In Review

Orange is the new white: The rise and rise of orange wine

The complexity of red with the refreshment of white

These days the one thing you need to know to impress that wine buff you meet on Tinder or your wine snob of a brother-in-law is that orange wine is the latest thing.

So what exactly is orange wine? In a nutshell it's made using white wine grapes the red wine way. This means the grape skins are left on after they're crushed in what is saucily dubbed "skin contact".

Pronounced by a French sommelier, the words conjure images of forbidden relations between the vines. In practice, skin contact gives birth to a wine that often looks a lot like a dark yellow chardonnay but can produce the complexity and tannins of a red wine, while keeping the cool refreshing character of a chilled white.

Is orange wine new? As it happens, no. They've been making wine this way – particularly in Georgia – for millennia. But closer to home adventurous wine makers are attempting to revive its popularity and give wine lovers something fresh to enjoy on a sunny day.

The Week Portfolio tried five Italian orange wines on a warm summer evening at The Hive of Vyner Street in east London – here's what we thought:

2015 A. Maule 'Sassaia'

Grape: Garganega

This honey-coloured gem from Veneto has had three days of sensual skin contact and no intervention (no additives, temperature control, etc). The result is a friendly and approachable wine with a lot of promise.

2015 Baglio Bianco

Grape: Garganega

This drop from north-west Italy is nicely citrusy. We were advised that "the tannins make this wine stand up." Its sharper taste reminded us of a stinging barb from a witty aunt. Very quaffable.

2014 AA Zidarich

Grape: Vitovska

This cloudy-in-appearance north-eastern Italian wine is perhaps more strawberry blonde than ginger. Less complex than we expected, it lacks the fruitiness you'd expect from a garden variety white.

2014 Tenuta Grillo 'Sancho Panza'

Grape: Fiano

This gem from southern Campagna is a major step up in terms of tannins. It's floral and fruity with notes of honeysuckle and orange blossom, and would pair nicely with rich food.

2009 AA Denavolo 'Dinavolo'

Grape: Malvasia, Marsanne, Ortrugo

This is the darkest in colour by far, having had six months of skin contact. It's also strikingly different from the other wines we tried. The colour is reminiscent of a watery Aperol Spritz left in the sun. It has complex tannins – like a fine Bordeaux – with herby notes of thyme, and a dried apricot and candied orange flavour. This is a great wine that would definitely get tongues wagging at your next BBQ.

We were advised that orange wine is best served at 10 to 12 degrees Celsius (warmer than white, cooler than red). All wines are available at The Hive of Vyner Street, 286-290 Cambridge Heath Road (corner Vyner Street), London, E2 9DA

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