On February 8, 2016, I posted a blog title “Orange Wine”. The research material that was utilized for my blog had inaccurate information. It was reported that UK Wine Merchant David Harvey “accidentally” created the term “Orange Wine”. Well, Mr. Harvey himself contact me and provided accurate information. YES, MR. DAVID HARVEY! 🙂 I was ecstatic, like a school girl who was finally able to wear her new “black and whites” shoes for the first day of school.
I ran to my husband and excitedly explained, in response to my blog, the man who created the term “orange wine” sent “ME” an email. Softly smiling he replies, “Baby that’s good.” Of course, I had to read him the message. 😀
On May 30, 2016, I corrected the “Orange Wine?” blog post to read as follows:
“The term “orange wine” was created by UK Wine Merchant David Harvey in 2004, which was purposefully created and others saw fit to use the term since that time.”
Mr. Harvey bestowed upon me the honor to share his “ORIGINS OF MODERN USAGE OF ORANGE WINE”, which I am much appreciative. (And days later, I am still ECSTATIC!) 😀
Without further ado, I present you the:
ORIGINS OF MODERN USAGE OF ORANGE WINE, by David Harvey (edited May 2016 for Tree)
I actively discussed this issue from first principles with Frank Cornelissen, when working with Frank on Etna in 2004, and started to use it thereafter. It was the year of making his Mongibello Bianco No.1 2004 (now Munjebel Bianco): we were daily drinking and talking about Radikon, Dario Princic, Gravner, Vodopevic, Castellada, pre-2002 La Biancara, Massia Vecchia, etc.
The quest for a name arose from my concern that there was no name, let alone category for these wines, which are visually, aromatically and structurally divergent from white wines, and would therefore risk rejection in both the on- and off-trades, having worked as Head Sommelier between 1993 and 2002.
The rational was that they should be labelled by the same criteria as white/rosé/red wine, i.e. by the final colour of the wine, and not the component parts (e.g. colour of grape,) nor the technique (e.g. sparkling, fortified, skin-contact, etc.) All the other possible colour names were already used in specific appellations, e.g. Vin Jaune (yellow), Rivesaltes Ambré (amber) etc., or were too pretentious, like’ golden wine’, or were not common to key wine-production languages.
Skin-contact for example was not considered useful, as very brief contact in French is called maceration-pelliculaire, and, most all red wines receive skin-contact. So the term is simply not precise, nor unique.
And, I admit that I did not take very seriously Orange state, Orange county, orange fruit, as origins or materials with potential conflict. (For which, the relevant Australian authorities have since publicly spoken out.)
Georgia was also discussed at some point: someone (who?) told me that in Georgia, ‘red wine’ meant just that, ‘white wine’ ditto, but that ‘wine’, tout-court, meant macerated white grapes. Georgia does have claim to being an ancient wine country, with use of ancient vessel types, and possibly unceasing use of macerating white grapes. However, it does not have the oldest proven claim, the sole terracotta claim, the sole maceration claim, and certainly not the total quality claim. Yes, it did directly inspire the re-introduction of white grape maceration, for total quality dry orange wine-making in Italy. However, the great examples in the 21st Century hail from an epicentre of Oslavia in the Collio, produced since 1997, released this century. The renaissance (or emergence) of quality in Georgia postdates this period, and of the qualitatively top three or five orange wines, all are arguably made in Italy.
I used it ‘naturally’ in tastings or conversation with Jancis Robinson MW and Rose Murray-Brown MW in 2008, Jamie Goode, the Dressner team at Villa Favorita, Alice Feiring (at La Dive, in the Veneto, in London, etc.), Joseph di Blasi of Vinosseur, after which it was used for the first time. There is no prior mention I have come across, online or in print. I also used it with a bunch of winemakers.
As wine merchant sous l’nez, my early offers to private clients also went to some UK press, with orange wines labelled as such from 2006. L’Ortolan restaurant, whom I have helped out over the years, ran an orange wine section since about 2007 under Head Somm Stephen Nisbet. I believe that the first monographs were ‘Glass of Orange’ by Rose Murray Brown MW in The Scotsman, April 2008, and Jancis Robinson MW’s write up of the Contrade dell’Etna tasting online in April 2008. (Frank Cornelissen was in Belgium getting divorced, and so I flew down to man his table, and used the term naturally.) It has since been used in most all the major UK & US broadsheets, blogs and beyond.
So, we could now go back and say that traditional Tokaji, where the aszu berries are macerated in a base wine, is orange, whereas modern direct-pressed Tokaji, or pure free-run Essenzia, is white. Same for white port: foot trod white-grape port is orange, whereas direct press white-grape port is white (if perhaps coloured due to oxidative tendancies, or elevage, which does not count.
Of course, someone may have said it before. Isabelle Legeron MW subsequently found the Pliny quote about there being ‘white, yellow, red and bIack wines’. (My orange is almost certainly his yellow.) I was simply systematic about choosing the name ‘orange’ and using it, with a certain group of people at a certain time, with no ambition other than enhancing communication, which seems to have worked. There was no forced attempt to make it stick: it merely happened to stick. I cannot truly say that I now entirely agree with my choice, however: it is no coincidence that Cornelissen calls his wine white, and Gravner calls his wine amber…
In 2011, I wrote a concise article for The World of Fine Wine, and in 2015, the entry on orange wine for The Oxford Companion to Wine, 4th Edition, edited by Jancis Robinson MW.
Raeburn Wines, London Office
FANTASTIC!!! Very informative and an enjoyable read! Mr. Harvey, Thank You, Again!
Folks, I hope you enjoyed the article as much as I did. For a copy of the articles previously mentioned in Mr. Harvey’s article visit The World of Fine Wine.
Now, I’m on the hunt for some Orange Wines.
Note. featured image from sloveniaforyou.com