Where Does The Color And Alcohol In Wine Come From?

The age-old question… where does wine get its color from and what about the alcohol? Let’s find out!

The Different Grapes

Different grapes are used to make different wines. Chardonnays and Pinot Grigio are made using white grapes, just as your favorite Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir are made using red grapes. There’s something more interesting to note than that, though. Once upon a time, all wines were made using the same grape! A black grape species known as Vitis vinifera. It was from this one black grape species that white grapes were born, after a natural, beautiful mutation.

This can be seen in the fact that Pinot Blanc, Gris, and Noir all share DNA, even though they come from three different colors of grape.

There are six noble grapes, and if you have enjoyed wine over the years you have definitely tasted one of these. They are Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pino Noir, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc. There are other grapes, but these are the noble six.

The Many Parts of Grapes

There are also some major differences in the parts of grape that are used in the winemaking process. For example, red wine is fermented with both the seeds and skins of the grapes. That’s where the color of red wine comes from – the seeds and skins. Of course, there are notable exceptions that produce wildly different wines in taste and appearance.

There is a method of making white wine that uses the seeds and the skins. However, the wines this produces are known as orange wines. They contain tannin and taste more like red wines, though they are white in color. It’s a rare technique and the end product is a unique wine you won’t come across often.

There is also a difference in aging. Red wine is often aged in stainless steel tanks, while whites are aged in oak. White wines are known for fruity notes, floral scents, and zesty acidity. While red wines are typically rich, soft, and velvety. The differences come from oxidation. It’s this that takes a floral and fruity note and transforms it into a nutty, smooth flavor. So, oak barrels allow wine the room to breathe. Whereas the stainless steel reduces oxygen exposure so that a wine can retain some of their floral and fruity flavors.

What about the alcohol content? The alcohol in wine is related to the ripeness of the grapes, due to its sugar content. As the grapes ferment those sugars convert to alcohol. Grapes used to make red wine tend to be picked at their ripest, which is why red wine often features a higher alcohol content. However, it really comes down to the grape’s physiology and the style of winemaking. Just check the label of your bottle to determine the ABV. It’s important to note, though, that US regulations allow for 1.5% of a swing in either direction. You may choose a bottle at 11%, but it has 12.5%. Likewise, it may only be 9.5% alcohol.

If you want to know more, ask our friendly staff. We’re more than happy to tell you everything we know!


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