A case of Chateau Coutet Sauterne wine.

Navigating the shelves in the supermarket wine aisle can feel overwhelming. 

But when it comes to picking a colour, the choice has always been relatively simple: red, white or rosé.

Until now — because there's a new hue on the horizon and it's set to become this summer's hottest tipple.

Think white wine, but made like a red one. So, instead of the juice of the grapes being separated from the skins before the wine is fermented — the usual way white wine is made — the juice and skins are left together for days, weeks, months or even years.

This allows the juice to take on colour from the skins, turning it any shade from pale amber to deep orange.

History

For years, these ‘skin-contact' white wines have fallen under the umbrella of ‘orange' wines. But as the wine expert Simon J. Woolf, author of The Amber Revolution, points out: ‘The Georgians prefer to call it "amber wine" — and they've been making it for centuries.'

In fact, amber wines date back thousands of years in Georgia, where they were made and aged in large clay pots called qvevri (pronounced kev-ree). White grapes were pressed and left to ferment — juice, skins, pips, stems and all — in the qvevri, then sealed and buried in the ground, to keep the cool temperature constant.

Amber wine is worth a try. Picture from Pexels

Taste and pairing

Then there's the flavour. A good amber wine manages to combine the freshness of a white wine with the depth of a red, with flavours of stone fruits, nuts and, often, a distinctive herbal edge.

There's texture and a tannic grip to the wines, too (that teeth-coating character found in reds — or a stewed cup of tea), thanks to tannins from the skins being taken up by the juice when left together.

Producers of amber wines are usually relatively small, often working with organically grown grapes and using little or no added sulphur once the wines are made.

But, despite their small-scale credentials, these wines are making their way on to more shelves (real and virtual) and restaurant wine lists.

Which, given their food-friendly nature, is good news. With their russet colours, savoury flavours and bone-dry freshness, they're a great match for cured meats, fish, poultry, game and roasted vegetables, to name just a few.