What the Colors in Your Wine are Telling You

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Red, white, and Rosé. The only colors you really need to know when picking out wine. But what makes some bottles of Rosé a few shades lighter than others? Why are some reds on the verge of pink when others look more maroon? Fear not winos, here’s the breakdown of what the color of your wine is telling you.

There are two main factors that affect the color of your wine: how long the juices soak in the grape skins and how long the wine sits in the barrel.

It starts with the grapes

First thing first, the color of your wine is a result of its contact with the grape skins. Basically, the color of the wine depends on whether that contact is before or after the grapes have been juiced. In general, white wines typically have little contact with the skin of the grape, and because of this, they have a lighter, clearer color than reds. With some whites, they even peel the grapes beforehand so they never come in contact with the skin. Imagine that. A peeled grape. Freaky.

On the other hand, red wines are typically made by juicing grapes with the skin on. The juice then sits in that lovely mess of grapes and skins and stems (which is where tannins come from) for a longer period of time. This lengthy soaking time gives red wine its dark, rich colors that we’ve all come to know and love. 

To simplify: the longer the contact with the grape’s skin, the darker the color. This goes for both reds and whites.

What's the deal with oak barrels?

Oak barrels also play a large role in developing the hue of the contents in your favorite bottle. How can you tell if your wine was aged in an oak barrel? Easy. If it’s white, the hint of the yellow, as well as its taste, will tell you all you need to know. The darker the yellow hue, the more likely it is that it aged in a barrel. If it has a full, smooth taste, chances are also pretty good it spent some quality time in oak.

For all you red lovers out there, a lighter, brighter red should taste just as it looks — light and refreshing. If your red wine has a light color, it probably didn’t spend any time aging in an oak barrel. If dark, deeper reds are more your thing, your palette enjoys a more sophisticated taste. Reds that have a darker color and a more mellow, robust taste aged longer in an oak barrel. The more maroon and purple the red wine, the more full body and rich it should taste. These types of red wines are the ones you think of when you think red wine and steak dinner.

So the next time you’re staring down at your glass, pondering the hue of your Pinot, think about all those funny-looking peeled grapes that went into your glass of wine.

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