A receipt from many cultures?

Mrs. Maria da Conceição Sousa de Castro and her husband Mr. José Resende de Castro have made the wine of orange for more than thirty years. Both were born and live in the city of São Tiago, in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, and are known as “Dona Ná” and “Seu Zé”. She was born in October 12, 1948, and he in May 21, 1938. Both studied until the third and fourth years of elementary school, respectively.

   Mrs. Ná learned to make the wine with Mr. Zé, who knows the process since childhood as his parents produced the beverage. He told us that it was a lady called Maria da Silva, better known as “Dona Inacita”, born in June 27, 1923, and deceased in May 16, 1985, who gave the wine´s recipe to “Dona Mindica”, mother of Mr. Zé.

   The couple follow exactly the receipt of Dona Inacita and the result is a delicious wine made with oranges. The beverage produced by them is for their own consumption but also to give as a gift for relatives and friends. They also sell the wine when ordered. However, isn´t the word “wine” exclusively used to refer to an alcoholic drink made with grapes?


   The wine is an alcoholic beverage fermented by diffusion, which is generally obtained by alcoholic fermentation of a juice from natural mature fruit, especially the grape (Vitis vinífera). Traditionally, it is admitted that the name wine is reserved only for the beverage from grapes. For those produced by alcoholic fermentation, which is not from grape, it must be indicated the name of the fruit, as the current case of the wine of Orange. It is possible to produce wine from any fruit that contains considerable levels of sugar with the characteristic flavour of the fruit used (Corazza et al, 2000, p. 449).

Orange flower and frui

   The production of wines is ancient and follows the history of civilization. It is believed that they were manufactured in the Caucasus and in Mesopotamia eight thousand years ago and around four thousand years in Greece. The monks were those who improved its manufacturing art in the Middle Ages (Panek, 2003). Curiously, we found several articles in newspapers and periodicals, which were published in the United States in the 19th century regarding the production of orange wines:

– In the edition of December 1st, 1878, it is cited in the New York Times the development of experiments with orange juices aiming to replace wine grapes due to the ravages of the European vines by the insect Phyllocera vastatrix, which generated a crisis in the international market at that time; four distinct kind of wines made with different oranges were mentioned, with the following characteristics: “color pleasing to the eye”, “perfectly translucid”, “has an agreement savor with a slight tinge of acidity and an alcoholic richness of about 15%”;

– In the Chicago Daily Tribune of May 28, 1879, a small note says “Orange wine is the latest novelty” and “contains 15 per cent of alcohol and is agreeable to the taste”, regarding to a wine produced in Spain as alternative to the problem of Phylloxera;

– A wine made with sweet and ripe oranges produced in the state of Florida/USA is mentioned in an article published in the Los Angeles Times in 1885, as a “perfectly pure native”, “splendid wine”, “surpassing in purity any of the European wines”, “agreeable favor”, “marvelously palatable”, “the cleanest wine in the market today”, “will at no distant day outrival any of the imported still wines” with its “8.64 per cent. of absolute alcohol and slightly over 5 per cent. of sugar”, but “the supply is in no way equal to demand”;

– In the Chicago Daily Tribune of February 2, 1888, there is a quotation about the establishment of an industry for orange wine production in Florida;

– An article entitled “Manufacture of Orange Wine” was published in the periodic Southern Cultivator of June, 1892, where there is a letter of Professor Serge Malyvan describing the production of 1,500 gallons (5678,1 liters) in the County of Bradford, considered by an expert from New York as having excellent quality but requiring the increase of the production for consumption. In the same missive, there is a detail about the time production and others:

“The wine fermentation of oranges takes about six months, the clarification about three months, it is not a baby wine, it is a strong one, very healthy, eighteen per cent. alcohol, rich tasting as sherry, and endorsed by physicians as a first-class cordial. The only trouble for selling is, it is not manufactured in large enough quantities, and not enough advertised”.

– Again in The New York Times, in 1904, an article mentioned a study of the French pharmacist Mr. Pairault about the wine orange fermentation in the Martinique island, a French colony:

“In the Antilles, orange wine has been made for some time in the following manner: the oranges are peeled and pressed by hand. To the juice thus obtained sugar is added, and it is subjected immediately in a vessel made of glass or earthenware, to spontaneous fermentation, which in general takes place easily, because the ferment which determines it is often found in the oranges themselves”.

   Curiously, after the above description, it comes Mr. Pairault’s version about the “rational preparation of orange wine”:

“After the wine of orange have been sterilized sufficiently there should be added to every quart of the liquid 12.25 to 14 ounces avoir-dupois (350 to 400 grams) of sugar, 0.175 ounce avoir-dupois (5 c.c.) of brewer´s yeast, and 2 ounces of a mixture made of the following proportions: ammonium phosphate, 30 : calcium phosphate, 40 : potassium bitartrate, 40 : magnesium sulfate, 3. When the mixture is cooled fermentation proceeds, and in a few days there results an excellent product. A sweet or dry wine may be made by increasing or diminishing the amount of sugar added”.

   The news in the media show the production of the orange wine in at least three different places in the 19th century: in USA, Spain and Martinique. The brief descriptions of how the wine was prepared in the County of Bradford and in the French colony suggest similarities to that observed in Brazil. However, the wine of orange neither replaced the wine of grapes nor occupied a place in wine trading. Why did it not happen? Why the orange wine is not known nowadays? Why its industry did not develop as the American media of the 19th and beginning 20th century acclaimed its qualities? Why it is not usual to find this wine in the supermarket shelves? The expression “wine of orange” is known today but it is used differently to refer to a kind of grape wine that has been taking place in the international market, with a bright gold to tawny-brown color, which taste is in between those of the traditional red and white wines.

   The wine manufactured with oranges is not an industrialized and traded beverage in Brazil either. We know that produced by Mrs. Ná and Mr. Zé and another made on experimental basis (Corazza et al., 2001), but we know also that there are other producers of this wine in the region. In the following pages, we will see how the wine of orange is made by the couple using two basic ingredients: the sugar syrup and the orange juice.

Go to: “With the black and the white”: brewing the “sugar syrup”

Back to: Mr. Zé, Mrs. Ná and the orange wine


Corazza, M. L., Rodrigues, D. G. & Nozaki, J. (2001). Preparação e caracterização do vinho de laranja. Química Nova, 24 (4), 449 – 452. Disponível em: <http://www.scielo.br/pdf/qn/v24n4/a04v24n4.pdf>. Último acesso: Jan, 27, 2015.

Panek, A. D. (2003). Pão e Vinho: a arte e a ciência da fermentação. Ciência Hoje, 33 (195), 62 – 65.

ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2010) with index (1851-1993), Dec. 1, p. 9, 1878.

ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Chicago Tribune (1849-1990), May 28, p. 13, 1879

ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times (1881-1990), Sep 5, p. 8, 1885.

ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Chicago Tribune (1849-1990), Feb 20, p. 2, 1888.

Manufacture of Orange Wine. Southern Cultivator, 50 (6), Jun, p. 279, 1892.

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

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