Sous Chef has finally accepted that in fashion Orange is the new Black and not just indicative of prison garb. Now I have the temerity to inform him that Orange is the new Rosé. His look of bewilderment suggests he is unaware that among many wine hipsters Orange is the new “it” wine (notwithstanding orange wine has been around for thousands of years). I tried my first orange wine last summer at Maude Restaurant in Beverly Hills, and immediately went to K & L Wines in West Hollywood and bought a few bottles of Georgian orange wine to try with recipes from soon to be purchased Georgian cookbooks.

This month the Italian Food, Wine & Travel group is exploring orange wines from Italy and border countries. Orange wine has been made for thousands of years in the republic of Georgia, but more recently Italy and its neighbor Slovenia, as well as the New World, Australia, and other countries, are producing the stuff. I was unable to find locally an orange wine from Italy, but scored a top-rated orange wine at my Whole Foods from Slovenia, which borders Italy.

Orange wine - ideal for the Aperitivo Hour

Orange wine – ideal for the Aperitivo Hour

Unlike rosés which are made from red wine grapes whose skins are removed early in the fermentation process, orange wines are from white wine grapes that are left to macerate with their skins. This results in an orange-tinted hue and tannins and flavors not normally associated with a white wine. Some think orange wine is akin to a martini in that it is an acquired taste and one that is not for the faint of heart. I’m not sure I totally agree with that assessment, but I know it is a wine I thoroughly enjoy.


Sivi Pinot from Slovenia - one of NYT's top Orange wine selections

Sivi Pinot from Slovenia – one of NYT’s top Orange wine selections

My orange wine selection was the 2012 Kabaj (pronounces Ka-Bye) Sivi Pinot from Goriška Brda, Slovenia. This wine is 100% Sivi Pinot (Pinot Grigio) and it is grown in a mild Sub-Mediterranean climate. The soils consist of sandstone and slate. In the glass, the wine has a salmon pink color reminiscent of Copper River Salmon. (OK, so “orange” as a wine color covers a rather broad spectrum!) On the nose it has many complex aromas – minerals, peaches, plums, and buttery brioche bread. In the mouth, this wine is dry, velvety, and creamy. This bottle retails between $22-$25. In 2013, The New York Times rated the 2009 Kabaj Sivi Pinot as its best value in the article “From Slovenia’s Ancient Hills.” This was my second time trying the 2012 and I develop a new fondness and appreciation for this wine and style each time I taste it.

Walnut Pesto, Fresh Ricotta, Brioche, Speck and Northern Italian Cheeses pair well with Orange Wines

Walnut Pesto, Fresh Ricotta, Brioche, Speck and Northern Italian Cheeses pair well with Orange Wines

 Blue Danube Wine Company, the importer of this wine, refers to it as a “bread and butter wine.” This tasting note stuck with me, so I paired the 2012 Kabaj Sivi Pinot with a Walnut Pesto from the Venezia region of Italy, served on toasted brioche with a layer of fresh ricotta. The food enhanced the wine without either overpowering the other. And for some variety, add smoked speck and Northern Italian cheeses to bring out the symphony of flavors in the 2012 Kabaj Sivi Pinot. This is an ideal wine for an Aperitivo Hour (happy hour nibbles), just slicing cheese and bread to accompany, sipping on its own, or pairing with a smoky meat dish. It’s definitely a versatile wine that will surprise your guests!

Join us this Saturday, July 2 at 10am CDT on Twitter at #ItalianFWT to chat about skin-fermented white wines from Italy. Here is a preview of what’s to come from our Italian blogging group:

Walnut Pesto with Ricotta & Brioche

  • 6 brioche rolls cut in half
  • ricotta
  • dried currents
  • ½ cup walnuts
  • ½ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 garlic clove
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

  1. Place walnuts, parmesan cheese, garlic clove and some extra virgin olive oil in a food processor and pulse. Continue to add olive oil until mixture is runny, but still slightly rough in texture. Add salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
  2. Lightly brush extra virgin olive oil on brioche and toast. Once brioche is toasted, top with a spoonful of fresh ricotta cheese, drizzle with walnut pesto and top with dried currents.