Wine color

Wine color tells how the wine was made, and it can tell how old the wine may be and its quality.

The color of wine comes from the color of the grapes, but not in the way some people think. When grapes are pressed, juice from nearly every variety of grape is white or clear. This is true of both red and white grapes.

To make red wine, the winemaker leaves red-pigmented grape skins in contact with the juice during fermentation.

When red grapes are pressed and skins kept out of fermentation, the color of the wine remains white and is considered a ‘blanc de noirs’
—white wine from red grapes.

White wines usually do not have any grape skin contact with juice during fermentation.

Rosé and blush wines can be made by leaving skins in the fermenting juice for a short period of time, but it is hard to produce consistent color with this method, so those wines more often are made by adding red wine to an already finished white wine.

Here’s what wine color can say about a wine:

White wine color: usually means

Green-tinged: Youth

Straw: Majority of dry whites

Gold: Sweeter, more luscious whites

Light-brown: Wine not quite right

Brown/amber: Wine old; oxidation

Red wine color: usually means

Purple: Youth

Ruby-red: Some aging

Red: Several years of aging

Red-brown: Maturity

Mahogany: Considerable age (or improperly stored wine)


• Bogle Old Vines Zinfandel. Dark color, supple, big bouquet and fruit. $12

• Lingenfelder Riesling Bird Label. Straw yellow, light-medium, nice finish. $15

• Alexander Valley Sangiovese Rosé. Dry, tons of fruit; a rosé for those turned off by typical cheap, flabby-sweet rosés. $10