What makes red wine, red?

Red wine gets its color from contact with skins during fermentation - a process called maceration

Become a wine expert (part 7) - So you're saying red grapes actually have clear juice? 
Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying.  Many people believe that red wine comes from red grapes and white wine comes from white grapes.  While this is usually the case, it is for a different reason than most would assume.

The juice from almost all grapes is actually clear!  So if grape juice is clear, then what makes red wine, red? Most of the color in wine actually comes from skin contact during fermentation (also known as maceration). The skins of the grapes contain most of the pigment and during fermentation, a lot of this color is imparted into the wine.  This is also where much of the tannin in wine comes from as well as the antioxidants and polyphenols that make red wine healthy come from.

So, next time you're out to dinner with friends, come armed with this fun fact, and if they don't believe you - tell them to order a glass of Champagne then ask the server what grapes go into Champagne.  They'll probably be surprised to hear Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier (two red grapes) come out of the server's mouth. This is definitive proof that one can make white wine with red grapes, red wine from red grapes, and white wine from white grapes.  One cannot, however, make red wine from white grapes, but through maceration (which white wines rarely get much of - if any) one can make orange wine from white grapes - something we'll get into another time.  The final of the three primary grapes used in Champagne production is Chardonnay.  


Robert Wilson, CSW


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