I have got to sound a call for equality. No longer will I accept a judgment of a wine based on its color.
Every night, I hear it as soon as I begin to pour, especially if it’s a red that’s inky black: “Wow, that’s gonna be great!” And it gives me pause to consider, what is color in wine and what does it have to do with quality?
I can tell you that essentially color comes from the pigment found in the grape skins and it makes its way into the wine during maceration (when the grapes and their juice sit together in a fermentation vessel). It’s like tea leaves steeping in hot water—the longer you leave the leaves in there, the darker the tea will be.
I can also tell you that much like dogs or marbles or cars, grapes vary. They come in many colors and the thickness of the grape skins vary as well. Thus we see light-skinned grapes, dark-skinned grapes, thin-skinned grapes and thicker-skinned grapes. It follows that you will have lighter wines and darker wines. This is good. Diversity is the spice of life and is important for many reasons.
I would expect Pinot Noir or Grenache, with their lighter skins, to produce wines with lighter colors. Similarly I would expect Cabernet and Malbec, with their darker skins, to produce darker wines.
However, too often I see judgment passed at first sight. “Oh, that is awfully light…” customers say with a tone of disdain. And it is here that the mistake is made. We have already established that color will vary, and it has little to do with quality. If the Cabernet is particularly light or the Pinot especially opaque, that might raise some questions, but the answers only come in tasting. The pleasure I find in wine is largely derived from the aromas, tastes and textures.
So I just want to point out that we do not taste color nor do we smell color. Frankly, color is the last thing I worry about. Instead of searching out the darkest wine I can find, I much prefer to smell and taste something delicious. For the pleasure of the visual, I’ll stick with something beautiful like a Manet, Monet or Mona (my wife.)
Brent Fraser — March 6, 2008 1:37am ET
John Osgood — New York, NY — March 6, 2008 10:22am ET
Stuart Waldron — Cashiers, NC — March 6, 2008 12:01pm ET
Sandy Fitzgerald — Centennial, CO — March 6, 2008 6:34pm ET
Dale Rouse — March 6, 2008 10:58pm ET
Richard Betts — denver airport at present — March 7, 2008 1:37pm ET
Bernard Kruithof — San Antonio, Texas — March 8, 2008 7:18pm ET
Jack Stoakes — Colorado — March 9, 2008 2:14pm ET
Jason Thompson — Foster City, CA — March 10, 2008 9:00pm ET
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