YAKIMA, Wash. -- A wine’s color is its most recognizable characteristic. Red wine comes from red grapes. White wine almost always comes from white grapes.
But did you know that red wine grapes have clear juice? Color comes from the wine’s contact with grape skins during fermentation. While the skins are soaking in the juice, they are staining the wine. The amount of skin contact (time the skins have with the juice), impacts the color of the wine. For instance, rosé has limited skin contact, creating a lighter color.
February is the month we embrace the color red. Valentine’s Day and Red Wine & Chocolate weekend include greeting cards, chocolate and wine — all wrapped in various shades of red. If your Valentine plans include a bottle of wine or a tasting excursion during the event weekend, here are a few pointers on what the color in your glass is telling you.
A wine’s color offers clues in determining age, quality, and in some cases tannin levels.
Hues, colors of red wine
Young rosé wines are going to be bright purple-pink or salmon colored, while red wine will fall into four basic categories:
• Purple: characteristic of a young wine with short or no aging in oak or tank.
• Ruby: the most common color of red wine, a ruby wine is a clearly bright red wine.
• Garnet: tainted by orange hues, making the wine look a bit brown.
• Tawny: an evolved red color with clear brown hues.
If a wine is old, has been poorly stored, or the cork seal has failed, allowing air to damage the wine, then it is described as out-of-condition. These wines will be dull in appearance and have a hint of brown. A healthy, older wine may have brown hints; check the vintage if you see brown in your glass. Holding the glass in front of a plain white surface helps evaluate color.
Next, look at the intensity of the color. How deep or intense is the color of the wine? Is it pale with small amounts of pigment or is it impossible to see through?
The basic levels of intensity are pale, medium and deep. Again, lift your glass in front of a clean white background. Is the color pale, deep or somewhere in between? I like to look straight down from the top of the glass and see if I can see the stem through the wine. If I can’t, the wine is definitely deep. Wines with more intense colors tend to be bolder and have higher tannins.
The following are examples of wines that reflect the three levels of color intensity:
• Pale color. Mildbrant Vineyard will release its 2018 Rosé during the Red Wine & Chocolate event weekend. Mark your calendar to get your hands on this new release. The wine is bright and lively with good acid and round fruit-driven flavors with a crisp, clean finish.
• Medium color. Sleeping Dog Wines just west of Benton City produces a beautiful carménère with flavors of raspberry, plum and blackberry. This wine is a consistent winner of wine competitions throughout the West Coast and a great example of a wine with medium intensity, color and body.
• Deep color. Thurston Wolfe 2013 Geologist is a gold medal winner at the San Francisco Wine Competition and a personal favorite. If it lasts until Red Wine & Chocolate, this wine is slated for deep discounts to Premier Pass holders during the event weekend.
Whatever your red wine plans are for February, look at the color in your glass and see what the wine is telling you.
• Barbara Glover is executive director of Wine Yakima Valley, an industry group representing member wineries.