Why Is Red Wine Red?

This seems like it should be obvious. That red wine is made with red grapes and is therefore, red in color. But, sparkling wines (which are certainly not always red) are often made using the lovely red grape, Pinot Noir. So why is red wine red?

White wine and red wine go through different steps in the winemaking process. One of the key differences is that red winemaking includes a “maceration” step whereas white wine does not. After the red wine grapes are crushed, the must (or grape’s juice) is mixed with the grape skins and stems. This is called the “maceration” process.  It is the grape skins that give red wine its color (and also help form the tannins in the red wine). In contrast, white wine juice is crushed and pressed from the grape and then kept separate from the skins. When red grapes are used to make non-red colored wine, the grape must is kept separate from the skins, and therefore doesn’t absorb all that dark red color.

Wine Know Side Note: When you buy a sparkling wine that has “Blanc de Noir” on the label, that is a sparkling wine most likely made (in part) with Pinot Noir grapes.

Remember that I Love Lucy episode when Lucy is stomping the grapes with the Italian woman? Stomping of the grapes was sorta like the maceration processes of today. (Though they stopped stomping grapes well before this episode and switched to machines.)

Lucy stomping (macerating) grapes.

Lucy stomping (macerating) grapes.

There are a few different methods winemakers can use to macerate grapes. But all in all, it is that step in the winemaking process that is unique to red wines, and ultimately makes red wine red!

 

What Are Tannins?

Happy Friday, Friends! As you frequent your local wine bars this weekend, wow your fellow winos with this bit of Wine Know!

“Tannins”.

It’s one of those words you really only hear while drinking wine. Maybe sometimes among the tea crowd as well. But what the heck are they and how did they get in the wine?

How do you know when you’re tasting tannins?

You know when you drink some red wines that leave you with that mouth-drying feeling? It can feel like a chalky texture on your palate. Well, those are the tannins making themselves known. For some, it is most strongly felt around the gums, but those sensations are also felt throughout your palate along your tongue and cheeks. This is also referred to as having a “dry mouthfeel”. Often times, strong tannins hit you a little after you take the sip of wine (15 seconds or more).

What are tannins?

Tannins are a naturally occurring phenolic compound that are caused by the grape skins, stems, and seeds. It is where those antioxidants come from that make red wine so good for your health! It also serves as a natural preservative which is why some red wines can age for a longer period of time than whites.

Are tannins in all wines?

No! Tannins are only found in red wines.  That’s because red wine is made by macerating (or mixing) the juice of the grape with the skins, stems, and seeds. White wine is only made from the grape’s juice (or must); the skins, stems, and seeds are not mixed with the juice in the winemaking process.

Are there different tannin levels?

Yes! You can have “soft” tannins or “hard” tannins. Red wines with soft tannins are sometimes described as “velvety” or “lush”. Soft tannins are often found in Merlot. Wines with hard tannins are sometimes described as “harsh” or “astringent”. Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc often have hard tannins.

So for my desert friends, think of the affect the desert has on your palate – it dries out your mouth and throat. Well, tannins do pretty much the same thing. And both will leave you with a headache if you don’t stay hydrated!

Tannin Wine Know

Tannin Wine Know