Everyone knows about red, white and rosé wines. But there is another ‘colour’ which is a little less well known. Amber wine, sometimes called orange or skin-contact white wine, is a style of wine which we at Felixir are proud to be introducing to our customers. We currently stock just one amber wine from Swinging Bridge. Discover a little more about this unusual wine and how it’s made below.
Put simply, amber wine is made from white wine grapes without immediately removing the grape skins. In traditional white wine production, the grapes are crushed and then the juice is swiftly run off the skins and placed into a fermentation vessel. This is because the skin of the grape is where the majority of the fruits pigments, tannins and phenols (chemical compounds) are found. Therefore, allowing the juice to remain in ‘skin contact’ affects the colour, taste and complexity of the end product. As such, red wine is made from red wine grapes left in skin contact while rosé is made using red wine grapes without skins contact.
Here’s a quick breakdown of how we get each of these four colours of wine:
Red grapes with skin contact = red wine
Red grapes without skin contact = rosé wine
White grapes with skin contact = amber wine
White grapes without skin contact = white wine
In much the same way as red wines can be found in a broad spectrum of colour and depth, there is great variety amongst amber wines too. Depending on how long the white wine grapes are left in skin contact, the wines can range from barely darker than a classic white wine to liquids which carry a much more ‘orange’ tinge, looking closer to a whiskey. The longer the wine is on the skin, the darker and more complex the flavour, as the fresh fruity aromas associated with white wine meld into a richer, more weighty taste.
Although supermarket and bottleshop shelves may not have a large selection of amber wine just yet, the practice of creating this wine can be traced back to ancient cultures. There is evidence of amber wines being made in Georgia eight thousand years ago and the country proudly claims to be the birthplace of this wine. But during the 1950s and 1960s, amber wine suddenly found itself become unfashionable as the crisper, fresher white wines became the market favourite. These days, most restaurants will only serve red, rosé, white and sparkling wines, leaving amber wine long forgotten except amongst true oenophilia.
But perhaps amber wine is making a comeback. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Georgia slowly began to rekindle their ancient wine producing industry and amber wines re-emerged as the country became a major wine producer once more. In addition to this, the term ‘orange wine’ was first coined in 2004 by David A. Harvey, a British wine importer, suggesting perhaps there is a renewed interest in this fourth wine type. Personally, we at Felixir prefer the term amber and are looking forward to finding and sourcing new amber wines to bring our customers in the near future. For now, check out Swinging Bridge here.