Diners at Logan Square’s Telegraph are seeing orange.
And that’s because Jeremy Quinn, the restaurant/wine bar’s well-regarded sommelier, enthusiastically touts this particular type of wine. He even created a separate category for orange wines on Telegraph’s list, where these often hard-to-find, artisanal wines range in price from $60 to $230 for a bottle.
Quinn developed an “orange crush” several years ago while traveling in northeast Italy, where orange wine has been produced for centuries from the region’s Pinot Grigio grapes.
“This style of wines has been the most exciting for my palate,” he says. Quinn vividly remembers his second encounter with it in Italy’s Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. “I enjoyed the whole bottle alone at dinner in a restaurant. I couldn’t stop writing notes about it.”
Okay, so you’ve heard of red, white and rose, but what is orange?
Simply put, “white wines can become orange with extra contact with [the grapes’] skin,” Quinn explains. So when the juice from white grapes is intentionally left to ferment with the skins — from a few weeks to several months — the result is an orange wine.
“You can almost look at it as the inverse of rose,” where red grape skins are removed from their juices after only a short period, Quinn says.
“There is a total spectrum of hues,” ranging from amber to deep mahogany. The resulting “orange” color is caused by both “the inherent color of the [grapes’] skin and the amount of time it sees contact.”
In northeast Italy, orange wine is called “ramato,” which loosely means “coppery,” because the Pinot Grigio grapes create a coppery-colored product. Although Italian ramato is the most widely known orange, other countries — Croatia, Slovenia, Spain and the United States — also produce this unique wine. And the use of a variety of white grapes (including Malvasia, Vitovska, and Ribolla Gialla) accounts for a wide variety of colors.
(Additional factors can play a role in the wine’s hue, such as how heavy the winemaker keeps the leaf canopy above the grapes. A heavy canopy prevents sun from coming in and results in lighter-colored fruit. Fewer leaves in the canopy mean the grapes have more contact with sunlight and become more richly colored.)
But it’s not just the color of the wines that varies. “Each has different characteristics on the palate,” Quinn says.
“However, you generally have really exotic adjectives associated with what they taste like.” Flavor notes, for example, may include cardamom, cumin, saffron and acacia honey. “It’s this evocative, earthy, rich, spicy character,” he says.
And they make excellent pairing wines. A bit strong, they tend to exhibit “a powerful, but not searing, acidity” — and this acidity has a savoriness to it.
“They perform like red wine, but they can pick up more delicate flavors than a red wine can,” Quinn says.
Since chef Johnny Anderes’ menu changes frequently, it’s difficult to recommend specific pairings. But Quinn suggests oranges with dishes that have “a good proportion of tropical fruit” (say, papaya or kumquat) and “milder notes of saltiness.”
They work exceptionally well with fowl such as duck and quail. And they also pair nicely with rarer cuts of particular meats, including T-bone and tri tip — a well-done sirloin, not so much.
Telegraph customers have avidly embraced this often misunderstood wine, which can be confused with oxidized or flawed whites.
In the past, “if they got something the color of whiskey, they would immediately send it back,” Quinn says.
With the sommelier, his staff and his wine list now championing it, “relatively speaking, our sales of orange wine have gone through the roof,” he says.
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