What makes orange wines great and why do they have their own store? Sommelier Doreen Winkler has the answers to the first question and is the answer to the second. After moving to the United States from her native Germany, and working at Michelin-starred restaurants Aska and Aldea, Winkler discovered her love for orange wines and began her own Orange Glou wine subscription club. The club’s success has now led to the opening of her own Orange Glou Wine Store in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. I spoke with Winker about the latest addition to her orange wine empire.
How did you discover orange wines?
I was working with traditional wines until 2012-13 when I dabbled in natural wines and never wanted to go back. I got to work with Chef Fredrik Berselius at Aska and he was the person to tell me he wanted the wine list to be 100% natural. Pairing the food there was challenging but when you got it right you felt amazing.
From working with only natural wines, I then fell in love with orange wines. And for years that’s all I wanted to drink in my time off. It’s all I wanted to do more research on. After Aska I started consulting. I worked with Sel Rrose and we put 25 orange wines on the list, and three by the glass, and people were very enthusiastic. And then I had an idea — it would be crazy for someone to start an orange wine subscription. So I did it. I started Orange Glou in 2019.
What is orange wine?
The way I explain it: they are wines made from white grapes that are kept on the skins during fermentation. From this method there are so many colors that happen — every grape is different.
How does the skin contact change the wine?
I would say it’s white wine on steroids. A lot more flavors. Different textures. They may be light but with grippy tannins, or velvety or even silky. Everything is possible. I just had a Sauvignon Blanc with flavors of Meyer lemon, sea salt and mushroom. It’s extreme in a good way. And so many exciting things are happening, including new techniques like taking a Gruner Veltliner and macerating it on Riesling skins.
What made you decide to go from a wine club to opening a store?
I realized how much I loved this project with the wine club and the store was the perfect way to continue and make it bigger. I knew what I wanted to do and when I looked at the space I knew I wanted it to be there.
What can people expect at the store?
Right now we have over 50 wines and we’re going to 75. We’ll have 100 eventually. We have Pét-Nat orange bubbles, and the sections go from lighter-bodied to medium to full-bodied so it’s easy for anyone to manage. The wines are from all over the world. We have lots from the Czech Republic, Georgia, all over Europe, New Zealand and Australia and the United States.
How should someone select their first bottle?
Sign up for the club! It offers all kinds of wines across the spectrum. And we always have a sparkling. We provide information on the wines, which is important if you want to learn more. At the store we also do tastings every Friday from 5-7PM, and brunch wines on Sunday from 1-3PM. We also ship to 44 states.
Orange wines are made by many small producers. Does the store have a rotating stock?
These wines are hard to source and it’s about appreciating that. Sometimes I only get six bottles, sometimes twelve. Sometimes people want to order a case and I have to tell them that all I have is one case. A lot of people have seen that every week some things are gone, but there is something else to try. And I like that, because there’s so many good things to showcase. To me that’s exciting to always have something new to drink.
Are orange wines more expensive?
We start at $19 and go up to $99 – and if that $19 wasn’t good then it wouldn’t be in the store. We have a very good selection with a lot of thought behind it.
How has the reception been to the store?
I see more positivity. When we launched there were some negative comments on Instagram, one even posting my picture and calling me crazy. But people are very interested. Overall the response has been great. I have regulars coming in after only being open a month and a half. Neighbors have also come by and shown their support.
What do you see in the future for orange wine?
There’s more and more being made. I see a lot of things happening around the world. I’m excited about the Czech Republic. And low-alcohol wines. There are definitely some winemakers only trying to make money from the trend, but then they fail with quality. It’s for me to decide if they are good enough to get into the store.
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