Have you ever wondered where red wine gets its color? The answer is anthocyanin. It’s the same pigment that is found in cherries, plums, and blueberries, as well as orchids! The pigment is found in the grape skin and it is naturally released when the skin is soaked. Different varieties will have a different pigment, thus producing different colors. While the science behind this is fairly complex, we have condensed it for your reading pleasure. Here is what we can share with you about the color and quality of red wines.
Red wines have a range of hues, particularly when they are under five years of age. They can be red, blue or even violet. The best way to detect the hue is in natural light and against a white background. You can see it as it hits the glass, near the edge of the wine. What do the hues mean? It’s related to their acidity level. A red hue indicates high acidity, while a violet hue is average. The blue or magenta tint indicates that the red wine is low in acidity.
It’s important to remember that every grape will feature a different shade of the hue, and there are variables that impact the color. We have some examples to share, though. For instance, a malbec generally features a blueish tint. While a Sangiovese is high in acidity and features a brilliant red hue.
You will find the main color toward the center of the wine, as you tilt the glass and allow it to climb to the rim. The color can also indicate the age of the wine as value (and commercial) wines quickly lose their pigmentation. For the wines that take longer to change in color, they will also improve in taste after they have been stored away.
You will also spot secondary colors in your wine. While white wines can show hints of straw (and even green), red wines can appear like an autumn explosion. It’s common to see hints of brick, brown, orange, blue, and magenta. These are the colors you will see closest to the rim of the glass and your wine edges towards it. You can also look at for rim variations. A wide variation indicates that you have an older wine, while a tighter variation shows that its a young wine. When there’s a blue tinge it indicates a higher level of acidity.
Now, you have a hue, but what about the intensity of the color? It dictates a lot, too. A great comparison would be Zinfandel and Syrah. The Syrah features four times the pigment. The region from which the grapes come from will also affect the intensity. The intensity of the color is also amplified by the tannin levels, as well as other polyphenols. High levels of tannin result in more opacity. Additionally, sulfites and temperature can affect red wine. As a wine ages it starts to lose pigment, so once it’s over five years in age it will lose a vast majority of its anthocyanin.
Now the ball is in your court, the next time you are sitting back and enjoying a glass of wine, try to identify its hue and intensity.