If you’ve been anywhere near a wine bar this year, you’ve probably realized orange wine isn’t necessarily orange. The wines are made by fermenting white grapes with their skins, like reds, and depending on the grapes’ color and how long their juices stay “on the skins,” the results range from tangerine to amber, gold, peach and beyond. Flavor varies as much as color: The wines can be light and floral, yeasty and punchy like sour beer or kombucha, or mellow and sweet with berry notes—the list goes on. If all that sounds bewildering, award-winning sommelier and wine expert Doreen Winkler is here to guide you to your new favorite orange wines with Orange Glou, a monthly subscription box and event series.
For years, Winkler worked internationally as a sommelier, after developing a passion for wine while studying hospitality in her native Germany. She transitioned to natural and skin-contact wines when Brooklyn’s Michelin-starred Aska commissioned her to create an all-natural wine list—back in 2012 when natural was still niche. “I really fell in love with the wines; they were lighter, they were livelier, they were just exciting,” she says. With Orange Glou, Winkler wants to showcase the specialness of orange wines, which are produced in low quantities by small-scale producers. Her focus isn’t on rarity alone, but on finding the highest quality, most unusual new wines.
According to Winkler, skin-contact and natural wines aren’t just another trend. She credits increased levels of wine education with drinkers’ newfound curiosity about what goes into their glass. And, as she explains, organic and biodynamic wines take a long time to develop—it takes 15 years for a vineyard to go fully biodynamic. Winkler’s drawn to these wines for the connection they represent between people and a region—one Swiss winemaker she buys from turned his vineyard into a habitat for 200 species of native butterflies. All her favorite winemakers make use of indigenous grape varietals and low-impact production methods. Natural wine isn’t just an industry to them; it’s a way of living.
If you’re orange wine curious, Winkler recommends getting friendly with your local wine natural wine shop or winery, (she loves Bloomer Creek). Or simply come along to one of her Orange Glou tasting events: She hopes to build a community of people interested in the endlessly variable world of skin-contact wine.