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Orange and natural wines shine in this new subscription service

January 16, 2020, 12:00 PM UTC
Porta Bohemica Tramin Orange
Courtesy of Orange Glou

Natural wine sommelier Doreen Winkler wants you to drink orange wine. That’s why she launched the first subscription service dedicated to orange and natural wines, Orange Glou, while also hosting pop-up bars showcasing orange wines across the United States.

“Some are still, some are sparkling; some are perfect to drink now, others are best laid away for later,” says Winkler. “But they’re all natural, all orange, and all delicious.”

Orange—otherwise known as skin-contact—wines are definitely a niche style. Made with white grapes, the style puts traditionally white wine grapes through the process of red wine: the grape skins are left in contact with the juice for a period of time during fermentation. That can range from a few hours to a few weeks. Red wine grapes will leave the red color, which is why the wines range in hues from pale purple to deep garnet and tawny. For white grapes, this turns the juice an orange-ish hue, resulting in the term “orange wines.” Some wines are extremely vibrant copper tones while others just look a bit more golden than your traditional white. Further, they are typically made in a natural wine style, meaning minimal intervention in the vineyard and winery.

“The wines may seem novel, but they have been made this way for millennia in [the country of] Georgia, while modern winemakers in France, Italy, and the U.S. have only recently embraced the style,” Winkler notes.

Orange Glou founder Doreen Winkler.
Orange Glou

Many wine fans, especially those familiar with the natural wine movement, have known about orange wines for years. But the growing popularity of low intervention winemaking and natural and biodynamic techniques have catapulted orange wines into the mainstream. Winkler, a self-proclaimed lover of the style, has long been advocating for them to friends and family. It was only recently, though, that she saw the demand rise in the restaurants where she consults. The knowledge of and interest in orange wines have become so great that Winkler felt she could build and sustain an entire company dedicated to the style.

“Orange wine is niche, but I think that has more to do with accessibility than it does the desirability of the product,” she explains. “So many people I’ve talked to want to try orange wine, but their local store carries only a limited selection or none at all.”

Her focus at Orange Glou is to not only help people find orange wines but also find the best ones. Winkler says she has tasted more than 1,000 different bottlings to curate a collection that is lively, unique, and highly drinkable. Because the style is so experimental, she respects the attempts, but knows they aren’t always a success. That’s why Winkler is so adamant about experiencing everything before she commits. Beyond tasting objectively good, wines can be included in the Glou portfolio only if they follow a strict set of guidelines that Winkler put together— including no added yeasts, acids, stabilizers, or sugars; no filtration or fining; and little or no added sulfur. And they must all be handpicked grapes from organic or biodynamic farms.

The natural wines lineup from Orange Glou.
Clay Williams/Orange Glou

Producers range from her longtime loves, like Donkey and Goat in California, to recent discoveries, such as Viñátigo from the Canary Islands. Orange Glou features wines that are hard to find, like Radikon, a winery on the border of Italy and Slovenia. Its Ribolla Gialla from Friuli has an extremely limited allocation, and Winkler is always on the hunt for a case. (“The aromas of toasted hazelnut, apricot, honeysuckle, mineral—a dream!” she describes.) Similarly, the brand also picks up Dlúhé Grefty, a Czech Republic–based winery that makes only 1,200 bottles a year; Winkler is a huge fan of its Alba Rosales Gewürztraminer and its aromas of lychee, rose water, and nectarine.

“Most wine subscriptions today are built from bulk bargain discounted bottles that wouldn’t sell at retail,” Winkler says. “With Orange Glou, you aren’t paying for a few bottles of leftover wine. You’re signing up for access to quality products I have spent my lifetime developing the connections and resources to acquire.”

Winkler may not be a household name, but she does come with an accomplished résumé. She got her first sommelier job at age 22, and went on to develop the wine program at several New York City restaurants including Aska (two Michelin stars), Aldea (one Michelin star), and Sel Rrose over the course of a decade. Winkler has worked in wine regions across Europe as well as Australia, and she is a frequent attendee at major natural wine events.

A six-bottle subscription box from Orange Glou.
Orange Glou

The subscription program works like any other wine club. Members receive shipments of three or six bottles each month, costing $105 or $195, respectively, plus tax and shipping. Each bottle comes with a tasting sheet of notes by Winkler as to how the wine was made, when you should drink it, and with what, as well as tasting notes. One particular detail duly noted: How long the skins were left in contact with the juice during fermentation.

“Orange wines are for explorers at heart,” she adds. “There’s a huge range of colors, flavors, textures, and styles of orange wine out there. There’s a certain wildness that comes when you let the grapes do the work.”

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