Orange wines made from white grapes remain in contact with the skins for a period of days or months which imparts an amber or orange color. Anyone new to orange wines might suspect they are drinking a rosé, but the process and grapes differ. Rosé wines come from red grapes which spend little to no time in contact with their skins.
Vintners in the Caucusus region of Georgia began making orange wines thousands of years ago and Slovenia and Friuli-Venezia Giulia in northeastern Italy embraced the tradition a few hundred years ago. Orange wine producers may be found elsewhere in Eastern European countries like Croatia, Austria, and Germany and as far away as New Zealand and California.
At a wine tasting last night, I accepted a challenge to pair food with an orange wine from Sicily: Il Censo “Praruar” 2013 made from 100% Catarratto. Sicily is a quite a hike and a boat ride south from where most Eastern European orange wines come. Il Censo produces their Praruar (Terre Siciliane Bianco) exclusively from Catarratto grapes grown on their estate outside of Palazzo Adriano from organically-farmed vineyards. They manually harvest the grapes in October. The Catarratto grapes maintain contact with the skins for two to three weeks and ferment in indigenous yeasts with no temperature controls.
At most of our wine tasting, we usually try eight wines beginning with light bodied whites and ending with full-bodied red wines. With the Praruar at pour number three in the tasting, I chose a flavorful, light vegetable dish from Giada De Laurentiis: Smokey Candied Carrots with Walnut Gremolata.
I bought carrots from Tubby Creek Farms at the Cooper-Young Community Farmers Market. The recipe called for smoked sugar or smoked maple syrup. If I shopped every grocery in Memphis, I felt confident I would come up short trying to find a commercially produced smoked maple syrup or smoked sugar. Luck for me, I found a way to smoke maple syrup with my Camerons Stovetop Smoker (recipe below).
The wine and food pairing celebrated many Fall flavors. The nutty nose, apricot preserves with orange citrus and a salty finish paired well with the sweet, smokey carrots and lemony walnut gremolata. I doubt I’d reach for a glass of Il Censo “Praruar” to drink by itself, but like so many wines, the right food breathes life into this wine. I’ll make this dish again.
Smoked Maple Syrup
- 1 cup high quality maple syrup from New England or Canada
- 1 tbsp wood chips, preferably maple or cherry
- Make a small “envelope” of aluminum foil with wood chips left open on one side for the smoke to escape. Lay the envelope flat on the bottom of a Camerons Stovetop Smoker on the end furthest from the side that opens first when sliding off the top lid. Add internal tray and grill.
- Pour the syrup into an ovenproof ceramic container that will fit inside the smoker when the lid is closed. Place the ceramic container into the smoker on the side opposite the wood chips.
- Place the wood chip end of the smoker directly over the smallest gas stove eye. Close the lid halfway and turn on the heat to a medium high. As soon as the wood chips begin to smoke, close the lid tightly.
- Allow the syrup to smoke for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the smoker to cool for at least 10 minutes.
- Remove syrup from smoker and pour into an airtight bottle or container until ready to use.