Ah, the colors of wine, a romantic idea with a world’s worth of detail behind it. There is not enough time in a glass to share all the secrets of wine colors, but a quick taste will prepare you for your next pour.
Wines take their colors from the skin of the grape, sort of. Wine grapes come in two colors, black and green. By black, we mean red. Red grapes generally make red wines, but not always. Green grapes make white wines, which are not always white. Furthermore, the time the wine is fermented and the type of grape it is and the type of growing season it was and where the grape was grown all impact the color the wine. Hm.
Let’s start again. Find a grape of any color, and peel it. The pulp of the grape is the same in all grapes. It is the pigment of the skin and the time that the juice spends “sitting” on the skins that have the greatest impact on the color of wine. If all wines were made using only the inside of the grape, they would be lightly colored, like a white wine.
Most, but not all white wines, are made from green grapes. At harvest time, the grapes are crushed and the juice flows into tanks or barrels. White wine colors range from near clear to lemony green and, if the juice spends enough time on the skins or in the barrel. to straw and amber.
Pink wines come in many shades and can even take on orange tones. They are created in one of two ways.
If the skin of our peeled grape was red, when crushed, some of he color of the skin goes with the juice to create a rose’ wine. Fans of “white” merlot and “white” zinfandel are enjoying a wine from a red grape that did not sit on its skins very long. Blending the juice from a green grape with red wine creates a blush, another style of pink wine.
For a red wine, imagine crushing a bunch of red grapes and then letting the juice sit on the skins for days or weeks. The longer it sits there, the more color the juice absorbs. The juice then goes to either tanks or barrels. Again, time in the barrel affects the color of the wine. Additionally, the clarity of a red wine influences its color. A more opaque wine has a denser color.
Wines vary in color for a variety of reasons. At your next tasting or with your next glass, can you determine the derivation of the color of your wine?