Topic of the Week 9/11/17 - Masters

Last week we didn't have any have any responses to the soils of Brunello di Montalcino, so here are a few good resources:

Central Italy Study Guide

Wine Folly (Brunello di Montalcino)

Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino


In the spirit of upcoming Advanced and MS exams, this week's topic focuses on Blind Tasting:

From a blind tasting perspective, discuss the various elements that can impact color in white wines.

  • Oxidation, most commonly introduced to the wine through barrel aging, bottle aging, or both. Shifts core color towards gold, amber, and ultimately brown. Prolonged barrel aging tends to create more pronounced rim variation over a narrower band, whereas extended bottle aging produces more even variation in an even fade to the core.

    Anthocyanins from lightly pigmented or only briefly soaked grapes, namely the copper hues in Gewürztraminer and pinot gris/gio

    Carotenoids in the skins of the grape, a function of very sunny climes like Santa Barbara ("grape suntan"); my tip-off to this is usually when a wine presents color that looks oxidized but with minimal rim variation and then presents resoundingly youthful on the nose.

    Somewhere between cooler climate raising acidity and usually meaning less sunshine arises the effect of cooler climate wines having paler core concentration and rims out to silver or platinum. I know there is a mechanism whereby higher-acid musts inhibit color fixation in red wines, but as I understand it that only works with anthocyanins - can any winemaker guildsommers weigh in on if there is a parallel effect in white wine?

  • In reply to Mark Guillaudeu:

    Wine making and vineyard conditions also come into play. Extended skin maceration can produce wines of deeper hues with more intense color concentration. In the case of Pinot Gris the skin maceration can give wines a more golden color or a pink tint. Both of these being classic visual markers for Pinot Gris; the golden color from the maceration and the pink from the fact that it's a white wine made from red skinned grapes.

    Botrytis affected white wines can also produce wines of a richer, more golden hue. In the case of Chenin blanc the presence and/or varying levels of botrytis could be a marker to Vouvray or Savennières; particularly ones of higher quality.
  • Oak aging as mentioned previously can impact the color.

    Winegrowing - larger crop loads (for the varietal used) will usually results in more lightly colored wines in the end.

    Also - winemaking plays a part, I know we don't often see these examples, but if you've ever tried smaller/newer/garagiste producers there are a number of faults that can impact color, mostly microbial based.
    I remember one of the winemakers showed me a white wine that had no color - literally it was clear like water. That batch had a microbial fault and if I recall correctly had to be filtered multiple times again, fined and then clarified again until it ended up being watery.

    It had no actual use as a wine I would put on a list and I would never sell it, but it made for a very tasty sangria base! :-)

  • In reply to Wanda Cole-Nicholson:

    I was wondering about botrytis and its influence on color - but had assumed that in the same way that 28 brix cali cab undergoes field oxidation by getting to that ripeness level, likewise botrytis necessitates a large degree of field oxidation, especially when I think of things like Rheingau kab and up.

    Or is it contributing coloration distinctly its own apart from oxidation? And if so what is the mechanism?
  • Pinot Gris / Grigio can sometimes have a brassy color much like a Trumpet or Trombone that is beginning to tarnish. Viognier and Gewürztraminer can have pigment in the "golden" hue without barrel aging or oxidation. When Syrah is cofemented with Viognier it has a color like Eggplant under fluorescent lighting (think that vivid color of eggplant in a grocery store). I find this more so with Australia than with Côe-Rôtie. Malbec is generally opaque with a purple rim. Carmenère is generally opaque with a crimson rim. Chenin Blanc tends not to have any green secondary colors. Zinfandel is not opaque but stains the tears. These are all complete generalizations and can be clues to help with the deduction.