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How to Define Color and Intensity of a Wine

This lesson is a part of an audio course Wine Course with an International Expert by Matteo Girardi

In our previous lesson, you learned the characteristics of some grape varieties planted around the world.

Now we will start to learn how to write a tasting note. The first step is to assess the intensity and the colour of the wines.

For professionals, the best hour to taste a wine is around noon, for two reasons.

You have a good natural light, and your taste buds are excited because they are waiting for food.

When you assess the colour, you need to hold the glass of your wine against a white surface, at a 45° angle.

You need to look through the wine from above.

The central part of the wine is called core, and you must look where the wine is deepest.

The rim is where the wine has the shallowest depth.

To assess if the intensity of the white wine is pale, you check if the rim is broad and transparent, with just a few pigments of colour only on the core.

To assess if the intensity of the white wine is deep, you check if the pigments of colour from the core extend to the rim.

How do we assess the intensity of a red wine?

To assess if the intensity of the red wine is pale, you look at the wine through an upright glass. You should have around 5 centilitres in your glass.

If you clearly see the stem and your fingers, then the intensity of the red wine is pale.

If you do not see the stem and your fingers, the intensity is deep!

Now let us define the colour of the wine.

To define the colour of a white wine, you need to check on the core, holding the glass at a 45° angle, because if there are some pigments of colour they are to be found there, on the core.

You do the same for red wines. You assess the colour on the core.

Sometimes, with very deep red wines, you should move little bit towards the rim to assess the colour.

Generally, the colours used to describe a white wine are lemon, gold or amber.

Most of the white wines will be pale lemon.

But if we have some hints of orange, we can say that the colour is gold.

If the brown becomes more evident, we could say the wine is amber.

If the wine is just lemon, it has probably spent no time, or little, in oak barrels. Like a simple inexpensive Pinot Grigio (another white grape variety).

If the wine is gold, then it has probably spent some time in an oak barrel, like for example a Sauternes.

If it is amber this could be a sign of prolonged contact with oxygen in the barrel, like a Tokaji.

For red wine we use the terms: ruby, purple and garnet. Most red wines will be ruby. Some can have hints of purple or blue and can be described as purple. Some are garnet, when there is some orange or brown, but the wine is still red.

The garnet probably is a sign of age.

To clearly define the intensity and the colour of a wine it can be useful to first understand the grape variety, not only the age.

For example, if you say the wine is pale ruby, you could think of a Pinot Noir, because the Pinot Noir has thin skins. Thin skin means paler colour.

If you swirl the wine in your glass, you should notice arches forming on the glass. There is a legend saying that if you have many arches it is a sign of quality of wine. This is not true!

But it could be an indication of the level of alcohol in the glass, more arches mean probably more alcohol. This effect is called the Gibbs Marangoni effect.

Your task for this lesson is to pour yourself a glass of wine, to swirl the wine in the glass and to check how many arches are forming. This could be perfect to try with a high alcohol wine, around 15%. You could try to recognize the colour.

In our next lesson, you will learn how to smell a wine and how to start to recognize the aromas.

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Written by

Matteo Girardi