Making Wine Sense: Sight with Red Wine

Last week, we kicked off the “Making Wine Sense” series where we explore how wine tasting involves all 5 senses.  We started with using our eye SIGHT and how you can tell what to expect from a sip of white wine based on color alone. And now on to sight with red wine!

SIGHT (Red Wine)

Color (or Hue)

Just as with white wines, we can tell a lot just from the color of red wines. And knowing a little about what you’re going to sip on before you sip on it can enhance your wine tasting experience. (Who doesn’t want an enhanced tasting experience?!)

While white wine goes from pale to yellowy to amber tones, red wine goes from purple to ruby to brick. For technical evaluations, red wine is described using following colors:

  • Purple
  • Reddish Violet
  • Cherry
  • Ruby
  • Garnet
  • Brick Red

Just by looking at the wine once in the glass, we can deduce a few things.

  • Age: In red wines, the color of the wine gets lighter as it ages. They will also get a bit of an orange hue as the mature (or overmature).  What do I mean “for their style”? Well, a Pinot Noir grape is not particularly dark (compared to a Zinfandel grape). But a younger Pinot Noir will be darker than an older Pinot Noir. However, a young Pinot Noir will probably not be as dark as a young Zinfandel. (That’s why the chart below is handy – it tells you what color you can expect a varietal to be.)
  • Body: The color of the wine also helps us deduce the body of the wine. Lighter colored wines are generally lighter bodied (Pinot Noir, Beaujolais) and darker wines are going to be more full-bodied (Cabernet, Syrah, Malbec).
  • Oak and Fruit: Color does not provide quite the indicator of oak or fruit flavors in red wines as it does in white wines.

The key thing is that once you know you like cherry colored reds a lot, then you can explore other varietals that are in that same color range. You may find some consistency with color and delighting your palate!

Making Wine Sense: Color Indications for Red Wine #makingwinesense

Making Wine Sense: Color Indications for Red Wine #makingwinesense

Clarity

The clarity factor is the same with reds as it is with whites. You want bright color and clearness in your wines. A cloudy, hazy, or oily looking wine indicates there is a fault in it and it may not be good to drink.

Red wines could have some sediment in them. If you do seem some sediment in the bottle, it’s likely you’ll be sampling a full-bodied wine. (Of course, you want to avoid getting the sediment in your glass because no one wants to sip on a wine with bits of stuff in them.) But if you do, then leave that last sip in the glass so you don’t find yourself chewing on it!!

 

So… what color wine are you sipping on tonight?? Do you feel like its color range aligns with its body??

Making Wine Sense: Sight with White Wine

Enjoying a bottle of wine is a multi-faceted experience and is one of many reasons why I love it so! In some capacity, it involves all five of our senses… sight, smell, taste, touch/feel, and even hearing. This is why Wine Star Services doesn’t talk about wine “tasting” events – we talk about wine “experiences”.  As every wino knows, there’s so much more to it than just tasting!

“Taste” may be the most commonly associated sense when it comes to wine… that makes sense. But how can we use our other senses to further evaluate, understand, and experience wines?

So, welcome to Wine Star’s “Making Wine Sense” series! Each post will be focused on a different sense and how we use it when enjoying wine. Today, we shall start with SIGHT when enjoying white wines.

SIGHT

What can we tell from looking at a glass of wine? To start, we can see if it is red or white. That’s kind of a big deal. But then what? There are two primary aspects to evaluating wine by sight. (1) Color and (2) Clarity.

Color (or Hue)

Evaluating the color of a wine tells us a lot. It will help us prepare for what to expect when tasting it.  And that’s important. Think about if someone blindfolded you and told you they were going to feed you a blueberry but instead they fed you a grapefruit? It sorta jolts your senses and makes it hard to enjoy. It’s the same with wine. If you expected one flavor and got another, you may be turned off by it even though it is one you’d otherwise enjoy.

Sometimes white wines have almost no color and other times you get a deep golden or amber color. What can we deduce from looking at the color alone?

The color scale for white wines is generally described as follows:

  • no color
  • pale green
  • straw yellow
  • canary yellow
  • golden yellow
  • amber

Or to keep it simple, it’s perfectly acceptable to think of this range in more generic terms such as: pale, light, medium, dark.

There are a handful of things that we can evaluate based on the color alone:

  • Age: Lighter color wines tend to be younger, while darker colored wines indicate they’ve been aged longer. When there is a brownish hue to a white wine, that could mean it is past its “peak” drinking time. It doesn’t always mean it’s bad, but just that it may not be drinking as splendidly as it once did.
  • Oak: Light colored white wines most likely didn’t touch any oak in its fermentation/aging process. Wine that has a straw/canary/golden color has likely been aged in oak for a short time. Sitting in oak adds the yellowish color to the wine.
  • Fruit Flavors/Acidity: Lighter color wines will likely be less fruit forward in flavor and have higher acid. Whereas darker colored wines will exhibit more fruitiness and less acidity.
  • Residual Sugar: Dessert wines have high residual sugar (which makes them sweet), and this will show itself via golden or amber colors in the wine.
  • Oxidation: If your white wine looks a bit brown, it may have been exposed to too much oxygen (probably through the cork) and is probably not so good to drink. If it smells funky, then perhaps it’s time to pull out another bottle.

Here’s a little chart to help break all this down using part of the Munsell Color Tree.

Making Wine Sense: Color Indications for White Wine

Making Wine Sense: Color Indications for White Wine

Clarity

Once you pour a glass of wine, look to see how clear it is before drinking it.  To really evaluate, look straight down into the glass and then hold the wine at an angle (almost like you’re going to pour it out). Is there a cloudiness to it? Or is it clear or bright?

Things that are bad: cloudy, hazy, oily looking wines

Things that are good: Bright color, clearness, sparkling

The “bad” characteristics are just faults in the wine. If you notice any of those characteristics, you probably want to pass on the wine.

Why Should Winos Care About Color or Clarity?

In my humble wino opinion, understanding what YOU like to drink is The Most Important Thing. If you like a wine that is very pale in color, chances are you’ll tend to like other pale colored wines. Which means, you probably like young, unoaked, acidic whites.  If you tend to like golden colored white wines, chances are that you prefer oaked, fruity whites.

Knowing this means it will be easier to select a bottle at the wine store next time – and feel confident that you’ll like it! So go out there and try something new that has a similar color to a wine you already know you like!

Next we’ll post about color indications in red wines! It’s a whole different evaluation.