Wine Guides / How to Look at Wine

How to Look at Wine

An insight on how to look at wine to get the best experience

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When it comes to evaluating a wine, one of the most important things that you can do is examine the color and hue of the wine. Before you swirl, smell or sip the wine, you should first take some time to familiarize yourself with its color. Over time, you will see that the color of wine can help to reveal some of its unique characteristics, such as whether or not it has been aged in an oak barrel. It will also signal how deep or full the wine will probably taste.


First observations


In order to judge the color of the wine properly, you will need to hold it up against a white background, preferably in natural lighting conditions. You don’t want to hold the wine up against a light source (such as an overhead lamp), and you certainly don’t want to hold the glass of wine up against direct sunlight. A white background works best because it will enable the true hue of the color to become very obvious,


Moreover, a quick review of the color will also tell you a lot about how long the grapes were in contact with their grape skins. As a general rule of thumb, the more time the grapes have been in contact with their skins, the darker and bolder the color of the wine will be. To understand why this is the case, think about other fruits – such as apples or oranges – and how their surrounding skins can impact the overall flavor sensations you experience. A little orange zest, for example, is usually enough to flavor a drink of any kind.


White wine: Color


White wines can range in color dramatically, from nearly clear to a golden straw-like color. As a general rule of thumb, the clearer the color, the more crisp and refreshing the wine will be. Moreover, a very light or bright coloring to the wine will usually be a good indication that the wine has not been aged in an oak barrel. On the other hand, a very deep and full yellow color is a good indication that aging in oak has occurred. As a result, these white wines will be smoother, fuller and richer. This is the reason, for example, why un-oaked Chardonnay will look and taste very different from an oaked Chardonnay. Just by pouring out these two Chardonnay wines in glasses next to each other, you will be able to observe this phenomenon.


Red wine: Color


Just like white wines, red wines can also very in color considerably, from a light red or pinkish color to maroon to purple. As you move along the color spectrum, from light red to dark red, you will notice how the overall taste of the wine will change as well. As a general rule, light red wines (such as a Rosé) will be fresher, lighter, and brighter. Darker red wines (such as Cabernet Sauvignon) will be bolder and richer. Since aging in oak is such an important part of wine production, it’s perhaps not surprising that, the longer a red wine ages in oak, the more it will start to acquire the characteristics of oak. And, at the same time, the darker the wine will appear.


So, as you can see, there is a lot that you can tell about a wine just by observing its color. As part of your wine tasting notes, you will definitely want to consider the color and specific hue of the wine. Once you’ve determined the color of the wine, it’s time to swirl the wine to unlock its true flavor characteristics.