The Color of Red Wine

MGZ has a question about wine color: "Why is the $9 Italian we drank tonight so much deeper in color than the $30 Burgundy we had two nights ago?" For that matter, what variables affect the variation in wine color, even between wines made from the same variety of grape?

"Nearly all red wines get their colour from the grape skins, not the flesh (which, with very few exceptions, is white)," says carswell. "The longer the grape juice is in contact with the skins, the more pigments are extracted."

The temperature during extraction, and how long it's extracted, is also important. "Extraction is proportional (roughly) to time of fermentation, temperature of fermentation, and the all important mass of skins to volume of juice ratio," says Cary. But extracting for a long time or at a high temperature, though it creates a lovely dark, inky color, can extract other things along the way, like flavors and smells that many people find unpleasant. "Traditionalists and 'hands off' type wine makers will use (generally) lower temperatures, no water additions (or subtractions ... which increase skin-to-juice ratio), no enzymes, and native yeasts. All these things will, on average, lead to less inky, purple wines," says Cary.

And there's one more reason cheap wine might have better color than the expensive stuff: Some less-expensive wines, and what oolah calls "higher-end fruit bombs" use additives like Mega Purple to boost color. "Yet another reason to seek out wines from non-interventionist producers," says carswell.

Discuss: A question about depth of color?

See more articles
Share this article: