Topic of the Week 5/14/18 - Masters

Cheers to , , and for last week's responses on Extended Maceration!

This week: Red Wine Color in Tasting

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

  • I'm not quite sure if I'm answering this correctly, but I'm going to take a swing at it.  First (and probably most obviously), the varietal chemistry and makeup will show a lot on sight alone:  thin-skinned grapes with a lower anthocyanin content will yield lighter-hued and clearer wines, where thicker-skinned grapes with higher anthocyanin content will be deeper in color and more opaque.  Certain varietals are also known to show specific secondary colors, especially in the rim (magenta with Malbec, orange-ish with Nebbiolo). 

    After thinking about varietal, age factors in.  Youthful wines tend to be brighter and have a more consistent concentration of color.  The more bottle age the wine has, the more the color will tend towards garnet/tawny, and the rim variation will be more pronounced.  The appearance of haziness or sediment in a youthful wine can be due to the wine being unfiltered, whereas a more developed wine will show sediment due to the tannins falling out of suspension. 

    Then, there are winemaking factors to consider.  Piggybacking on last week's topic, cold-soaking can increase extraction of color, whereas extended post-fermentation maceration will lower the final anthocyanin content because they get reabsorbed by the skins.  Likewise with whole bunch or whole cluster fermentations--they tend to lower final anthocyanin content.  Co-fermentation with white grapes can also deepen the final color in red wines.  

    Then there's the tearing, which I've always thought to be indicative of wines of higher alcohol, but is actually due to the Marangoni effect, which (to my understanding) has to do with the surface tension between the liquid and glass vis a vis the rate of evaporation of ethanol along the meniscus...  Anyway, the common understanding is that tears that are thicker and slower to form are related to higher alcohol and/or levels of residual sugar.  

    Put all these things together, figure out who uses which winemaking technique paired with which varietal(s) in which region of the world aged for which period of time, and voila.  You've deduced the wine based on sight alone.  

    Fernando Beteta will often blind students on sight alone (sometimes, even putting plastic wrap on top of the glass so as to eliminate the temptation to sniff), making us go through the deductive tasting grid in its entirety before then being able to smell/taste the wine and make the appropriate adjustments.  

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