The alluring colour of red wines differs considerably from wine to wine and could make a big difference to your drinking experience.
Red/black grapes are all born with a lovely blanket of dark skin around the grape making it noticeably different to white wine. While white wines will be made from white grapes - they can also be made from red grapes. And that is because the juice of all grapes (barring two odd varieties) is all white.
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It’s the fermentation process which allows the grapes to lie on the skins or macerate that leaches the colour of the skins into the juice.
Grape skins have phenolic compounds in them called anthocyanins and different grape varieties boast different amount of this compound that will create a wine darker or lighter than others.
Usually the longer the skins stay with the juice, the darker the colour of the resulting wine.
Often, a denser colour indicates a more structured, heavier and full-bodied wine and vice versa. This will be your clue to understanding more about the wine you are about to enjoy.
Of course there are always anomalies. For example the much sought-after and revered nebbiolo grape can produce very structured, full-bodied wines but they typically have a rather light, nearly transparent colour.
The soil and overall terroir can also affect colour.
Heavy, clay soil can produce more phenols in the skins of dark coloured wines, while rocky or limestone soil give wines a more transparent colour.
Red wines typically change over time. Generally, a young, red wine will be more violet or purple, then changes to ruby and garnet before taking on a more brick red with pale edges as it ages.
To confuse the scholar, there are always exceptions with nebbiolo again being one. It has a brick red colour even when very young and pinot noir can be light with a pale rim even in its infancy.
The simple pleasure of enjoying the colour of a wine before you drink it is part of the sensorial experience that is wine.
Savour this first impression which gives you an invitation into the glass.