Uncorkd Wine Trends 2017

Orange Wine on the Restaurant Wine List – Trend or New Standard

The trendiest thing to hit wine consumers lately is orange wine. Many are calling orange wine the new rosé. Sommeliers have been familiar with orange wine for decades and in fact the process of making orange wine goes back over 5,000 years. Put simply, orange wine is using white wine grapes but keeping them in contact with the skin to producer wine with an orangish hue and wonderful, unique flavors and complexities that can be considered a hybrid of white and red. Pretty much the opposite of rosé, where red wine grapes are crushed and the skin quickly removed. Restaurants around the country are adding orange wines to their menu, have you? If not, you need to add orange wines to your restaurant wine list ASAP. Here’s why.

A new pop of color for your wine list

Many people are calling the emergence of orange wine a fad, but here’s why you need to add it to your wine list. As consumer palates are expanding, orange wine offers a new option, a new opportunity, for customers to fall in love with your wine list… and spend more money. I’ll get that out of the way first, orange wines aren’t cheap. There are few quality orange wines under $40 (retail) due to the process, areas where they’re produced and limited production. So getting diners to try an orange wine could increase your ticket size, and sure, could be a little risky if they don’t like it. But people are falling in love with orange wines and I think the bet of putting them on your wine list will pay off.

First, educate your wait staff on orange wine

Don’t throw the orange wines on your list and hope they sell. Or even worse, have an unsuspecting customer order a bottle and find it’s not what they thought it was. Even without a team of sommeliers at your restaurant, orange wines could be a big success. But please arm your staff with some basic knowledge. I’d highly recommend doing an orange wine tasting so they can understand the flavor profile… I think you’ll see some of your staff fall in love and recommend it to their tables.

The versatility of orange wine is great for meals

One of the reasons sommeliers like orange wine is because of it’s hybrid-like qualities of white and red wine. I’ve strongly encouraged restaurants to utilize their beverage program for the entire dining experience, taking their diners on a journey through sparkling wines, light to full bodied and promoting various digestifs, ports, and after dinner wines. Orange wines fit right in nicely and can work with lighter fare such as fish or chicken along with heavier fare like beef. It also serves as a nice bridge between courses. If a customer has had a red wine, in many cases an orange wine can still follow.

It’s not just for aficionados

A few years ago, maybe. But alcoholic beverage preferences are changing. Consumers want breadth, not depth, on wine lists these days. And that’s better for you – eliminate the hundreds of old bottles you have in inventory and pare down your list. I would even go so far as to suggest offering an orange wine by the glass. You’ll get some customers who think you’ve invented the next big trend in wine when they have a glass for the first time (we’ll keep your secret safe). They’ll tell their friends about the orange wine and send them your way.

Orange wines can be difficult to find, especially the quality wines in Italy, Georgia and Slovenia. But ask your suppliers and find out if any of them have orange wines you can try. Have a taste and I’m sure you’ll want to add them to your list.


Josh Saunders