Where do colors in wines come from? It seems like an easy question to answer, but the fact of the matter is a bit more complicated than it would initially appear. Today we'll focus on the color in white and rose wines, and next week delve into the intricacies of red wine and the ever elusive orange wine.
First of all, the color of a wine is almost entirely derived from color compounds in the skins of the grapes called anthocyanins. (There is a small family of grapes with red-colored flesh called teinturier grapes, but only a small percentage of red wines in the world are made from these.) Anthocyanins are responsible for the colors of a wide range of fruits and vegetables, and can actually have different hues depending on the pH of the item -- at wine pH most of the anothocyanins present are colorless, but a small percentage are red, blue, or purple in color, and these are responsible for the color of the wine.
White wines typically are made from grapes that have very little pigment to their skins, and they are very limited in the amount of skin contact that they receive so as not to pick up too many anthocyanins from the skins. For example, grapes like Pinot Gris (see photo below) and Gewurztraminer are actually a pinkish hue, but the wines that are made from them are white because of the limited skin contact that they receive.
Rose wines are typically made in the same way that white wines are, with limited skin contact, but they will often receive a short period of maceration time on skins (typically just a few hours, but occasionally up to a few days - see graphic below) to pick up just enough color to produce the pink hue so many of us are so fond of. These are also made from grapes that have the potential to produce red wines, as the concentration of color in pinkish colored grapes generally isn't enough to produce the sort of color you'd want or expect from a rose wine.
Stay tuned next week for more info on wine color!
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