What is an orange wine? And why you should care.

Who knew matching Korean food with wine could be so challenging!  It is; but with the right knowledge, you’ll be throwing back orange wines like a Korean pop star (disclaimer: unfortunately I don’t know any famous Korean people, other than Kim Jung Un of course, but I’m sure he doesn’t drink alcohol).

wine wankers brash higgins
The crunchy nature of this cucumber kimchi with fresh nashi and perilla was a perfect foil to the textural feel found in this Brash Higgins Amphora Zibibbo.

If you’re in Melbourne, you’re in for a treat. The upcoming Melbourne Food and Wine Festival will be taking one of Australia’s hotter than hot wine makers, the darling of every sommelier worth his salt, Brad Hickey of Brash Higgins, and matching his wines with the current epicentre of Korean Food in Australia, Sydney’s Moon Park.

To get a feeling of what to expect, I recently ventured to Moon Park to get a few pointers from nice guy sommelier and wine importer, Ned Brooks.

  • Food texture is just as important as flavour profile when matching Korean food with wine
  • For example, you’ll notice many Korean foods have a real crunch
  • These textures need to not only compliment the wine, but challenge it as well
  • For this reason, textural white wines that are ‘orange wines’ are often best. Ned described this as a ‘phenolic texture’
  • They aren’t orange in colour of course, rather they range from golden hues to onion skin brown.
  • In the mouth, their texture, tannin and body can sometimes resemble a red wine, albeit with the flavour of a white wine

So what the hell is an orange wine!?  I’m glad you asked.

Before explaining that, you need to understand how most modern white wines are made.  Grapes are crushed, and straight away the solids are separated from the juice so wine’s colour remains pale.

Orange wines are basically white wines made like red wines, with prolonged maceration of crushed grape, skins and seeds.

Orange wines are now finding themselves on the coolest restaurant wine lists because many sommeliers believe they go better with food.  The big problem however, some critics believe this prolonged maceration makes these wines more susceptible to ‘faults’.  And in some cases, these faulty wines are being on-sold unbeknownst to the public.  Not all orange wines of course, just some.  Which is why it’s always good to stick with producers that are highly regarded, such as Brash Higgins

But back to Korean food and wine matching

  • The best red wines to match with Korean foods; think Beaujolais (grape variety Gammay), South Africa’s hero grape variety, Pinotage and some Pinot Noirs (Ned recommends Northern Tasmania, Yarra Valley, Adelaide Hills and Mornington Peninsula). Pinots with too much full flavoured fruit are not recommended, such as those from New Zealand’s Central Otago.
wine wankers brad hickey
This man will tell you everything you need to know about orange wines and how they match with Korean food. Say hi to Brad Hickey for me if you attend the event!

So there you have it – lots to take in.  If you are in Melbourne for the food Festival (February 28-March 1), I would definitely be buying a ticket to the Brash Higgins/Moon Park masterclass.  Lots of other tasty masterclasses to check out as well. Tickets available here.



  1. Very interesting. Never thought of “what would go well with Orange wine”. Need to experiment – but orange wines are pretty rare as a category, at least here in US.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the tip! As Anatoli said, orange wines are particularly rare here in the US and even more so in my backwards state! I am married to a Korean woman so the last 15 years of my life I have been searching for wines that pair well with the cuisine (which we have on a regular basis). I would say that Sparkling wine or German Riesling are the best–they have either the sweetness or effervescence and acidity that can pair with some of the dishes. I would also disagree with Mr. Brooks–I find Pinot Noir and Gamay fair too dainty to stand up to the big flavors. If I ever go red with Korean, I opt for a big fruity red wine that is low in tannin (a nice U.S. Zinfandel, for example).

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  3. Try a Riesling with spicy Korean. And orange wines are all the rage here. I think best not to generalize. Kind of a hipster craze. Some are great; others like starburst orange. Hard to tell the difference without research.

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  4. intrigued! Have never heard of such a thing, but I’m thinking I would like very much. I like wine, but don’t love it, so it’s fun to always be looking for the one wine that will blow me away. Thus far, only Sauternes have made me hear Heavenly choirs sing 🙂 Maybe orange wines would knock my socks off, too?

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  5. Another interesting read, thank you. And on reading properly, “orange” makes perfect sense. So pleased to hear you mention our Pinotage…visit and drink it “in the flesh” 🙂 A winery with which I had a short association has begun leaving their Pinot Noir Rose on the skins for a shorter time – last year for the first time, and the result was delicious – would work well, I think with eastern foods; alas, it’s out of stock and we wait for the new harvest. Also, they have recently launched an unwooded, easy drinking Pinot Noir, so I found your mention of that as a suitable accompaniment, very interesting….

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  6. I am the Tasting Room Manager at Parley Lake Winery in Waconia, MN. We produce a variety of wines made from Cold Climate Grape hybrids, and we use the Frontenac Gris grape to make an exceptional “orange” wine, which we call “Parley Vu Rose”. We have always known we had a rare gem in our offerings, which we love paired with grilled seafood, BBQ pork or a bowl of spicy chili. It is great to learn of what other types of food are best paired with our Gold Medal “orange” wine. Thank you for the article!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I heard about orange wines a few years ago on NPR and wanted to try one ever since. This really nice restaurant in the area carries them and I go there often for $1 oysters (cause, um, that’s all I can really afford off their menu-ha!) so the bartender knew me and when I asked about them he very kindly gave me a sample. He also said they paired well with food, but some of the more intense oranges can be “funky” smelling, so to be prepared

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m really suprised more winemakers aren’t attempting Orange/Amber wines here. I’ve had a few from Georgia and the Balkans that have knocked my socks off. I haven’t seen any made here in Arizona yet, but I’m pushing for someone to make one out of Symphony or Malvasia Bianca…

    Liked by 1 person

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