'Pheasant’s Tears’ is an “orange,” or amber, wine from Georgia using both new and yet very, very traditional methods in production.
Orange wine is not what you think: a fruit wine made by fermenting orange juice or a sweet white wine macerated with orange peel. Nor should it be confused with rosé, pink wine produced from red grapes with the skins removed soon after contact. The name has been coined to describe orange or copper-tinged white wines that range in colour from salmon pink to tawny.
Using white grape varieties, mostly the darker-skinned ones, they are made by leaving the juice in contact with the grape skins, seeds and stems to macerate with freshly crushed juice for a prolonged period. The resulting wine contains more colour pigment, phenols and tannins giving the wine its colour, flavour and texture.
Unconventional by modern standards, which emphasizes removing the solids quickly, orange wines have taken such trendsetting markets as San Francisco and New York by storm, and wine aficionados and fashionable restaurants cannot get enough of them. Sommeliers are high on orange wine because of their versatility; they pair well with almost anything from braised pork or beef to salads to a fish course.
Despite the hype, orange wines have been around for a long time. A handful of small winemakers in modern Italy, Slovenia, Georgia and Armenia have adopted elements of the winemaking traditions of the ancient world. Preferring more natural, artisanal approach to crafting their wines, their methods include slow fermentation in contact with skins and fermentation and aging in oak barrels.