Just One Look - The Colors of Wine
Most people don’t realize that one can glean a great deal of information about a wine before one ever smells or tastes it…but it’s true. Once a wine has been poured into your glass, a visual observation of that vinous beverage can relate to you many things about what you’ll soon be imbibing if you keep in mind the information in this blog post.
Clarity of a wine is the first visual consideration. Most “sound” still wines will be clear, in that they don’t have any haze or flocculation (things floating in the wine). However, there are sound still wines that can have a slight haze, these are wines that have been bottled unfiltered, and sometimes the fact that the wine is unfiltered will appear on the bottle’s label to remove any doubt. Wines that have considerable haze can often be relating to you that they contain a fault – wine casse, for instance, will display itself as a discoloration or turbidity in a wine that indicates high levels of copper or iron, though instances of this fault are extremely rare in the vast majority of commercial wines. Wine casse is only one of dozens of potential faults in a wine (http://www.bcawa.ca/winemaking/flaws.htm).
Intensity of color can indicate a couple of important things to the wine enthusiast, both of which are intertwined – extraction and vintage characteristics. Low intensity of color in a red wine, for instance, can indicate that extraction of color from the grape skins was not vigorous during the winemaking process and/or that the grapes used to make the wine were from a cool vintage that didn’t allow for typical levels of color development in the grapes.
The actual color of a wine can be an indicator of the varietal used to make a wine and the age of a wine. Petit Verdot, for instance, is essentially always very dark purple/black in color, where it would take a miracle to make a deep and dark Gamay. The more wines you blind taste and the more you study the color tendencies of varietals, the more the color of a wine will impart to you. Also, as red wines age they drop their coloring material (anthocyanins and other compounds) which become bottle deposit. This constant and gradual sloughing of coloring material forces red wines to grow lighter in color as they age. White wines are just the opposite, as they become darker in color as they age.Continued on the next page