If you’ve visited a natural wine bar in the past few years, there’s a good chance you’ve tasted orange wine. Once a Georgian-style niche, the amber-tinted drink has become the trending darling of organic and biodynamic wines around the world. Made from white grapes, orange wine gets its sunny hue from “skin contact”, meaning it is left to macerate with the skin and pulpy pieces of the fruit after pressing. Just like regular white wine, the orange substance can vary widely. However, the style generally has more richness and depth than the whites, coupled with the refreshing capacity of the rosé and the unexpected – sometimes wild – flavor profiles prized by natural wine drinkers seeking adventure.
But even many well-stocked stores may be reluctant to carry orange wines. Critics and the uninitiated alike often view the quirks and irregularities of natural wines as flaws, and teaching consumers to love them can be a daunting and costly task.
Sommelier Doreen Winkler (front) specializes in natural, organic and biodynamic wines, particularly orange varieties.
This is where Doreen Winkler comes in. The pioneering German sommelier cut her teeth by working in gastronomy from Cyprus to Sydney to New York. She eventually focused on advising restaurants interested in expanding their organic and biodynamic wine selections, most recently tending to the wineries of Aska in Brooklyn and Sel Rrose in Manhattan and Montauk.
Over the years, Winkler has developed a special love for orange wines. So, in order to introduce them to more people, she launched Orange Glou in 2019, the world’s first wine club dedicated to style. Organizing a rotating selection of these skin-contact wines, she began offering three- or six-bottle boxes, shipped nationally to subscribers with descriptions, tasting notes, and culinary pairing suggestions. . The branding image is light and inviting: “I wanted the name to reflect how fun and unpretentious orange wine can be,” she explains of her play on the cheeky description of French wine. “Glou glou” (“glug gloug”) – in other words, drink or drink.
Her customers are on board with enthusiasm. Today, Orange Glou sends around 200 boxes per month, some to subscribers who have been accompanying it since day one, but also to a growing list of new buyers. And this month, Winkler moved to New York’s Lower East Side, opening the world’s first all-orange wine store of the same name. I jumped on a call with her to learn more about her love affair with orange wine and the people who drink it.
Winkler’s Orange Glou Shop, on Broome Street on the Lower East Side of New York City.
What do you suggest people do if they want to start buying orange wine? Is it just a matter of talking to a somm or a winemaker you trust?
Come to my store! And go to the tastings. It’s about trying new bottles and seeing what you like. I mean, it’s difficult because not all wine merchants do orange wine tastings. Even we only do them once a week at this point. Or visit a winery that makes orange wine. Bloomer Creek in the Finger Lakes does amazing things, but there are a lot of wineries that do. Another really cool example is Hiyu Wine Farm in Oregon. It’s beautiful, and just … wowzer! Hope you can go one day. Or go to a natural wine fair!
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The Orange Glou wine club has been in existence since 2019. What made you decide to also open a brick and mortar business?
I always want to be the first with things. I knew that at some point someone would open an orange wine store – it was only a matter of time. Orange Glou was the first subscription to orange wine, and it worked. And I thought it would be so much fun to have 100 orange wines in one place! That’s what we’re going to do here. We haven’t gotten to 100 yet, it’s gone crazy and the entrepreneur is still building. But yeah, I really like orange wine and I needed to have a place for it.
How did you choose the Lower East Side?
It was the other thing: it had to be here or nowhere. We’re on Broome Street between Orchard and Ellen, where New York’s natural wine scene is located. There are all kinds of natural places and the coolest little restaurants. There are ten bells. There’s a place called Skin Contact that makes all kinds of natural wines, not just orange, that’s where it’s at.
Are most of your customers wine industry geeks, or are you getting a lot of interest from lay people as well?
The full spectrum. I have chefs, and several wine writers, one or two sommeliers, and other people who have other sommelier qualifications, and some people who are in the WSET [Wine & Spirits Education Trust program]- because you don’t learn anything about natural wine there – who also really want to dive into those other categories.
Do you think that orange wine mainly attracts young wine drinkers?
That’s what people want me to say, but I feel like it’s everywhere from 22 year olds to 50s and 60s. My oldest is 65 years old and he is a school principal.
In general, I think a lot of people have a vague idea of how to combine red and white and rosés. Are there specific ingredients or cuisines that you think go particularly well with orange wines?
Well, Georgians associate it with everything. They accompany it with all meats, with grilled fish, with oven-roasted vegetables.
But spicy food is pretty good with orange wine, especially when you have a pinot orange, or the sparkling stuff, which works great with Indian food. And there are all kinds of cheeses that orange wine seems to go very well too, even better than white. But that obviously depends on the specific wine and dish.
What has been one of your most successful orange food and wine pairings?
There was a Georgian wine – one of my favorite producers called Okros – and they have a mtsvane. We paired it with a Cabot Clothbound Cheddar from Jasper Hill, and it was amazingly good.
Oh, it’s a beautiful cheese.
It’s a nutty cheese, and also the wine is a bit nutty, and just has an amazing aroma overall. It has a certain salinity and a lot of minerality to remove the salt from the cheese. It melted together. It was great.
Georgia is the birthplace of orange wine, but you sell versions all over the world. Which regions are you most passionate about at the moment?
There’s a lot! The most orange wine is produced in Italy. The Czech Republic is extremely exciting right now. When I was a kid my parents always took me there and I never wanted to go. But now I really need to go because there are a lot of cool things going on. It’s close to Austria, and they have a lot of similar grape varieties. Then there are several amazing producers in Australia including my friends from Yetti and Kokonut. I harvested with them a few years ago. And there are also a lot of domestic producers who are doing an incredible job. Joe Swick, in Oregon, and Donkey & Goat in California. And many more from Southern California! I actually did a Skin Contact pop-up in Los Angeles, right before the pandemic, because I’m so in love with a lot of these producers. We had 20 different wines and six producers. So a lot is happening in small batches. It’s amazing, honestly.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.