Thursday, August 31, 2006

Wine Color Recognition

The color of wine is as important as its taste because it tells us its journey from grape harvest to bottling. To view the color of the wine effectively, the traditional way is to tilt the wine glass against a white background. Very often, in a restaurant setup, a white background in a dimmed environment is almost impossible. What I do is always bring with me a flexible, battery powered reading light to act as the light source that shines into the wine glass. Similarly, it produces a curved edge of varying depths through which the wine appearance can be viewed.

In a professional wine tasting session, the judge will study the few attributes of a wine appearance – Clarity, Color, Viscosity and Bubbles. A bottled wine that is cloudy or hazy may be considered unacceptable by most consumers. It is because in a commercial winery, sediment should be racked off or finned by the time the wine is bottled. Although a cloudy wine may not necessarily taste bad, it could affect one’s perceived quality.

A wine’s color can be described by its hue and depth. Hue is defined as the shades or tint whereas depth describes the brightness or intensity. A wine’s color indicates the maturity of grape at harvest, duration of skin contact, barrel aging etc. One can almost imagine the journey of viticulture and vinification of the wine. For example, a colorless white wine may indicate that the grapes are immature whereas a yellowish color wine could be due to the over-mature grapes. In a red wine, the longer the skin contact, the more intense is the color. When a white wine is aged in barrel, gold tints are increased whereas a red wine will lose its color density. Eventually, all wines take on a tawny brown shades over the long aging process. When the wine glass is tilted against a white background, we can observe a range of color characteristics, a gradation of wine depths. The rim of wine gives the best guess of its age. A purplish rim indicates youth in a red wine, a brownish tint on the rim is the result of aging. To judge the color depth, simply look directly down into the wine glass from the top.

Common color descriptors include purplish red, ruby, mahogany, tawny, pale yellow, straw yellow, gold, amber ..etc Qualifiers such as pale, medium, dark help to express the color intensity, giving a fuller description to the wine.

Copyright of Wine Treasures Pte Ltd

By Cher Lim
Wine Treasures Pte Ltd



Blogger Brent Shinyeda said...

Hi Cher
When it comes to color, I also look at the brightness. We use terms like day-bright or star-bright to describe how the wine reflects light.
On the '89- you had an amazing bottle of wine and didn't mention how it was! Did it live up to its reputation, what did you taste, and did you pair any food with it? I had a bottle of'61 once. There was a little cedar in the nose and light dusty cassis on the palate. The tannins were almost tea-like. A very good wine, but it started to detoriate after about 30 minutes. I think there was a storage issue at some point.
Talk to you soon.

Mon Sep 04, 05:56:00 AM  
Blogger Cher Lim said...

Dear Brent,

The use of these descriptors is quite innovative. They give a new dimension to color perception.

Yes, Haut Brion 89 is an excellent wine, probably the best that I have tried so far. The color is still ruby, towards garnet in some tones. It has a plummy nose with some trace of licorice. As the wine breathes, the spiced smoky character surfaces giving it complexity. It has a nice sweet entry upon drinking, "rich" is probably the best descriptor I can think of for this wine. The tannins are smooth and fully integrated.

I like the wine very much. Yes, we had some food to pair with. It is stewed pork ribs in soya sauce, with local spices as usual for Singapore food. The matching is almost perfect because the richness of the wine blends into the spices on the meat, giving it a superb finish.

I am so impressed by the 89 vintage that I will try the La Mission Haut Brion 89 next week.
More on this next week ..

Best Wishes,

Mon Sep 04, 11:01:00 PM  

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