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What Gives Wine Its Color?

One thing you certainly know about wine, even if you don’t know a lot about the subject, is that different wines are of different colors. Obviously, there are the three broad categories of white, red and rose (also known as blush) wines, but even within these groups there are many variations in color. A white wine may have a slight greenish tint, a pale straw or honey toned color to it or even be so light in color as to be nearly clear. By the same token, reds range from light reds to inky purple-black in hue. What accounts for these differences? If you’re curious, then keep reading – we’ll cover the most important factors which influence the color of wine below.

It’s (Almost) All In The Skins

If you’ve used wine making kits before, you may or may not know this important fact about wine, since most home winemakers who work with kits and even many of those who have their own custom set of wine making supplies use juice concentrates to make their wine. As you know, wine is made from grapes and while the general rule is that green grapes make white wine and red, purple or black grapes make red wine, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, champagne is generally made from grapes which are a dark purple in color.

As it happens, grape juice is all more or less the same color regardless of the color of the grape’s skin. The juice inside ranges from essentially colorless to a pale golden color – and where the differences in color in the finished product come in is the grape skins.

In the traditional wine making process, the skins are allowed to stay in with the juice for a longer time, allowing their color to leach into the must and give red wines their characteristic color. Even with white wines, the amount of time that the skins remain in the must do have an effect on the wine’s color. By removing the skins or straining off the juice shortly after crushing the grapes, you can make white wines from any kind of grape – as in the example of champagne given above. Rose wines are made by allowing the skins of red grapes to remain in contact with the juice for a short amount of time.

So What About Varietals?

The kind of grapes also make a difference, since darker grapes will result in a darker colored wine when their skins are allowed to soak with the juice. As you can see, it’s a matter of both time and the type of grape involved in the wine making process. Of course, you don’t need to be concerned with this when you use ready-made wine making supplies and juice concentrates, but it is a fascinating aspect of the art of wine making which you can share and amaze friends with your knowledge as a vintner.