Information you can extract by just looking at the colour!

To properly observe wine colour, you should ideally pour the wine into a clear glass in-front of a white background. Tilt the glass to examine the colour spectrum and its intensity.

Each shade of red and white tells a story about the wine you are about to drink. From looking at the colour alone, you can gauge how the wine is probably going to taste, its character and age, and even hazard a guess at where it may be from!

The intensity of the colour will tell you about the wine’s body and style, while the colour itself indicates flavours and age.

Generally speaking, the deeper the colour, the more body a wine will have. If you think about a young, pale red Pinot Noir, this will be light-bodied compared to a deep red Syrah. And the same goes for white wines too – a pale Chablis will be crisp and light in body, while a deep gold, oak-aged Napa Valley Chardonnay will be full and buttery in texture.

Tannins also add to the perception of body in wine, and these come from the grape skins. In red wine production, the grapes are crushed and fermented with the skins still in the juice, meaning that tannins are transferred from the fruit into the wine as well as colour. So, a grape variety with thin skins will produce a wine that’s light in tannins. Whereas a thick-skinned black grape that’s fermented with its skins for a long period will result in a deep red wine that leaves the tannic coating in your mouth.

Red Wine Colours

Reds are classified as ruby, purple, garnet or tawny. A purple or magenta tint indicates it’s a very young wine, such as Beaujolais Nouveau (Gamay), which is very fresh, fruity and perhaps floral. Another common hue in red wines is ruby, which is also a sign of a younger wine, but often with more intense red and black fruit flavours with a touch of spice.

As we move from ruby and purple into warmer, autumnal red colours, such as garnet and tawny, wine increases in age and flavour complexity. The intensity of flavour, however, softens over time, along with acidity. These brown tinges tell you that the wine has been aged, and will therefore be less fruity than a ruby red. Instead, it’ll likely be a more complex mixture of flavours; fruit, savoury notes due to ageing (e.g. leather, mushroom), and hints of nuts and spice, possibly with some smoky notes too caused by prolonged contact with oak.

Rosé Wine Colours

Rosé, blush, pink… all words we hear to describe rosé wine. Just like red or white, it has a spectrum of colour all of its own which tells you something about its character. Usually when it comes to rosé wine though, the main thing people want to know is whether it’s dry or sweet.

A classic pink hue, whether it’s pale, bright pink or salmon, is likely to be fruity and juicy – with pink wines offering up more red berries, and salmon wines showing hints of melon, peach, mineral and floral notes alongside the red berries.

On the whole, the deeper the pink, the sweeter and jammier the fruit flavours. A paler hue, on the other hand, indicates that it’s likely to be drier and much crisper.

White Wine Colours

White wines can be a little harder to read from appearance, and flavours can be more difficult to guess. But the intensity of the colour will tell you something about the style and sweetness.

Pale yellow coloured wines with lemon or green hues are young, light-bodied and best enjoyed ice-cold. These are crisp white wines, and may have fruity, floral or even herbaceous notes (think Sauvignon Blanc with its flavours of grass and green bell pepper). A pale lemon wine is likely to be zesty with super high acidity!

Ageing will make a lemon yellow wine turn more golden in colour – so expect a silkier wine with notes of toast or honey. They will typically be lower in acidity, less crisp and smoother all round. Some aged dessert wines can also show a golden hue, often with tropical fruit flavours from being made with riper grapes.

Amber wines have an almost brown tinge and have usually been aged for very long periods in oak, such as an Amontillado Sherry. Oak ageing will add flavours of nut, vanilla or toast to a white wine, along with a weightier texture, so expect these characteristics from an amber-coloured fortified white wine.

 

 

So, next time someone hands you a glass of wine, why not have a little fun with it and see if you can guess its flavours, style and where it’s from before you taste it. And before you know it, you’ll be a bona fide expert! (or you can at least pretend to be in front of the wine know-it-all in your life!)

 

 

 

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