The fifty-shades of wine

Have you ever really seen the inside of a grape? Did you know that the actual juice of all wine grapes (with two exceptions) is actually translucent? Yes, that’s right, even the red ones.
So where do all those shades of red and hues of green come from? Where does the wine get its colour?

There are a number of factors that influence the colour of the actual wines and allow those beautiful colours of ruby, tawny, lemon-green and gold to appear in your glass.

White wines

Glasses of white wine

So when it comes to white wines, the purest colour is a straw colour – often rated from pale straw to a darker yellow. However, the colour becomes even darker and golden due to any time the wine spends in oak barrels. The oak barrels create a rich, creaminess and also darkens the wine.
But oak barrels aren’t the only thing that causes white wine to change colour.
Any white wines that are aged naturally change too. The longer the white wine is aged, the darker the colour becomes – and may even turn slightly brown.

Red wines

Glass of red wine

So if the juice of a red grape is white, why is the wine red?
To add the colour, flavour and body to red wine, the skins of the grapes are left on (which is where all the colour lies) and that essentially “stains” the juice red.
Each red varietal naturally has different amounts of tannin in the wines – which play a huge role in how dark or light red the wines are.
Just like with white wine, oak barrels play a role in the intensity of the colour. Wines that spend a longer time in the barrels often have a slightly deeper colour.

When it comes to the ageing effect, however, red wine reacts differently than white. With age, red wine starts to lose its colour and fade and change into a garnet, and eventually, brown colour.

Rose wines

Glass of rose wine

So if the juice is actually white, where does the pink colour come from for rose wines.

Leaving the juice on the red wine skins create not only that deep colour, but also that intense, full-mouthfeel and complex flavours.
With rose wines, the skins are merely left on the grapes when they are pressed, so the juice that seeps out is slightly tainted from the skins – without the intense, red wine characteristics. The different shades of roses are greatly influenced by the amount of time that the juice is spent in contact with the red skins. These shades can range from a pale salmon colour all the way through to a dark pink colour.

All the other colours

Glass of orange wine

Orange wine: In certain parts of Italy, orange wine is produced simply by leaving the white wine’s skins and seeds in contact with the juice.

Brown/tawny wines: With fortified wines, they spend prolonged time in the barrels and are gradually exposed to oxygen – this naturally causes the brown colour in wines.

The marvels of wine and the production thereof is something to truly admire – and armed with this information regarding the colours of wine, we hope that drinking wine is a much pleasanter experience.


French version here.


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