In the Aussie wine world, ultra-full-bodied, leather-and-licorice shirazes get most of the attention, but sommeliers down under have a new crush: Orange wine. These aren’t lowercase-o “orange” wines (salmon-hued, skin-contact varieties), but capital-O ones, produced in and around the city of Orange, about 150 miles west of Sydney. Here, vintners are producing gentler, brighter wines in a rugged part of New South Wales near Mount Canobolas, a 4,576-foot extinct volcano.
“Orange is the only wine region in Australia defined by altitude,” says Tom Ward, the owner of Swinging Bridge Wines. For “Orange” to appear on the label, grapes must be grown above 600 meters (1,969 feet), resulting in cool-climate wines that Ward says are marked by “acid and the delicate fruit spectrum.” This area has long been known for its fruit—many wineries in New South Wales’s better-known Hunter Valley buy here—but it has only recently begun to garner acclaim for locally made wines. “Five or 10 years ago, it would have been uncommon to see Orange on Sydney wine lists,” says Tanya Segger, who owns Nashdale Lane Wines with her husband, Nick.
“I think palates are moving away from big cabernet sauvignons and zinfandels,” says James Manny, the vigneron of Rowlee Wines, which sits at about 3,100 feet above sea level. Manny adds that European visitors often compare the wines here to those produced in Dijon, Alsace, and Piedmont, and while so-called “aromatic” varietals such as riesling and gewürztraminer do particularly well here, the region’s combination of elevation and volcanic soil brings new character to many types of grape—even shiraz.
“Shiraz is what Orange does best, but it’s far away from those big Australian blockbusters,” says James Robson, owner of Ross Hill Wines, Australia’s only carbon-neutral winery. Cabernets get a bit softer, he notes, while chardonnays become more balanced. “The reality is that people want to drink medium-body wines.”
As the buzz around Orange has increased, the area has begun to attract more weekend visitors. To meet the need, last year, Nashdale Lane added safari-style glamping tents (pictured, left), where you can wake up to the sound of laughing kookaburras or watch kangaroos hopping through the vineyard from the comfort of your bed. These accommodations embody the unpretentious vibe that makes the area so appealing. “There’s a quintessential Australianness to it,” Segger says.
THREE TO TRY
Pinnacle Series Shiraz
Ross Hill Wines
Medium-bodied, herbaceous, plummy. $31, rosshillwines.com.au
2019 The Social Rosé
Nashdale Lane Wines
Made with shiraz grapes; dry with raspberry notes. $19, nashdalelane.com
2019 Single Vineyard Riesling
Floral and citrusy, with gin-and-tonic notes. $24, rowleewines.com.au