Everyone remembers the first time they tried orange wine. It’s a revelation for most wine drinkers, who are typically used to just three colours of wine – white, pink and red. Some of us go on to hunt down many more orange wines in our vinous futures, and others adamantly avoid ever repeating the experience.
For Simon Woolf, that magic moment came in a cellar in Trieste in 2011. A moment on the lips is seemingly evolving into a lifetime of ambassadorship for Woolf – as his book Amber Revolution: How the world learned to love orange wine testifies. Published last year, Amber Revolution is the first book dedicated to the topic of orange wine and it is fitting that Woolf is the one to write it. During the process of building up to the book, Woolf’s online publication – The Morning Claret – has very much become an authority on all wines orange, natural and artisanal.
Amber Revolution takes you through the history and development of orange wine through the, often challenging, experiences of its main apostles in Georgia, Slovenia and Italy. Many of these are quite harrowing stories, which Woolf tells with compassion and curiosity.
The latter half of the history of orange wine looks at its critical reception overseas and within wine circles, and leaves the question of a looming identity crisis. There’s a chapter on how orange wine has polarised the wine community (appropriately titled ‘Haters gonna hate’) and Woolf doesn’t shy away from sharing the disdain and controversy that orange wines have attracted in the US, in particular. However, the moral of this story is that the world has, indeed, learnt to love orange wine. And the 388 people cited for backing his Kickstarter campaign to publish the book is a testimony to that.
Woolf weaves stories and anecdotes throughout the book in a personal and conversational manner, making this intimate and enjoyable reading that is hard to resist. The colourful and vibrant photography of Ryan Opaz will also help the reader to fall in love with the producers and wine regions.
While the assumption is that most people reading Amber Revolution will have already fallen for orange wine’s charms, the book also tends to the orange novice. Woolf describes the main varieties used, the winemaking process and the main styles of orange wines without any pretence or pomp. Recommendations of producers around the world, which extend from Canada to Australia, gives the reader ample opportunity to dig deeper into the growing world of amber wines, while his in-depth profiles of the most iconic orange wine producers from the Old World make essential reading for any bona fide orange wine lover.
Orange wines are demystified by Amber Revolution, but more importantly they are given a face: in the stories of the producers, both old and new, who keep giving us wine drinkers those revolutionary wine tasting moments.
Review by Amanda Barnes
Amber Revolution by Simon J Woolf is available for purchase online here.