Don’t let the name of this week’s Wine of the Week — Martha Clara Vineyards 2015 L’Orange ($28) — confuse you. Yes the wine is a coppery orange, but it’s not made from oranges. It’s 100 percent grapes grown in Martha Clara’s estate vineyards. The blend is 45 percent Chardonnay, 30 percent Pinot Grigio, 15 percent Gewurztraminer and 10 percent Viognier.
But why is it orange? Without getting too into the geeky details, this is a wine made from white grapes, but in the style of red wine. Most grape juice is clear or only slightly colored. Red wines are red because the juice and fermenting wine stays in contact with the colored skins.
Orange wine, as the category is known, is made in a style of winemaking during which white grapes are fermented with the skins. It’s an ancient style, which makes sense. Stainless steel tanks and temperature control are fairly modern advances.
This was winemaker Juan Micieli-Martinez’s first attempt at orange winemaking and he was inspired to make one because “I had many that were too extracted for me and I wanted better phenolic-to-fruit balance.”
Orange wines can be difficult to love for most people. They can be very tannic. Very hard at the edges and lack fruit flavors. Yet this one isn’t that. It shows what the style is without going over the top. It’s an entry-level orange wine, you could say.
“Approachability is always a key factor in my winemaking,” Micieli-Martinez said in an email. “It is just not in me to make unapproachable wines. I wanted to introduce our audience of wine drinkers to a style they may have been unfamiliar with.”
The nose is very floral — everything from rose petals to honeysuckle — with fresh and dried apple and dried apricots. Medium bodied, it does show tannin, which may be surprising at first in a non-red wine, but it’s not hard or too astringent. Flavors of dried fruit and more flowers are accented by a saline minerality. Though not particularly long or complex, this is the kind of wine every wine lover should experience. There’s an entire new category to explore here.
Released to the wine club already, it will be available to everyone else later in the year for $28.