Wine Word Wednesday: Color

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Like many things in life, looks make the first impression. Beleive it or not, color is a critical factor in determining a wine's age and quality.  Before you swipe left on a glass of wine at a tasting, let's get a little deeper.

Surprisingly, the color of the wine mostly comes the amount of time the liquid spends in contact with the skins of the fruit, not the color of the grape. The grape skin contains plant pigments, and the more time in contact with the juice, the richer the color and tannins. So for example, white wine can be made with a red grape if it is pressed quickly and given little contact with the skin. Rosé gets its gorgeous pink luster by exposing the juice to red grape skins for a short amount of time. (or also by blending a red with a white, but we will get to that in another post.)

A rule of thumb is that white wines grow darker in color as they age while red wines turn brownish orange. So, as seen in this great diagram from wine folly,  the younger wines all have a rich claret/berry hue, while the older wines all have a rust luster.

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The aging process in wine has many factors. Size of the bottle (the amount of air it comes in contact with), varietal, region, and producer all tend to come into play.  Another thing that comes into play is fine wine vs. commercial or economy price wines. Fine wines as a whole take much longer to develop the older color, while economy wines can change in 2-4 years! Flavor-wise younger more vibrant wines tend to be more astringent, while older wines tend to be smoother.

Sarah Basta