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The Skin They’re In: Nature’s Palette of Red Wine Grapes

According to a study posted in The Telegraph (UK), wine choice can be a revelation of personality traits. Red wine drinkers are said to be more relaxed, more likely to have a degree, and more likely to be married, than those who choose white or rosé wines.

What did that study say about white wine drinkers? For a similar, equally colourful discussion about paler wines, click to read Niagara White Wine: The Juice, the Whole Juice, and Nothing but the Juice.

Whether the results of the study hold true for red wine, white wine or not at all, there is one fact that is simply indisputable; red wine portrays a simply beautiful array of shades, running the gamut through the spectrum of visible light.

Many Shades of Red

Red wine is made from deeply-pigmented, dark-skinned grapes. White wine, although usually made from lighter-skinned grapes, can also be made from red wine varieties. The greatest difference between red wine and white wine lies not so much with the grapes themselves, but with the winemaking process.

The flesh of most grapes, both red and white, yields pale juice when crushed. Red wine embraces its rich colour palette as the molecules responsible for the tint mix with the juice of the fruit during maceration. Those molecules, mostly from a group identified as phenolic compounds, reside in the skins, seeds, and stems. They perform a sort of chemistry tango with tannins and anthocyanins, giving the wine a broad palette of red hues, from ruby to violet, to maroon to dark red-black, depending on the individual grape variety and location where the grapes were grown.

The tienturier variety of grape, such as the Dunkelfelder, is the only white wine varietal group with pigmented flesh. This grape is often added to blends to intensify the red wine colour.

Grapes grown in vineyards that receive an abundance of sunlight exhibit a greater concentration of phenolic molecules, delivering more vibrant colour. The type of yeast used in fermentation also contributes phenolic compounds, as does the process of aging in oak barrels. All phenolic additions affect the sensual perception of a wine’s colour, nose, taste, and mouthfeel.

As Red Wine Ages…

Red wine which exhibits a bright ruby hue in the glass is likely to have high acidity, while those with more blue and/or colourless pigments are at the opposite end of the acidity scale. As these wines age, the anthocyanin molecules will continue to react with the tannins and other acids in the wine, edging a red wine’s colour toward brick red or brown. When those reactions reach their peak of life, the molecules turn into sediment, gently sinking to the lowest points in the bottle. However, while sedimentation does not mean the wine is bad by any means, it is best not to pour those particles into your wine glass.

Wine aficionados interested in satiating their thirst for colour can further explore fabulous wine choices here.

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