When drinking wine, it is a known fact that the colour of it is the very first thing you notice. Not only can the colour of the wine be a determining factor of whether the wine is faulty or not, it can also give you a good indication of which varietal of wine it is and thus the possible aromas and flavours you can expect when you drink it.
How Does Wine get its Colour?
Wines get their colour from the skins of the grapes and not from the colour of the grape itself, as one might expect. When white wines are made, the juice that has been extracted from the grapes does not remain in contact with the skins for a long period of time. Hence, white wines are light in colour. The juice from the black grapes, on the other hand, is kept in contact with the skins for a much longer period of time and thus red wines are able to develop a darker colour. Also, the skins from black grapes are much thicker than those of the white grapes and so it is easier to extract more depth of colour from them.
How Can Winemakers Manipulate the Colour?
Winemakers make use of a process called maceration, whereby they allow the colour from the skin to seep out into the juice of the wine. The length of the maceration period is one of the factors that will determine the intensity of the colour of your wine as well as the actual colour itself. Rosé wines can experience maceration periods ranging from a few hours to a few days while red wines can experience much longer periods of maceration, ranging from days to weeks. Along with maceration, there are a few other techniques that may influence the colour of your wine, such as: the temperature of the grape juice and skins when they are in contact with each other; the fermentation of the wine before or after maceration; and the possibility of blended wines (mixing a red and white wine together).
How to Analyse the Colour of Your Wine?
The WSET Systematic Approach to Tasting Wine provides a good template to use when attempting to analyse your wine. When assessing the colour of your wine, it is best to tilt your glass over a white, clear surface. With white wines, it is preferable to look at the core of the wine glass to most accurately determine the colour, and, with red wines, it is best to look at the outer rim. The intensity of the colour refers to how dark it is and can be referred to as “pale”, “medium” or “deep”.
What are the Various Colours of Wine?
White wine colours are assessed using a scale from “lemon-green” to “brown”. “Lemon” is the most common colour for white wines and Sauvignon Blanc is a good example of this. “Gold” wines occur when there is a hint of orange or brown and this can be indicative of some Chardonnays. “Amber” or “brown” wines may either be wines that have aged, or otherwise wines that have oxidized.
Red wine colours are assessed using a scale from “purple” to “brown”. The most common colour of red wines would be “ruby”, such as a Pinot Noir. Younger wines may appear to be more “purple”, while older wines may appear more “garnet”. If the wine is more brown than it is red, it can be referred to as “tawny”, or, in the case of no remaining red colour, “brown”. Both the former and the latter are usually used with reference to old or oxidized wines.
Rosé wine colours can simply be classified as “pink”, “salmon” or “orange”. A “salmon” rosé will have a hint of orange in its pink colour, but an “orange” rosé will require orange to be the dominant colour. An “orange” rosé is very rare.
Does Colour determine the Quality of the Wine?
The colour of the wine cannot be the sole indicator of its quality as there are too many other factors that affect the end result. As mentioned above, the colour can, however, give a good indication of the cultivar, the expected flavour profiles in the wine, as well as how old the wine is likely to be.