When it comes to wine, most people think of red and white wines.

However, orange wine has been gaining popularity lately as a refreshing alternative.

Perhaps surprisingly, it’s a type of white wine that’s produced similarly to red wine, by allowing grape seeds and skin to stay in contact with grape juice for a period of time (1).

This process enriches wine with compounds like polyphenols, which have been linked to benefits, such as slowing mental decline and reducing your risk of heart disease (2, 3).

This article explores how orange wine is made, as well as its benefits and downsides.

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Orange wine, also called skin-contact wine, is not made from oranges.

Rather, it’s a type of white wine that’s made similarly to red wine. However, this white wine has a light to deep orange hue, depending on the way it’s produced.

Normally, white wine is made from white grapes that are pressed to extract only the juice. The skin, seeds, and stems are removed before the juice starts to ferment (4).

Isolating the juice from the grapes is important, as the skin and seeds contain compounds like pigments, phenols, and tannins, all of which can affect the wine’s taste and appearance.

With orange wine, the skin and seeds are allowed to ferment with the juice. They undergo a process called maceration, in which their compounds, including polyphenols, leach into the wine, giving it its distinct color, flavor, and texture (1).

This process is similar to that of red wine production and can last anywhere from hours to months. The longer the wine ferments with the skins and seeds, the deeper its color.

Because orange wine is made similarly to red wine, they share many characteristics and powerful plant compounds, which are responsible for their health benefits.

These compounds include kaempferol, quercetin, catechins, and resveratrol, all of which have antioxidant properties and are linked to health benefits, including reduced inflammation and a lower risk of heart disease and certain cancers (5, 6).

Summary Orange wine is a type of white wine that’s made similarly to red wine, by fermenting white grape juice with the seeds and skins of white grapes.

Currently, only a few studies have looked into the health benefits of orange wine.

Thus, the following potential benefits are those that you may expect from white wine, in addition to those reaped from the compounds in the skin and seeds of white grapes.

Provides antioxidants

Antioxidants are molecules that neutralize molecules called free radicals.

Free radicals are unstable molecules that can cause cellular damage when their levels become too high in your body. This damage can elevate your risk of chronic conditions, such as heart disease and cancer (7).

Orange wine may contain significantly more antioxidants than white wine. That’s because it’s made by fermenting white grape juice along with the skin and seeds of white grapes. This process allows their antioxidants to seep into the wine (4, 8).

The skin and seeds of white grapes contain compounds called polyphenols, including resveratrol, kaempferol, and catechins, all of which function as antioxidants in your body (5, 6).

One study found that white wine produced via this maceration process had six times more antioxidant activity than standard white wine. Its antioxidant activity was similar to that of red wine (9).

May reduce your risk of heart disease

Several studies show that drinking wine is linked to a lower risk of heart disease. This health benefit is likely due to its alcohol and polyphenol contents.

One study including 124,000 people observed that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol was linked to a lower risk of heart disease and death due to all causes (10).

What’s more, an analysis of 26 studies discovered that light to moderate wine intake — up to 5 ounces (150 ml) per day — was linked to a 32% lower risk of heart disease (11).

Compared to white wine, orange wine is higher in polyphenols, so drinking it will likely afford you the same heart health benefits as drinking red wine.

It’s important to note that the heart health benefits of wine are related to light to moderate wine intake. Conversely, heavy alcohol intake increases your risk of heart disease (12, 13).

May slow mental decline

Research suggests that drinking wine in moderation may slow age-related mental decline (14, 15).

An analysis of 143 studies noted that light to moderate alcohol intake, especially wine, was linked to a reduced risk of dementia and cognitive decline in older adults (15).

These findings may be explained by compounds like resveratrol, which act as antioxidants in your body to reduce inflammation and protect your brain from cellular damage (3).

Studies suggest that resveratrol may interfere with the production of amyloid-beta peptides, which are compounds that may raise your risk of Alzheimer’s disease (16, 17).

While white wine isn’t high in resveratrol, orange wine is a better source of this compound, as it’s fermented with the resveratrol-containing skin and seeds of white grapes (6, 18).

May protect against metabolic syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that can raise your risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

Risk factors include excess fat around your waist, low HDL (good) cholesterol, and high blood pressure, triglyceride, and fasting blood sugar levels (19).

Several studies have shown that wine drinkers have a significantly lower risk of metabolic syndrome than people with low alcohol intake and those who don’t drink at all (20, 21).

A large study in older adults with a high risk of heart disease found that low — 3.4 ounces (100 ml) or less per day — and moderate wine drinkers — more than 3.4 ounces per day — had a 36% and 44% lower risk of heart disease, respectively, than non-drinkers (22).

Other potential benefits

Orange wine may offer other potential benefits due to its high antioxidant content, such as:

  • May reduce cancer risk. Drinking one to two glasses of wine per day is linked to a lower risk of colon, bowel, and prostate cancer. However, higher intakes may increase your risk of certain cancers (23, 24).
  • May help with diabetes. Skin-contact white wine is higher in resveratrol, which may improve your blood sugar control (25).
  • May promote longevity. Animal studies show that resveratrol may extend lifespan and fight disease. However, whether it has this effect in humans is unclear (26, 27).
Summary Compared to other white wines, orange wine is higher in beneficial compounds called polyphenols, which may offer several health benefits, including protecting against metabolic syndrome, slowing mental decline, and reducing your risk of heart disease.

While drinking moderate amounts of wine may benefit your health, consuming too much is harmful.

Below are some of the negative effects of drinking too much alcohol:

  • Alcohol dependence. Drinking too much alcohol regularly may lead to dependence and alcoholism (28).
  • Liver disease. Drinking more than 2–3 glasses (or over 30 grams of alcohol) daily can raise your risk of liver disease, including cirrhosis — a serious and potentially life-threatening disease characterized by scarring (29, 30).
  • Increased risk of depression. Studies suggest that heavy drinkers have a higher risk of depression than moderate and non-drinkers (31, 32).
  • Weight gain. A 5-ounce (148-ml) glass of wine contains 120 calories, so drinking multiple glasses can contribute to high calorie intake and weight gain (33).
  • Increased risk of death: Studies indicate that heavy drinkers have a higher risk of premature death than moderate and non-drinkers (34, 35).

To reduce these risks, it’s best to limit yourself to one standard drink per day for women and two standard drinks per day for men (36).

One standard drink is defined as a 5-ounce (148 ml) glass of 12%-alcohol wine (37).

Summary Drinking more than one standard glass of wine for women or more than two standard glasses for men may raise your risk of negative health effects.

Orange wine is a type of white wine that’s made similarly to red wine.

Because of how it’s processed, it may contain more beneficial plant compounds than other white wines.

Its potential benefits include slowing mental decline and reducing your risk of heart disease and metabolic syndrome.

If you already drink white wine, consider switching to orange wine, as it’s healthier.

However, if you don’t drink alcohol, there is no need to start drinking orange wine for its health benefits, as there are better dietary ways to improve your health.