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What gives wine its color?

Wine grapes

There is one thing that is of universal knowledge when it comes to wine: the three broad categories of wine are red, white and rosé, and all three are of different colors. And even within these main groups, there are many variations in color – a white wine may have a slight yellow-green tint, a pale straw color, a gold glow or even a brownish hue; while reds can range from light red to a rich dark violet-red, or a dull brown-orange tint for older wines. As for rosé wines, they can range from pale salmon to magenta. But what exactly gives wine its color? Read below to find out!

Guess what: it’s all in the skins! Pigments are localized in the skin of the grape, not in the juice; and therefore, the color of the wine depends on the winemaking process and how long the must stays in contact with those skins. Some might think that black (red wine) grapes have red juice, although virtually, all black grapes have clear juice, as well as their white counterparts. The winemaking process for reds is simply based on the fermentation in contact with the skins in order to extract the color, tannins and other compounds. On the other hand, white wines are first pressed to extract the juice, which is immediately separated from the skins. That’s a big difference.

It all comes down to the way the winemaker handles the grapes: Champagne is the perfect example. Two of the major grapes used to produce Champagne are Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier — both black grapes. The juice is separated from the skins very early in the process, with no color being extracted. For instance, what we call “Blanc de Noirs” is a white Champagne made from red grapes; as opposed to “Blanc de Blancs”, a white produced with white grapes.

Naturally, when the juice of red grapes is left in contact with the skins, only for a short time, rosé as we know it will be produced.