Skin Contact Wine, Demystified

Photo: Sharon McCutcheon via Unsplash

Right now, in June of 2020, the words skin contact might totally freak you out. Social distancing is a thing, staying extra safe is on all of our minds, and the thought of touching another human being is suddenly a frought thought indeed. 

But we're not here to talk about that! On THIS blog, we're talking skin contact as it applies to wine. Wine! What a happy topic. 

Soooo, what is skin contact wine, anyway?

It's super simple. Skin contact wines are white wines that are made more like red wines.

The big difference between making a white wine and a red wine lies in the fermentation process. With a white wine, the winemaker presses the grapes and then removes the pomace (all of the residual solids, like seeds, grape skins, etc.)  before fermenting the juice in a tank or other vessel. When making red wine, the winemaker will allow that pomace to hang out in the fermentation vessel with the juice, giving them more time to macerate. All of those lovely seeds and skins impart several things to a red wine: color, tannins, texture and body, to name a few. 

When a winemaker applies this red wine-making process to a white wine, the resulting white takes on a darker color, some tannins, and a different mouthfeel. Depending on the grape and the length of the fermentation, skin contact can produce wines ranging in color from a pale butter to a glowing sunset! Ever heard the term orange wine? Skin contact produces the amber color it's named for. (No, orange wine is NOT made from oranges.) And guess what? Like many wine trends, the method of skin contact fermentation has been around for centuries and finds its origins in modern day Georgia (the country). 

In addition to being VERY pretty to look at, wines that experience skin contact tend toward the funky end of the flavor spectrum. White grapes that are known for being floral and fruit-forward might take on a refreshingly sour quality, perhaps a bread-like nuttiness, or any number of new and exciting flavors you wouldn't get without a little skin.


Kobal Pinot Grigio | Slovenia
A pretty-in-pink Pinot Grigio. Prolonged maceration gives this wine a flavor profile of ripe pear, melon, and tropical fruit, and a pleasant, creamy finish.

Pullus Pinot Grigio | Slovenia
Deliciously fresh, with notes of green apple, pear, bright citrus, and a tiche of strawberry too. Drinks well with goat cheese, anything with spinach, and fresh fish!

Vellino Rkatsiteli| Georgia
A savory, textured and tannic "orange wine" made from an ancient grape varietal. Wonderful on its own but also great with a cheesboard and salty meats.


--Emily Rentsch

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