Peeling, squeezing and talking

   Mr. Zé and Mrs. Ná usually prepare the orange wine in May and June, during Brazilian winter, when the oranges are mature. They say it is possible to use any type of orange to produce the wine but they prefer the “sourest”. The orange used by them is known as “campista” or “seleta” and is harvested in a family property in the rural area. This variety has fruits with thick skin.

   The orange types basically belong to two different species and are classified according to the acid concentration, color of pulp and presence of reproductive organ (seeds). One species, the Citrus sinensis, produces sweet oranges such as the “seleta” used by Mr. Zé and Mrs. Ná. Another, the Citrus aurantium, produces more acid types, the sour orange.

   According to Queiroz-Voltan and Blumer (2005 quoted in Carvalho, 2010), the sweet orange trees are medium-sized plants with up to eight meters tall, show wood with straw-yellow color and treetops rounded shaped with many leaves. The orange-sour trees have other characteristics: usually they are small with many thorns on the branches, have fragrant leaves and the taste of the pulp is not pleasant.


Orange tree

 Orange trees

   The use of a sweet orange by Mr. Zé and Mrs. Ná, but the “sourest”, indicates that oranges are harvested before they are wholly ripe, like the observation found in the New York Times:

“The first trials made showed that oranges when they have attained their full development, are unfit for the purpose proposed, and they must be selected not when they have become quite mature and superabound in the sugary principle, but before they are wholly ripe and still possess an appreciable amount of citric and malic acids”. (The New York Times, 1904)

   This quotation shows the development of experiments searching for the ideal stage of oranges maturity to produce the wine. However, although Mr. Zé and Mrs. Ná did not mention the requirement of an “appreciable amount of citric and malic acids” but their preference for the “sourest” oranges, how did they arrived to this conclusion? The early fruits from orange trees are green. With maturation they acquire the orange color due to progressive loss of chlorophyll and carotenoid compounds production. The ripe fruits contain high percentage of water (85-90%) and many constituents: carbohydrates, organic acids, vitamin C, minerals and small amounts of lipids, proteins, carotenoids, flavonoids and volatile compounds.

   The total soluble solids content is between 10-20% of the weight of fresh fruit and consists primarily of carbohydrates (70-80%) and smaller amounts of organic acids, proteins, lipids and minerals. During the ripening there is an acidity decrease, mostly due to the catabolism of citric acid (the main organic acid, others are malic, succinic and isocitric), and an increase of sugars which reaches the maximum level in the ripe fruit (Iglesias et al, 2007). The oranges “sourest”, as preferred by Mr. Zé and Mrs. Ná, thereby, contain organic acids in their composition. This will favor the sucrose conversion to ethanol as values of pH between 4.5 and 5 are optimal for alcoholic fermentation and for the growth of microorganisms that will make this conversion (Alcarde, 2014).

   To extract the juice, the fruits are peeled with knives until they are “well hurt”, without the pericarp, and then are pressed using the hands. The fruit contains two morphologically distinct regions: the pericarp (peel or rind) and the endocarp (pulp). The pericarp has two parts: 1st) the exocarp (also called flavedo) is the outer colored portion and has about 2/3 of the total mass of the rind, and 2nd) the mesocarp (or albedo), that is the innermost part comprising a spongy white tissue.

   The oranges without the pericarp are put in plastic buckets and are squeezed using hands over a second bucket to collect the juice. Mr. Zé said that the juice must be extracted this way otherwise “the wine doesn’t turn” and must not be extracted using manual or electric juicers because “the wine doesn’t get good”, “it can be only the sumo1 of the orange that disturbs the wine”. For Mrs. Ná the “sumo” of the rind must never fall on the peeled oranges, as “the wine gets bad, gets marly”. In the pericarp there are several substances that can communicate this taste to the wine, provoke its browning and damage to the fermentation (Hashizume, 1991; Moretto et al, 1998). One of these substances is limonene, 1-methyl-4-(1-methylethenyl)-cyclohexene.

   This problem is solved when the oranges pericarp is removed and so the pulp becomes available to extract the juice, which is located inside small buds, vesicles or bags in the endocarp and contains carbohydrates (sugars), fibers, fats, proteins, vitamins, water and mineral salts. However, what they know is that the oranges must be “well hurt”.

The well hurt oranges

The “well hurt” oranges and the juice’s extraction with the hands

   Once, when we were following the wine making, seven members of the family helped to peel and squeeze the oranges. On that moment there was a great interaction between them. While oranges were being “hurt” and squeezed, they talked about cases, stories, their lives, beliefs, tastes, dreams, concerns and so the work was done and the time passed without our perception.

Note: 1. Portuguese term for the liquid substance in the peel that usually irritates the eyes.

Go to: The mixture fermentation

Back to: “With the black and the white”: making the “sugar syrup”


Carvalho, L. M. (2010). Características físicas e químicas de laranjas Pera-Rio, Natal e Valência provenientes de diferentes posições na copa. 2010. Dissertação (Pós-graduação em Fitotecnia) – Universidade Federal de Viçosa, Viçosa.

Citrus General Information: Fruit Anatomy, fruit and leaf absission zones. Found at: <>. Last access in: Dec. 1, 2014.

Moretto, E., Alves, R. F., Campos, C. M.T., Archer, R.M.B. & Prudêncio, A.J. (1988). Vinhos e Vinagres: processamento e análises. Florianópolis: UFSC.

Hashizume, T. (1991). Fabricação de vinhos de fruta, Manual Prático Nº1. Campinas: Instituto de Tecnologia de Alimentos.

Iglesias, D.J., Cercós, M., Colmenero-Flores, J.M., Naranjo, M.A., Ríos, E.C., Carrera, E., Ruiz-Rivero, O., Lliso, I., Morillon, R., Tadeo, F.R., Talon, M. (2007). Physiology of citrus fruiting. Brazilian Journal of Plant Physiology, 19 (4), 333 – 362. Disponível em: <>. Último acesso: Jan, 27, 2015.

Ministério da Agricultura – Citrus. (2014). Found at: <>. Last access: Dec. 2, 2014.

Moretto, E., Alves, R. F., Campos, C. M.T., Archer, R.M.B. & Prudêncio, A.J. (1988). Vinhos e Vinagres: processamento e análises. Florianópolis: UFSC.

ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2010), Oct 17, p. 7, 1904.


2 thoughts on “Peeling, squeezing and talking

  1. Ana Soares

    Estou fazênite um esperimento do vinho de laranja. Mas ao provar o suco. Sentir um amargo. Isso com o tempo na fermentação desaparece?

    1. Paulo Pinheiro Post author

      Provavelmente você deixou cair sumo ou outras impurezas no suco da laranja. Com a fermentação é provável que o gosto amargo não desapareça.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *