Wine Colors

You may think that there are just three colors of wine; red, white, and rose, but within each color, there are many different shades. In this article, we will tell you why there are so many different hues and what they are. 

What Affects Wine Colors?


The exact color of the wine you purchase may not be your first consideration, whether red, white or rose. You will probably look at the label first to see the brand and read up about the wine, the flavors, the aromas, and where it was produced. However, the exact color is important as it affects the taste, the aroma, the body, and the acidity of the wine. 

The color and the type of wine rely on which grape is used to create it. There are many varieties of grapes, some making red wine, others white, and others rose.

The Survival of Grapes

It is interesting to note that grape colors are designed to attract animals to consume them. Of course, the winemakers need to get to the grapes before they are eaten by insects and other wildlife, and the grapes are checked all the time. 

The color of the grapes also affects the ability of the seeds to pollinate. The grapes only turn red when the seeds are ready to pollinate. Turning red is a signal to insects and animals to eat them and contribute to the pollination process. 

As can be seen, it is easy to create red grapes. However, it is not so easy when it comes to white grapes. Because they are light in color, usually a pale green, animals aren’t so interested in eating them. This makes it more difficult for the grapes to be pollinated.

Grape Variation

The grape variety affects the color of the wine but there are other factors, and we’ll take a look at them here.

Firstly, every variety of grape has pigments. Grapes used for white wine contain flavonoids, giving the wine different shades from lemon to amber. Red grapes contain anthocyanin chemicals which give shades such as purple and garnet. 

The ph. levels of the grapes also affect the color of the wine. Low ph. levels indicate low acidity while high ph. levels indicate high acidity. When the ph. levels of the grapes are low, the wine is lighter both in acidity and color. Many low-acidic wines are white. If the grapes have high acidity, the wines also have high tannins and aging potential. These wines are generally red.

When it comes to the pulp and the skins of the wine, the pulp is usually clear and transparent. Because of this, white wines can be made from red-skinned grapes. To make white wine, you don’t use the skins so it doesn’t matter what color they are. To make red wine, the skins are used so they must be dark. There are a few grape varieties that have red pulp but these are rare. One is the Teinturier grape. The wines produced from these grapes have high tannins and these boost the color. Examples of wines produced with this grape include Gamay de Bouze and Petit Boushcet. Some winemakers will add a small portion of this grape to the wine-making process of other varietals as it helps to boost the color, making it bolder. 

When making red wine, the thickness of the skin affects the color of the wine. The thicker the skins, the bolder the colors. Skin thickness is affected by the weather. In warmer climates, you will get thicker skins while in cooler climates, the skins will be thinner. Expect bolder colors of wine from places such as Australia, Argentina, and the Mediterranean countries. The reason the skins are thicker is that the grapes are protecting themselves from the heat. 

The Spectrum of Wine Colors

The most important colors of wine are white, yellow, pink, orange, and red, but there are more and each gives you information about the wine. The color indicates what the tannin level is, its sweetness or dryness, its acidity, its flavor, and its aroma. 

Let’s take a look at the different wine colors.

Red Wines

1 – Purple: Purple wines have light to medium body, low to medium tannins, and are fruity and juicy. They are very rarely aged and are generally young wines. Examples of purple red wines include Beaujolais, Gamay, Shiraz, and young Malbec. 

2 – Ruby: These wines range from light to full-bodied, have low to high tannins, and have dark berry flavors such as blackberries and blackcurrants. Some have spicy notes. These wines are usually less than four years old. Examples of ruby red wines include Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Grenache, Merlot, and young Cabernet Sauvignon.

3 – Garnet: Garnet wines are medium to full-bodied, have medium to high tannins, and have hints of spice and green pepper. They can be oak-aged, giving them hints of oak and vanilla, Examples of garnet red wines include aged Cabernet Sauvignon and Nebbiolo.

4 – Tawny: The final red color is tawny and this usually refers to Tawny Port, a wine fortified by a clear spirit. These wines are oak aged for a long time, making them light-bodied, with low tannins. The port is sweet with hints of smoke. 

Rose Wines

1 – Pale Pink: These wines are light to medium-bodied, have high tannins, and have notes of green peppercorn, watermelon, and strawberry as well as meaty notes such as fried chicken. An example of pale pink wine is Tempranillo Rose.

2 – Deep Pink: Deep pink wines are light to medium-bodied, have medium tannins, and are sweet and fruity. You will get hints of blackberry, raspberry, and strawberry. An example of a deep pink wine is Grenache Rose. 

3 – Salmon: Salmon-colored rose wines are light to medium-bodied with medium tannins. They are floral with light fruit flavors of strawberry, pomegranate, and cherry. An example of a salmon-colored rose is Pinot Noir Rose.

Rose wines are not usually aged.

Yellow Wines

1 – Lemon Green: These wines are light-bodied with medium to high tannins. They taste and smell herbaceous and floral with fruit notes of gooseberry, grapefruit, and melon. They are young wines and aren’t aged. Examples of this wine are Sauvignon Blanc and Gruner Veltliner.

2 Lemon: Lemon-colored wines are light to medium-bodied with medium to high tannins. They are aromatic, dry, and zesty and you can often taste pepper, peony, and sour plum. They aren’t aged and examples include Vilno Verde and Macabeo. 

3 – Gold: Gold white wines are medium to full-bodied, with medium tannins. These wines are rich and creamy with tastes of vanilla and spices such as cinnamon and clove. They can be aged, for example, an oaked Chardonnay.

4 – Amber: Amber wines are usually fortified, such as sherry. They are medium to full-bodied with low tannins. They are aged in oak and have notes of tobacco, aromatic herbs, and oak. The aroma is nutty and sweet. 

The Process Behind Wine Colors

It is not only the effect of nature that affects the color of the wine. The grapes go through different processes during wine-making and these can affect the color of the wine. 

1 – Maceration: Maceration is the process of soaking crushed grapes in a wine must to extract flavors, aromas, and tannins. This is where red wines get their color and tannins. It is the lack of maceration that gives white wine a light color. 

2 – Fermentation: Red wines are fermented with their skins which gives them a dark color. White wines are fermented without the skins making them light in color. However, if you ferment wine with entire grape bunches, the color of the wine may be diminished.

3 – Technique: Before the winemaker starts fermenting the grapes, he or she can increase the amount of co-pigmentation by such methods as cold maceration.

4 – The Aging Process: There are two ways of aging wine, one is in oak barrels and the other is in stainless steel tanks. Both determine the color of the wine. This is due to the degrees of oxidation in the barrels and tanks. Stainless steel tanks have no oxygen and because of this, the color of the wine is preserved. However, oxygen does get into oak barrels and this can make the wine a lighter color.

What To Look For In Wine Colors

1 – Intensity: The first thing to look at when examining the wine you are thinking of purchasing, is the intensity of the color. If it isn’t that strong, the wine is probably light to medium-bodied. If it is dark, the wine will be full-bodied and will have a lot of tannins. The longer the grape skins are in contact with the juice, the darker the color will be.

2 – Color: Look at the center of the wine to determine its true color. 

3 – Secondary colors: You might find secondary colors closer to the edge of the glass.

4 – Opacity: Look to see how transparent the wine is. Can you see through it or can’t light pass through? If it is opaque, it is probably light-bodied.

5 – Rim Variants: If the rim of the wine is wide and different in color from the rest of the wine, it can mean that the wine is aged. If there is a light blue color at the rim, the wine is acidic.

Final Thoughts

I think that we can conclude that wine colors are diverse and complex. It’s not just red, white, and rose, and we hope that this article has helped you to understand why wines are different colors. As you try different wines, you will come to know which wines are what colors and how the colors affect the body, tannins, flavors, and aromas of the wine.

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