Will this be orange wine's breakthrough moment?

Pic: Aldi
Pic: Aldi

From Saturday, 11 August 2018, UK customers will be able to buy an orange wine from Aldi supermarkets – for just £5.99. It’s not the first time that orange wine has appeared on British supermarket shelves – Marks & Spencer has been selling a Georgian qvevri wine since 2013 – but it is the first time an orange wine has been offered in the UK at such a low price.

Will the price point entice consumers to embrace the style?

It’s certainly generated media buzz, with publications from The Daily Mail to The Irish Examiner rushing to explain orange wine to their readers. All the attention has delighted the people behind the wine - Cramele Recaș in Romania, the winery behind a string of hits, like the I Heart wines.

 “We do a lot of work with Aldi in England – and now with Aldi Sud in Germany – and in the UK Aldi has these wine festivals,” says Philip Cox, commercial director. “They like to do experimental things, so we’ve worked with them for a couple of years doing offbeat local varieties and some experimental half bottles, which they think is a big thing for the future.” He said that when the Aldi buyers were visiting, they noticed that Cramele Recaș had been working with orange wine and asked to try it. They were sold.

Cox says he hit on the idea of making orange wine after seeing how much media the style was generating. “We thought we’d have a go to find one that tastes nice and not too expensive.”

Their first orange wine was a Chardonnay and Viognier blend, but the one for Aldi will be 85% Chardonnay and 15% Sauvignon Blanc. Cox sourced organic grapes from a neighbor and then the wine had three weeks of skin contact. “We don’t do it crazy like the Georgians, for six months.” While there is no sulphur in the wine itself, there was sulphur put on the grapes while they were being transported. “It was less than 40mg,” says Cox.

Simon Woolf, author of Amber Revolution and Meininger’s contributor, says that “what’s interesting about this is Aldi obviously dipping a toe in the water of natural wine. The other interesting thing is the price point, which is extraordinary.”

Indeed, since the news broke, there has been plenty of social media speculation about how it’s possible to offer an orange wine at such a low price. Cox says the real mystery is why orange wine is so expensive. “It costs less to make in the winery – we don’t add anything. No yeasts, enzymes, fining agents.”

Cox nevertheless says the style is deliberately mainstream. “Most other orange wine is very expensive and horrible, and we wanted to make one that’s more commercial. It’s textured like a red wine, but it doesn’t have the smell of rotten socks – it’s clean and pleasant.”

If British consumers embrace the wine, could this be the start of the style’s mainstream acceptance? “Without a doubt, if you’re asking people to experiment and they can’t find it at less than £15.00 to £20.00, then of course it’s a barrier,” says Woolf.

He says he’s looking forward to trying the wine: “I’ve had a good experience with Cramele’s own label orange wine, so there’s no reason it shouldn’t be good.”

Will British consumers agree? If they do, it could be a tipping point.
Felicity Carter


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