No matter what the color of the grape skin, grape juice is clear, maybe slightly green or gray. So where do all the different colors of wine come from, and how, and why?
Wine color comes from skins of grapes and how long juice is in contact with skins. Wine from “white grapes” (they actually are green, yellow-green, light-orange or gold) that spend little or no time in contact with skins are almost as clear as water or pale straw. Wine made from “black grapes” (they actually are various shades of red or blue) that spend considerable time in contact with the juice produce red wines. Rosé wines are in the middle ground.
Even the darkest grapes can produce white wine—blanc de noirs, “white of blacks.” The technique involves free run—the juice before pressing, maybe the gentlest of pressing, then removal from skins as soon as possible.
Pinot noir is a poster grape of this phenomenon. This red grape is major grape—along with chardonnay—in Champagne, which is a white wine, sometimes a rosé. In Burgundy, on the other hand, pinot noir juice stays on the skins to produce world-class red wines. Zinfandel works the same way. Leave zin on skin, you get a very dark wine. When you don’t, you get white zinfandel, a blanc de noirs, which really isn’t a white wine but a light blush/rosé.
How long the juice interacts with the skins—and the stems and seeds—significantly influences taste. A white-wine styled pinot noir flaunts honeyed pear and apricot flavors. The red style of pinot noir gives you cranberry, raspberry, and herbal flavors.
You can’t produce a dark red wine from white grapes, but you can intensify color and influence taste by extended time on the skins. In all cases, wine colors and tastes are heavily influenced by how much skin is in the game.
• Bonterra Viognier Mendocino County 2016: Correct interpretation of stainless steel, no malo viognier. Very nice fruit presentation. $14 Link to my tasting notes
• Fullerton Three Otters Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2016: Good entry-level pinot for those just getting into red wines; also entry-level price. $18-20 Link to my tasting notes
• Duchman Family Winery Progression NV: Smooth, powerful, delicious, slightly rustic, intriguing blend of two classic southern Italian grapes grown on Texas High Plains. $47 Link to my tasting notes
Last round: Short story: Once upon a time there was a person who really needed a glass of wine. The person was me. The End.
Email Gus at firstname.lastname@example.org. Facebook: Gus Clemens on Wine. Twitter: @gusclemens. Website: gusclemensonwine.com.