White wines are those made with white grapes that, in general, are harvested, pressed, fermented and aged or bottled right after harvest.
The red wines, on the other hand, macerate with their skins so that they acquire some color, tannins, texture, etc., during a period of time that oscillates between two and four or five weeks. All this, of course, is in general terms.
The rosé wines are made with red grapes and their period of maceration with the skins to pick up some color can be as less as only a few hours, and we have seen cases in which this maceration period is only eleven minutes.
This means that for a wine made with red grapes whose color is pink because the contact with the skins has been practically the time it takes to put it and remove it from a vat, it is more than enough so we don’t call it a red wine, but rather we refer to it as rosé wine.
So, keeping in mind all this, why a wine produced with white grapes that macerates with the skins for the aforementioned acquisition of color and tannins, among other things, is still called white wine, even if the maceration period is days, weeks or even months? Is not this really a wine class that should have its own name? For many years this type of wine has been known as orange wines or amber wines. It is not about time for us to refer to them by the rightful name, and not white-wines-elaborated-with-a-greater-time-of-maceration-on-the-skins?
Imagine that you go to a restaurant, you ask for a white wine and they serve you an orange wine? How would you feel? Would you think that they are deceiving you? It will not be your typical white wine you can find in the supermarket or when you go around for tapas. It is a wine of a very different profile. Should not it be called by another name?
In view of the current situation of the wine market, where every passing day there is more and more diversity in terms of winemaking, elaboration and technology, we are at a time when the three traditional types of wine: white, rosé and red, do not cover all this diversity. There are more and more wines made under ecological, natural and biodynamic models. More and more wines are made in amphora or tinajas. And there are more and more white wines made with long periods of maceration with the skins.
Where is the limit of the period of skin maceration? Some set it in four days, but if a rosé wine is already named rosé after only 11 minutes of maceration, why should you wait longer for an orange wine? And even if we say it takes one or more days, I think it’s about time we start calling orange wines by their name. It’s clear to me that far from being a fashion as some say, this style of elaboration is here to stay. There are more and more producers of orange wines, not only in small wine regions such as Terra Alta or Ávila in Spain, but also in big areas such as La Rioja or Penedès. The time when an orange wine is not identified in a store or wine list as it is, or it is included at the bottom of the white wines has passed. The orange wines are already a category by themselves.
Photo © Azienda Agricola Il Carpino