Bosman Family Vineyards, and the New School of Orange Wine

The aftermath of Le Dû’s recent Orange Wine seminar

A few weeks ago, Le Dû’s held a seminar on the history of Orange Wine, exploring how this type of wine making, which involves taking white grapes and making wine as you would a red, with an extended maceration of skins onto the juice prior to fermentation, imbuing it with many more tannic and aromatic compounds.

For decades this form of wine making was fairly isolated in eastern Italy, largely implemented as part of a broader context of neo-traditional wine making, with a few dedicated producers focusing on traditionally endemic grape varieties and a hands off approach in the cellar. Famous producers such as Gravner, Radikon, and Paolo Bea were at the forefront of this movement, making wines that were enticingly complex, but also undeniably funky, with flavors that were just as much a result of oxidation, volatility, and wild non-fermenting yeast strains as they were of skin contact.

For many, these are the wines and flavors that have come to define Orange Wine. But, as alluded to above, they were largely flavors that resulted from the culture in which Orange Wine techniques were being used, not from the technique itself. Nowadays there are a few producers throughout the world who are starting to implement it from within a larger context of classic wine making techniques. Instead of using skin maceration as part of a more “natural” wine making philosophy, these producers are implementing the technique as a way of highlighting and enhancing the aromatic properties existing in the grapes themselves, as well as adding structure to a wine to make it more versatile at the table. I like to call these “new school” Orange Wines.

At our seminar, we had the opportunity to compare three very old school Orange Wines with three of those coming from this newer generation, and the results could not have been any more contrasting. The newer wines, despite the fact that they were cheaper across the board, all had elements of aromatic purity and lift that the old school, while compelling, certainly lacked. The almost universal favorite was a wine coming from about as far away from Orange Wine’s origins as possible, from a small estate in South Africa’s Wellington region in the Western Cape.

Bosman winemaker Corlea Fourie in the vineyards

The wine was a single vineyard Orange Grenache Blanc from Bosman Family Vineyards. It opens up with a beautiful and extremely aromatic bouquet of golden delicious apples, orange oil, orange blossoms, and warm granite. While the nose might suggest something unctuous and sweet, the palate is extremely savory, like tasting salty, liquefied stones, with a bounty of dry extract that fills the palate with a glycerol plushness that slowly melts away into a dusting of generous tannins. It is a warming, full bodied, enchanting wine; a perfect pairing to roast duck or pork chops; and, at $24.99 per bottle, it is also an incredible value.