By Masakatsu Shimizu / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterKOSHU, Yamanashi — When it comes to wine, red, white and rose come to mind. Yet there is another color to add to that list: orange.
Orange wine is characterized not only by its color, but also a distinctive bitterness and a rich fruitiness.
According to the Yamanashi Industrial Technology Center, orange wine is believed to have originated in what is now the country of Georgia and is becoming more popular in restaurants and drinking establishments in Europe.
Orange wine is made from white grapes, but produced like red wine with the grape skins and seeds remaining in the juice during the fermentation process, whether in tanks or barrels. After fermenting for two to seven days, substances contained in the skins give an orange or amber hue to the wine and bring out a fruitiness and bitterness.
In Yamanashi Prefecture, one of Japan’s major wine production areas, wineries began producing orange wines about three years ago. Their numbers doing so have increased since then to about 15 establishments.
This style of wine is being tried as a new means of survival as sales of alcoholic beverages have been sluggish. According to the National Tax Agency, the prefecture’s shipment volume of “Japan wine” — wine made from domestically grown grapes — totaled 4,635 kiloliters in 2017, down about 30 percent from that in 2015.
“We aim to expand our market by having a wider variety of wines made from the Koshu variety,” said Fumio Shonai, 54, vice president of the Yamanashi Prefecture Wine Manufacturers’ Association.
In the city of Koshu, Marufuji Winery Co., which was established in 1890, began sales of orange wine in 2016. The idea was first proposed by some employees as a way to take advantage of vineyards that seemed to produce grapes with a strong bitterness. The winery produced an initial 600 bottles on a trial basis.
The orange wine received favorable responses from consumers, many of whom said the beverage went well with washoku Japanese cuisine. This year, Marufuji plans to increase the production to 2,500 bottles.
“We don’t have a long history [with orange wine],” said Marufuji President Haruo Omura, 68. “However, I believe we will be able to create qualities distinctive to Yamanashi Prefecture if competition heats up among wineries.”
In late May, the Yamanashi Industrial Technology Center and Yamanashi Prefecture Wine Manufacturers’ Association held the first orange wine competition at the center in Koshu, with about 80 people taking part, more than double what was expected.
The participants checked 26 orange wines and evaluated them on six categories, such as color, aroma and taste. Some highly praised these products for their beautiful colors or ease of drinking, while others said clear criteria should be established as to what colors excellent orange wine products are supposed to have. It was also pointed out that some wines should have less sweetness.
“Orange wine can expand the potential of wine made from Koshu grapes,” said Masakazu Komatsu, a senior researcher at the center. “I hope we will deepen our studies enough to establish criteria for evaluating orange wine so that we can produce high-quality products across the prefecture.”
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