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
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
Ruby-red: Some aging
Red: Several years of aging
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