Have you ever wondered why some people stare at a glass of wine before drinking it? The colour of a wine can provide a few clues about the wine you’re about to drink. From its age to whether it's faulty, there’s lots you can tell from a wine's colour.
Wine colour: what can I learn about the wine from its hue?
Let’s start by talking about the grapes. Different grape varieties have varying thickness of their skin, as well as different colours. In the winemaking process, there are several decisions to be made: how long should the juice be in contact with the skin? Is the wine fermented with the skins? A thick-skinned dark grape which is fermented with the skin will result in a deep red colour and indicate a full body.
Another question is whether the wine is aged, as aging allows reactions between different molecules in the wine. Aging in a wooden barrel also affects the colour.
Now let’s have a closer look at what the colour can tell us about the wine before taking the first sip.
There are four general colour categories used for red wines: purple, ruby, garnet and tawny. Purple and ruby wines are younger and fruity, whereas brown hues indicate age and flavour complexity. Be careful though: a deeper brown colour is either fortified wine, very fine aged red wine or wine that has gone off!
Purple: This is a young, juicy and fruity wine with a light to medium body and lower tannin levels. A good example is a Gamay or a young Malbec.
Ruby: Ruby wines are also younger and have red and black berry flavours. There is more variation within this colour, as these wines can be light to full-bodied and can have different tannin levels. Typical ruby-coloured wines are Pinot noir, Garnacha and Merlot.
Garnet: These are oak-aged wines with medium to full body and higher tannin levels. The fruity and floral flavours give way for more complexity, that can include savoury or spicy notes. Barolo, Rioja and an aged Cabernet Sauvignon would be described as garnet.
Tawny: Tawny wines are either fortified or aged over decades, allowing the brown colour. The aging softens the body tannins, such as in a Tawny Port.
Rosé wines are categorised as pink or salmon, further details could be light, medium or dark. Pink indicates more red fruit and sweetness.
Pink: Pink wines are young, juicy wines with a light to medium body. A deeper shade of pink indicates more sweetness. Examples for typically pink rosés are Grenache Rosé and White Zinfandel.
Salmon: These are also young wines with a light to medium body but are drier than pink rosés. A good example is the beloved Provence rosé.
There are many descriptions for white wine colours, including straw, lemon-green, lemon, yellow, gold and amber. We will focus on lemon-green, lemon, gold and amber. A general rule of thumb is that darker colours indicate oak ageing.
Lemon-Green: This is a very pale shade with hints of green, typical for young and herbaceous wines with medium to high acidity. Sauvignon Blanc, Albariño and Grüner Veltliner are often associated with this colour.
Lemon: More towards yellow, these are young and dry wines with medium to high acidity. This colour is typical for a Pinot Grigio or Chenin Blanc.
Gold: Ageing white wine impacts not only the taste, but also deepens the colour. Rich oak aged white wines are golden, such as an oaked Chardonnay or Viognier.
Amber: This dark hue is reserved only for fortified or dessert wines, with lower acidity levels from the ageing process.
What colour are our wines and what does it tell you about the taste?
As the name indicates, our Grüner Veltliner is a pale lemon-green, resulting from the cooler climate in Austria and the thin skin that is typical for this grape variety. It is a young herbaceous wine from 2019 with racing acidity.
Our Grenache Rosé is a pale pink, explained by short skin contact. On the palate, the wine is full of summer fruit and juicy oranges, along with pink grapefruit acidity.
Our Old Vine Garnacha has a deep but clear ruby colour, which is also typical for this variety. The fruit is all black cherry and fresh strawberries along with smooth tannins and a chocolate finish.
Written by Marieke Hammes