška Brda, source: Wine Folly

Because of their boldness, orange wines pair excellently well with equally bold foods, including curry dishes, Moroccan cuisine, Ethiopian cuisine, Korean dishes with fermented kimchi, and traditional Japanese cuisine.

Due to the high phenolic content (tannin and bitterness) and the nutty tartness they exhibit, orange wines pair with a wide variety of meats, ranging from beef to fish. Orange wines can also be paired with more traditional meals of the surrounding region.

Orange wine festival in Slovenia

Orange wines are still rare, but many countries like Slovenia have a growing interest in this natural winemaking style. The popularity of orange wines in Slovenia has rapidly grown over the last couple of years, hence there is a whole festival dedicated to this variety of top Slovenian wine.

This year the Orange Wine Festival will be held in Izola ob October 24, 2020. Learn more about the festival here.

Best Slovenian orange wine in the world

Slovenian biodynamical producer Zorjan’s amazing muškat otonel Dolium is best rated Orange wine in the world in July’s Decenter issue of 30 best orange wines in the world. Third place also goes to Slovenia when it comes to the best orange wine, Vina Blazic rebula selekcija.

Source: Orange Wine Festival & Wine Folly