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Wine's New Hue

The world of wine is steeped in tradition, with techniques and expertise handed down from one proud generation to the next. However, every once in a while, a winemaker takes the creative process to new heights by crafting a product that can only be labeled as outrageous.

Consider the ordinary restaurant wine list, with selections broken down into the predictable categories of red, white, sweet and sparkling. What if all of a sudden, a new classification appears, enigmatically titled “All Other Colors”?

Take the case of orange wine: this style has been around for many years but is the current darling of the hip crowd. Orange wine is simply white wine made using an age-old process that mimics the one used to make red wines today. Red wines acquire their color (and the right to be called a red) by keeping the red grape skins in contact with fermenting juice.

In the production of an orange wine, white grapes are used instead. Interestingly enough, the term “orange wine” is used in general and journalistic parlance, but never in an official capacity. The US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau disallows the term on wine labels to protect unwitting consumers who might think they are purchasing an alcoholic beverage made from oranges.

Blue is another color that has caught the fancy of both producers and wine buyers in search of the exotic.

Cava, Spain’s answer to French Champagne, is strictly regulated, with production subject to restrictions on approved grape varieties and delimited production area. Skyfall Gran Reserva is a wine that meets all these standards and then some. It is made from a blend of Macabeo, Parellada, Xarel-lo and Chardonnay and uses fruit sourced exclusively from Sant Sadurni d’Anoia in the Penedès region. Like French Champagne, it is aged for a minimum of three years prior to release.

But Skyfall Gran Reserva has one remarkable feature that prevents it from being labelled as Cava: its aquamarine blue color. The tint is derived from the addition of natural flower and fruit extracts, thus running afoul of stringent Denomination of Origin regulations that prevent such additives.

In Australia these days, the new color craze is purple wine, and Masstengo is the flag-bearer for a surprisingly popular new category. The company successfully launched Purple Reign in 2019 at the Royal Easter Show in Sydney. To the founder’s delight, the entire production sold out prior to the end of the show.

Purple Reign is made using time-tested production methods and high-quality Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc fruit. It is infused with botanicals that purportedly allow the producer to “minimize the use of sulphites” while continuing to preserve the wine. The botanicals also account for the wine’s charming lavender hue.

Purists may scoff at the idea of referring to Skyfall or Purple Reign as wine. But by opening up their wallets and draining their glasses, consumers have signaled their interest in the new wave of wine colors. So, what color will you have with your dinner this evening?

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