Skin-fermented white wines, also called “orange” or “amber” wines, are a niche category that continues to grow in numbers and styles. They may be aged in traditional clay vessels called qvevri for a long or short period, or they may be made in more modern oak and stainless-steel vessels. Here are five to try — among them an unusual white blend from Bulgaria, a tasty pink bubbly from Spain and a $10 California pinot noir.
Baia’s Wine, Tsolikouri 2016
Imereti, Georgia, $26
Tsolikouri is a native Georgian grape variety, known — to the extent that it is known at all — for wines with full body, low acidity and flavors of quince and pear, according to “Wine Grapes,” the vino-fiend’s grape bible. This wine, fermented and aged in qvevri, is rich, with moderate tannin from the skins. Yet it has delicious fruit, acidity and length. This is a small-production wine, so there isn’t a lot available, and most of that has been bought up by restaurants. Still, it’s worth seeking out. Alcohol by volume: 13 percent.
Dila-O Rkatsiteli-Mtsvane Dry Amber Wine 2016
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Rkatsiteli might be familiar to East Coast wine lovers, as it has a small following among growers in New York, New Jersey and Virginia. Its homeland is Georgia, where its bright acidity and ripe orchard-fruit flavors do well both as an “amber” wine fermented on its skins or in a more modern style. Here it is blended with another Georgian grape variety, mtsvane, then aged underground the traditional way in clay qvevri. The wine is removed from the qvevri after one month, rather than left until the following spring; this helps preserve its freshness and acidity, while the skin exposure lends depth and tannin.
ABV: 13 percent.
Tsarev Brod Sepage 2016
Danube Plain, Bulgaria, $20
This lovely wine is another reminder that we drink our whites too cold. Wave this wine at the refrigerator, or better yet, chill it just slightly in the fridge door while you cook. This is best enjoyed slightly cooler than room temperature — it should taste cool, not cold. Then you will experience its tropical fruit flavors of mango, pineapple and guava, and just enough acidity to keep the wine dancing delicately balanced on your palate. It’s a quirky blend of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, traminer and Riesling.
Frame-of-reference point for wine fiends: Rhone Valley white
ABV: 14 percent
Biutiful Cava Brut Rosé
This spicy, fruity pink bubbly is made with garnacha, the Spanish name for the grenache grape. It’s racy and tasty and fun — ideal for turning any evening into a party, as well as for washing down pre-dinner nibbles.
ABV: 12 percent.
Avalon Pinot Noir 2016
Really good California pinot noir at $10 that actually tastes like pinot noir and not some steroidal cocktail mixed from a recipe of concentrates and flavorings? I’m in. The winemakers at Avalon have sourced excellent fruit from coastal vineyards, and enough of it to get it into national distribution. The Avalon label has been known for good inexpensive cabernet sauvignon. This delicious pinot noir is a welcome addition to the label.
ABV: 13.5 percent.
Prices are approximate. Check Winesearcher.com to verify availability, or ask a favorite wine store to order through a distributor.