Contrary to popular belief, red wine does not get its color from the juice of red grapes, nor does all white wine come from white grapes. That being said, there are exceptions to this rule, such as Alicante bouche but grape juice is fairly clear across the board. So how is it then that wine achieves its beautiful variation of color? The answer, my friend, is hidden in the skin.
The process by which red wine is created is almost identical to the creation of white wine. So similar in fact, the go to bubbly for celebration is primarily made from Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Yes, you read that right; Champagne is made from red grapes.
When making white wine, the winemakers will remove the skins (white or red) immediately after pressing. If red grapes have been used and the skins are left behind with the juice, the juice will then begin to extract color from the skins and thus take on the red hue of the skins themselves. The longer the skins are allowed to ferment with the juice, the more color the liquid is able to extract from the skins. Grape skins also contain tannins- contributors to the wine’s sweetness.
Other key contributors to a wines' color and depth are the thickness of the skin, length of hang time while still on the vine, duration of cold soak, and extended maceration. To highlight the thickness of the skin, it is important to be aware this aspect has one of the greatest influences of color. When considering cabernet sauvignon, grapes with very thick skins, and then comparing to the thinner-skinned pinot noir, both exhibit a gorgeous red color but the thickness of the cabernet sauvignon skins allows wine makers to obtain the deep, vibrant ruby red for which the wine is known.
In addition to the aforementioned, important factors to achieving a wines' color are fermentation at high temperatures, age, oxidation, acidity (pH levels), and sulfite additives.
One thing we know for certain, from pale straw to deep salmon, ruby red, garnet and tawny, we love wine in every variation of color and for the love and devotion captured in every bottle.