5 minute read
File under: History
It started like a whisper. Orange Wines began getting real play in the small, energetic restaurants in the city. The first wave #sommelebrity set saw an opportunity in the wines of De Conciliis, Gravner, Radikon and Vodopivec for the young elites coming in for that new new.
Sommeliers began headlining prominent digital publication upstarts with the Orange Wine story and including it as the trendy, pro recommendation – saying ‘white wine made like a red’ in a thousand different ways. ‘Macerated on the skins’ was thrown about table side like tik tok dance routines.
Orange Wine became the nouveau-niche category of the wine world; gaining immense traction and providing a new conversation. “Do you have orange wine?” became a question that importer/distributors would expect to get.
Just when it seemed like Orange Wine would become the yin to the mic-drop sales of Rosé’s yang, like it would be the other color-curious question that would be asked by the customers at wine stores, these articles went viral and gave Orange Wine a gut punch: Why Tecate is Greater than Orange Wine, quickly followed by Orange Wine Already Over, Say Two Wine Writers.
Take a moment and read these articles beyond the titles. That was 2013.
The Dark Times
Immediately following these articles, Orange Wine went through a brutal period where it fell starkly out of favor. It was put on the end of the wine bench – unlikely to be called and asked to play. On the street we talked about how fast it had died. How many of the wines weren’t even orange and how wacky the prices were.
Were they actually too expensive? Was Rosé just that dominant? Was the explanation of the wine process of orange wine just too difficult to take in for the general public? Did they obscure terroir via process?
I doubt there is an answer, but it was around this time that I had a realization.
In the above articles, Jon Bonné and Richard Betts (both of whom I admire) clarified one of the most vital elements of the new wine business for me: trends often don’t care about the industry, they feed on something outside us insiders.
In 2017, I started to notice a sliver of daylight and emerging possibilities for Orange Wine via a raucously fun Ribolla Gialla Tasting in California and more tangibly, some street-level sales action I wrote about here.
Guess who’s back?
The slow time for Orange Wine came to an end with bright flashes of resurgence in the press. Orange Wine started showing up again in headlines in numerous wine publications, paired with clickbait headlines like ‘What is Natural Wine?’ and ‘Is Rosé Over?’
Do you have Orange Wine? is again an opener question in retail stores and restaurants accompanied by a new crop of factory-fabricated orange wine entering the sub-$15 retail space. And producers are regularly convinced by their importers to make an orange to acquire some perceived relevance.
We aren’t approaching the peak of Orange Wine, yet. The answer to this trend’s possible velocity lies in a few simplistic concepts:
It’s easy to remember and ask for, fast to say, loosely defined, and widely available.
Now go try a few and see if you like them. And buckle up, because more is on the way.