Wine colour top

Wine colour top DEFAULT

Wine color

Judging color is the first step in tastinga wine

The color of wine is one of the most easily recognizable characteristics of wines. Color is also an element in wine tasting since heavy wines generally have a deeper color. The accessory traditionally used to judge the wine color was the tastevin, a shallow cup allowing one to see the color of the liquid in the dim light of a cellar. The color is an element in the classification of wines.

Color origins[edit]

The color of the wine mainly depends on the color of the drupe of the grape variety. Since pigments are localized in the center of the grape drupe, not in the juice, the color of the wine depends on the method of vinification and the time the must is in contact with those skins, a process called maceration. The Teinturier grape is an exception in that it also has a pigmented pulp. The blending of two or more varieties of grapes can explain the color of certain wines, like the addition of Rubired to intensify redness.

Red drupe grapes can produce white wine if they are quickly pressed and the juice not allowed to be in contact with the skins. The color is mainly due to plant pigments, notably phenolic compounds (anthocyanidins, tannins, etc.). The color depends on the presence of acids in the wine. It is altered with wine aging by reactions between different active molecules present in the wine, these reactions generally giving rise to a browning of the wine, leading from red to a more tawny color. The use of a wooden barrel (generally oak barrels) in aging also affects the color of the wine.

The color of a wine can be partly due to co-pigmentation of anthocyanidins with other non-pigmented flavonoids or natural phenols (cofactors or "copigments").[1]

Rosé wine is made by the practice of saignée (exposing wine to red grape skins for only a short period of time in order to give it a lighter feel closer to that of white wine) or by blending a white wine with a red wine.

Color evolution[edit]

The presence of a complex mixture of anthocyanins and procyanidins can increase the stability of color in wine.[2]

As it ages, the wine undergoes chemical autoxidation reactions involving acetaldehyde of its pigments molecules. The newly formed molecules are more stable to the effect of pH or sulfitebleaching.[3] The new compounds include pyranoanthocyanins like vitisins (A and B), pinotins and portosins and other polymeric derived pigments.[4][5][6][7]

Malvidin glucoside-ethyl-catechin is a flavanol-anthocyanin adduct.[8] Flavanol-anthocyanin adducts are formed during wine ageing through reactions between anthocyanins and tannins present in grape, with yeast metabolites such as acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde-induced reactions yield ethyl-linked species such as malvidin glucoside-ethyl-catechin.[9][10] This compound has a better color stability at pH 5.5 than malvidin-3O-glucoside. When the pH was increased from 2.2 to 5.5, the solution of the pigment became progressively more violet (λmax = 560 nm at pH 5.5), whereas similar solutions of the anthocyanin were almost colorless at pH 4.0.[11]

The exposure of wine to oxygen in limited quantities can be beneficial to the wine. It affects color.[12]

Castavinols are another class of colorless molecules derived from colored anthocyanin pigments.

Structure of compound NJ2, a xanthylium pigment found in wine

In model solutions, colorless compounds, such as catechin, can give rise to new types of pigments. The first step is the formation of colorless dimeric compounds consisting of two flavanol units linked by carboxy-methine bridge. This is followed by the formation of xanthylium salt yellowish pigments and their ethylesters, resulting from the dehydration of the colorless dimers, followed by an oxidation process. The loss of a water molecule takes place between two A ring hydroxyl groups of the colorless dimers.[13]


The main colors of wine are:

  • Gray, as in vin gris (gray wine).
  • Orange, as in Skin-contact wine, a white wine that has spent some time in contact with its skin, giving it a slightly darker hue.
  • Red wine (although this is a general term for dark wines, whose color can be as far from "red" as bluish-violet)
  • Rosé (meaning pinkish in French)
  • Tawny, as in tawny port.
  • White wine (light colored wine)
  • Yellow (or straw color), see for instance vin jaune, a special and characteristic type of white wine made in the Jura wine region in eastern France, Jurançon or Sauternes.


  • Burgundy (color), a shade of purplish red
  • Sangria (color), a color that resembles Sangría wine
  • Ox blood, probably referring to ancient practice of fining red wines with dry powdered blood

Scientific color determination[edit]

The International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) provides methods to assess the color of a wine using a spectrophotometer and the calculation of indices in the Lab color space.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^Boulton, Roger (2001). "The Copigmentation of Anthocyanins and Its Role in the Color of Red Wine: A Critical Review"(PDF). Am. J. Enol. Vitic. 52 (2): 67–87.
  2. ^Céline, Malien-Aubert; Olivier, Dangles; Josèphe, Amiot Marie (2002). "Influence of procyanidins on the color stability of oenin solutions". Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 50 (11): 3299–3305. doi:10.1021/jf011392b. PMID 12010001.
  3. ^Atanasova, Vessela; Fulcrand, Hélène; Cheynier, Véronique; Moutounet, Michel (2002). "Effect of oxygenation on polyphenol changes occurring in the course of wine making". Analytica Chimica Acta. 458: 15–27. doi:10.1016/S0003-2670(01)01617-8.
  4. ^Schwarz, Michael; Hofmann, Glenn; Winterhalter, Peter (2004). "Investigations on Anthocyanins in Wines from Vitis vinifera cv. Pinotage: Factors Influencing the Formation of Pinotin A and Its Correlation with Wine Age". J. Agric. Food Chem.52 (3): 498–504. doi:10.1021/jf035034f. PMID 14759139.
  5. ^Mateus, Nuno; Oliveira, Joana; Haettich-Motta, Mafalda; De Freitas, Victor (2004). "New Family of Bluish Pyranoanthocyanins". Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology. 2004 (5): 299–305. doi:10.1155/S1110724304404033. PMC 1082895. PMID 15577193.
  6. ^Mateus, Nuno; Pascual-Teresa, Sonia de; Rivas-Gonzalo, Julián C; Santos-Buelga, Celestino; De Freitas, Victor (2002). "Structural diversity of anthocyanin-derived pigments in port wines". Food Chemistry. 76 (3): 335–342. doi:10.1016/S0308-8146(01)00281-3.
  7. ^Mateus, Nuno; Silva, Artur M. S.; Rivas-Gonzalo, Julian C.; Santos-Buelga, Celestino; De Freitas, Victor (2003). "A New Class of Blue Anthocyanin-Derived Pigments Isolated from Red Wines". Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 51 (7): 1919–23. doi:10.1021/jf020943a. PMID 12643652.
  8. ^Malvidin glucoside-ethyl-catechin on Yeast Metabolome Database
  9. ^Morata, A; González, C; Suárez-Lepe, JA (2007). "Formation of vinylphenolic pyranoanthocyanins by selected yeasts fermenting red grape musts supplemented with hydroxycinnamic acids". International Journal of Food Microbiology. 116 (1): 144–52. doi:10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2006.12.032. PMID 17303275.
  10. ^Asenstorfer, Robert E.; Lee, David F.; Jones, Graham P. (2006). "Influence of structure on the ionisation constants of anthocyanin and anthocyanin-like wine pigments". Analytica Chimica Acta. 563 (1–2): 10–14. doi:10.1016/j.aca.2005.09.040.
  11. ^Escribano-Bailón, Teresa; Alvarez-García, Marta; Rivas-Gonzalo, Julian C.; Heredia, Francisco J.; Santos-Buelga, Celestino (2001). "Color and Stability of Pigments Derived from the Acetaldehyde-Mediated Condensation between Malvidin 3-O-Glucoside and (+)-Catechin". Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 49 (3): 1213–7. doi:10.1021/jf001081l. PMID 11312838.
  12. ^Caillé, Soline; Samson, Alain; Wirth, Jérémie; Diéval, Jean-Baptiste; Vidal, Stéphane; Cheynier, Véronique (2010). "Sensory characteristics changes of red Grenache wines submitted to different oxygen exposures pre and post bottling". Analytica Chimica Acta. 660 (1–2): 35–42. doi:10.1016/j.aca.2009.11.049. PMID 20103141.
  13. ^Es-Safi, Nour-Eddine; Guernevé, Christine; Fulcrand, Hélène; Cheynier, Véronique; Moutounet, Michel (2000). "Xanthylium salts formation involved in wine colour changes". International Journal of Food Science & Technology. 35: 63–74. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2621.2000.00339.x.
  14. ^OIV web site

External links[edit]


Sommeliers Choice Awards

Studying the color of a wine can pretty much tell you about a number of things from the grape varietal used to its location and the wine’s age. You might think swirling is the first step in tasting once the wine is poured in the glass, but before that just take a look at it, as it can tell you a lot about what wine you will be drinking. Observing a wine's color give its first impression thereby determining its potential if it is going to be rich or lacking balance. Many sommeliers and wine experts rely on the color of the wine which helps them to identify the grape varietal they’re about to take in.  A basic thumb rule is, deeper the wine’s color, the richer its body.

Use these tips to observe a wine correctly

  • Hold your glass of wine against a white background, as this will help you see the hue of the color more easily.
  • Tilt the glass forward against the white background as this will allow the light to pass through the wine and reveal its shade with more precision.
  • Most importantly, don’t fill your wine glass too much as the smaller the pour the better the color is revealed. 

Shades of Red Wine

If the wine in your glass is light red, nearly approaching to pink, it should taste light. It may even be a little tart tasting and that is because the lighter the red color is, the less likely that it was aged in oak. Young red wines start out as varying shades of ruby or crimson. Because red wines are fermented on the skins, and the color comes from the skins. As the hue of the red wine gets darker, nearing the colors of maroon and purple, the red will become much bolder and richer. As red wines age, the rim takes on a garnet hue, then the wine evolves to a brick brown color. The level of extraction during fermentation also influences the depth of color in red wine. More extraction makes for deeper colored wines.

1. Pinot Noir- Ruby

A light-bodied red wine like Pinot Noir is bright or ruby in color. It is the lightest of the red wine varietals. Some Pinot Noirs can be translucent with minimal color extracted from the grape. It has an intense flavor packed with red cherry fruits. Pinot Noirs can sometimes bring out herbaceous notes.

2. Tempranillo-Garnet

This medium-bodied variety pairs well with different foods. It has a garnet color which may vary from purple tones to orange tones. This vibrant rouge variety can derive from a combination of plum, and cherry fruit flavors. The palate is soft with flavors of mulberry, tart red fruits, and cherry supported by mild tannins.

3. Shiraz- Violet/ Deep Purple

Although Shiraz can vary in color from deep purple to deep red, the common element it shows off is the purple in its color. This wine is so dark that if you hold a wine glass in the light, you might have a hard time seeing through it. It can be heavy with mouth-drying tannins. The wine is full of complexities and features flavors like berries, pepper and also smoked meat.

4. Cabernet Sauvignon- Deep Ruby

Full-bodied red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon are deeply colored and express fruits like blackcurrant, dark cherry and plum.  Their darker color often indicates a possible presence of higher tannins. The dense palate expands with spicy smoky notes. These wines are highly extracted and opaque.

Shades of White Wine

White wines tend to range in color starting from pale yellow to various shades of gold. Start by looking at the shade of yellow, is it very light, nearly clear, or is it deep in color approaching gold color? Light white wines that you can see through have had minimal contact with the grape skins. These wines have not been aged in an oak barrel. They are usually crisp and refreshing, perfect for a hot summer day. As white wines age the color deepens, moving through shades of gold to deep amber.

1. Pinot Grigio- Pale Yellow

Pinot Grigio is light on the palate, as its slight hints of lemon and pear finish with steely character. The pear and green apple flavor follow through from the nose to the palate with nuances of mineral and floral notes also evident. It is an easy drinking and food friendly wine because of its light weight and balance.

2. Sauvignon Blanc- Pale Gold/ light yellow

A wine that’s full of tart citrus and grassy notes, perfect for a hot summer day, this variety yields a pale-lemon or pale gold-colored wine. Sauvignon Blanc depending on where it is grown is predominantly a medium bodied wine with hints of green. It is ideal to grow Sauvignon Blanc in cooler climates as it does not enjoy hot climates. It exhibits more of the pale gold or light yellow color and has herbaceous flavors like gooseberry, bell pepper, and jalapeno.   

3. Chardonnay- Gold

Chardonnay can start from a light yellow color and extend through a richer yellow color if it is aged properly in oak barrels. Oak allow a small amount of oxygen to come into contact with the wine, which enhances its color and produces buttery flavors.

4. Semillon- Deep Gold

Semillon is one of the noble grape varieties that can age very well. This variety is perhaps best known for the dark, honey-colored dessert wines made from it. Young Semillon wines tend to be lighter in color but as they age can take on a wonderful gold hue. Noble rot and the drying of the grapes raise the sugar content while deepening color.

Shades of Rosé Wine

Rosé wines range in color from pale pink to deep salmon. As Rosé wines age, the color fades to orange. The intensity of the rosé color is obtained when the grapes are gently crushed and the juice is left in contact with the skins for short time to extract just enough color to achieve the desired ‘pink’ hue.

1. Merlot- Pale Blush

It is light in color and palate. A flinty nose gives way to tea leaves and minerals on a palate that’s otherwise shy of fruit. The wine develops its fine, complex aroma in the glass: its rounded acidity makes it the perfect companion for every occasion.

2. Shiraz- Blush

Rosé of Shiraz tends to be more on the bolder end of the spectrum. This can be a good choice with pizza. It has notes of strawberry, cherry and white pepper

3. Tempranillo- Salmon

With this style of rosé, you can expect a pale pink hue and herbaceous notes of watermelon, strawberry and meaty notes reminiscent of fried chicken. Tempranillo rosé is growing in popularity from the Rioja region and other parts of Spain.

4. Petite Verdot- Deep Salmon

It is concentrated and full of flavors. What you get on the nose, you also get on the palate, flavors of red fruits like cherry, strawberry, etc.are exhibited. 

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