Ask a Wine Pro: The Color of Wine

How wine gets its color and the oddball grape that bleeds red

Welcome to another installment of Ask a Wine Pro, wherein sommelier and all-around wine lady Whitney Adams answers any and all of your wine-soaked questions.

Q: How does wine get its color?

A: This is a question I actually get a lot. To most, the color of wine seems obvious, “it’s from the juice, right?” Well, no. And yes, sometimes, but we’ll get to that in a second. Almost all of the world’s wine grapes have clear juice and pulp beneath their skin, whether the grape is white or red (or gris). To extract color, the juice has to macerate with the skins. In the realm of red grapes, red wines spend the most time on the skins, where a rosé spends less. With white grapes, skins don’t spend any time mingling with the juice, unless the desired effect is an “orange wine” or skin contact white wine.

But, there are some magical and special red grapes that actually have red juice. While exploring eastern Napa’s Dollarhide Ranch, I saw firsthand the exception to the general grape juice rule: Alicante Bouschet. This red-skinned grape with red juice and pulp is referred to as a teinturier and is typically used as a blending grape to add color to a wine. It would also be the perfect bloody eyeball Halloween prop. Just saying.

Do you have a vino-related question you’re itching to ask? Leave a comment here or email Whitney at [email protected]