A Reflection on Color

If we eat first with our eyes, why not drink first, too? Most of the time whether a wine is red or white is about as far as one gets when considering its color. However, taking a closer look at a wine’s coloring can tell you more about it than you might think. A few notes on color:

• A wine that is bright and clear is a decent indicator of a well-made wine. While cloudy wine used to be a sign of bacterial contamination (and still can be!), it has recently begun to become more common as more wine makers experiment with unfiltered wines.

• Similarly, white wine that has a brownish tint is a sign of oxidation (exposure to oxygen)– something that most wine makers try to avoid. However, there are wines that are oxidized as a matter of style and those amber-hued beauties have begun to gain some popularity, as well.

• In many places, small plots of varietals that produce inky wines are grown for the purely aesthetic purpose of being added to wines that may not naturally have as deep a color as the winemaker prefers.

• The color of a wine depends on the grapes’ skin rather than the juice. All grapes have white juice, but by letting the pressed juice spend some quality time with skins, red wine becomes red (or purple or ruby). Similarly, there are “white” wines made from “red grapes” that have been whisked away from their skins before they’ve had a chance to add some color. An example of this is sparkling wine or champagne called “Blanc de Noir” or “white from red” that is made from the juice of Pinot Noir grapes that has had no contact with their skins, and so appears white.

• Lastly, the color of a wine can change with age. Long-aged white wines have a tendency to become darker and golden as they mature. Certain red wines that are aged for very long times can take on a brick-hue that almost comes off as orange. For these old wines, these are usually signs of wonderful things happening in the bottle, but for younger wines, these are often signs of ruin.