Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
I just read a review of a 2007 Barbaresco, and it said it had slight “bricking on the rim.” They suggested that the wine should be consumed soon. Call me an idiot, but what does “bricking” mean? And how does it correlate with the end of a wine’s life?
—Jonah D., Los Angeles, Calif.
You’re not an idiot! That’s some pretty “Inside Baseball” talk for wine.
In this case, “brick” refers to the color of the wine. As a red wine matures, the saturated dark red and purple colors can start to fade and turn pale, transitioning into orange, brown or brick tones. You’ll notice the color start to change on the edge, or the "rim," of the wine. Have you ever seen a wine lover tilt a wineglass away from them and stare intently? If you tilt a wineglass and look into the light or better yet—a white background—it's easier to observe a wine’s true color rather than by just staring right down into it.
Why does the color change? Red wines get their color from phenolic compounds found in the skins of grapes. A red wine’s color depends on a combination of how thick and pigmented the grapes are to begin with, as well as how much or how little a winemaker extracted these phenolics. After a wine sits in bottle for several years, these phenolics will polymerize, or link together, and drop out of suspension. That’s where sediment comes from, and the reason why a red wine’s color fades.
While there’s a link between a wine’s age and its color, that’s not to say there’s a link between a wine’s color and how much you’re going to like it. Some older wines can be downright pale and brown in color, but taste terrific. But in this case, it sounds like the reviewer is noting that the wine is showing its mature side, and may be past its prime.