Making Orange Wine With Hybrids in the Finger Lakes

Wines made via extended skin contact, called "orange" wines because of the color the juice acquires from spending so much time with the grape skins, have a long tradition in numerous countries like Georgia, but are just starting to come into a bit of a vogue in the United States. What makes the experiments Keuka Lake Vineyards Winemaker Moss Bittner is conducting with this style of wine so interesting is that he's using hybrid grapes rather than, say, Gewürztraminer or Pinot Gris. Bittner tells Rochester's Democrat & Chronicle that he has two versions of an orange wine made from the Vignoles grape and three from Delaware. (The grape not the state.)

On tasting these experimental wines, all fermented with wild yeasts, Writer Thomas Pellechia was more enthusiastic about the orange wines made from Vignoles. The trio from Delaware? Not so much. Both writer and winemaker agreed that the wines require "further handling, possibly blending."

Bittner sees his embrace of some of the ancient, hands-off ways of winemaking in a philosophical light: "The future of wine is not in chemistry; it's in anthropology."