If you don’t consider fried chicken a wine-friendly food, you haven’t met Liz Vilardi, owner and wine director of Belly Wine Bar, and her collection of orange wines. A tad too yellow to be white, a bit too misunderstood to be mainstream, these boutique offerings are the perfect pairing to the anti-swimsuit diet of fat and salt. Think charcuterie, cheese, fried eggs—anything savory enough to stand up to their strong, earthy taste.
Although they’ve been around for a while, orange wines are the edgy beverage du jour thanks to adventurous wine lovers like Vilardi. Orange wines are actually made from white grapes that spend from 10 days to three years macerating in their skins and are then aged in oak or stainless-steel casks. The resulting orange color leads some people to expect a sweet taste, since dessert wines also have an amber hue, but Vilardi was up for the challenge of converting her guests. “They’re fantastic food wines,” she says.
Aficionados can also find them at Oleana (134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, 617-661-0505), Bergamot (118 Beacon St., Somerville, 617-576-7700), and Menton (354 Congress St., 617-737-0099). Belly offers five orange wines by the glass, from Italy’s Friuli Venezia Giulia and Emilia Romagna regions. Because these small-production wines take a long time to make, they tend to be expensive ($15 to $35 a glass), but Vilardi is a passionate advocate for their place on her seasonally rotating menu. The umami, or savory taste, of orange wine complements Belly’s charcuterie and salumi offerings and adds a sophisticated splash to summer’s fried chicken feasts. “They’re like your mother-in-law,” she jokes, meaning they can be an acquired taste, but they’ve earned their rightful place in her repertoire. Belly Wine Bar, One Kendall Square, Cambridge, 617- 494-0968