Look at Your Wine Before You Drink it

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Last time we asked "Why do people look so closely at their glass of wine?" and learned that flaws, such as sediment and dis-colorization can be seen in a wine glass.

But, the color of a wine can also tell you about how it will taste and its age.

With white wines, pale yellow-green color generally indicates a light bodied wine that will have bright, crisp fruit flavors and higher acidity (e.g., Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc). A deep golden colored wine will tend to be full bodied, bolder in flavor and lower in acidity (e.g., Chardonnay).

With red wine, you'll find that those that tend toward pink to light red will be light bodied and bright in flavor (e.g., Beaujolais and Pinot Noir). They may even be a little tart. As the color of a red wine gets darker towards maroon and purple, it will become more full-bodied with bolder and richer flavors (e.g., Zinfandel, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon).

Color can also tell you something about a wine's age.  You know that fruit eventually turns brown with age. This is also true of wines. Older white wines become dull in color and can take on orange and brown tones. This is usually an indication of a wine that is well beyond its peak and will likely have nutty flavors due to oxidation.  With red wines, they too take on brownish tones, especially around the rim of the glass. But, with red wines, this doesn't necessarily indicate that they are beyond their peak. Most older red wines (10 years +) will look this way.

So, next time you are poured a glass of wine, stop and take a moment to look at it and see if you can figure out how it will taste even before your first sip. Cheers!

Exploring Light Bodied Red Wines

Having just completed a series on light, medium and full bodied white wines, it's now time to transition to exploring red wines.

But first, just a quick review of the term 'body' as it relates to wine.  The four major components of a wine's body are formed by the alcohol level, the acidity, the tannin and the sweetness. While white wines have no tannin, red wines are going to have varying levels of tannin and this is really what sets them apart from white wines.

One might think that a rosé wine might be the perfect transition between white wine and red wines. After all, they are pink. And to some extent a rosé certainly does have a bit of both worlds. And that primarily comes from the fact that a rosé wine spends just a bit of time after it's pressed with the skins of the red grapes that they are produced from. That's what gives a rosé its pink color and just a very faint hint of tannin. But that's where the comparison ends. Rosé is going to have a lot more in common with white wine. It's going to have bright and crisp fruit flavors of strawberry and melon, mouth-watering acidity and be quite refreshing. 

The best place to start exploring red wines is with those that are light bodied. But in the past, light bodied red wines were often ignored. And some still are. Take Gamay for example. This grape makes a light, refreshing wine best known from the Beaujolais region of France.  Part of the reason that Gamay often gets ignored is the Beaujolais Nouveau that goes from vine to bottle in just a couple months. These wines are big in fruit and meant for celebrating the harvest, not for aging. This is not a wine for serious wine connoisseurs, collectors or critics. It's simply meant for celebration. So it is not taken too seriously by the wine elite.

But Gamay, of which more than 90% is grown in France, is also a serious grape for producing fine light red wine.  These wines can have flavors of raspberry, red currant, cherry, strawberry and boysenberry. A Gamay wine is very low in tannin and is generally made relatively low in alcohol by volume (ABV). Hence, the light bodied classification. Serve Gamay with a slight chill and you'll find it to be a bright fruit flavored wine with great perfumed aromas.

Next time we'll continue exploring light bodied red wines by getting into the wildly popular Pinot Noir. Until then, cheers!

Light Bodied White Wines Are a Great Place to Start

Last time we took a quick look at one of the characteristics of wine, its body.  A wine's body is simply based on how it feels in your mouth. And a wine's body is affected by its alcohol level, tannin, acidity and sweetness. And each plays a role. So let's explore light bodied wines a bit more. 

Light bodied wines are typically considered to be delicate with subtle flavors. Of the four previously mentioned characteristics of a wine, light bodied wines are lower in alcohol (generally below 12.5%), lower in tannin and sweetness, while being higher in acidity.

For this post, the light bodied wines being discussed are dry white wines.  There are red wines that are considered light bodied (e.g., Gamay and Pinot Noir) but that's relative to other reds, and will be the subject of a future posting.

Light white wines can have herbal, citrus, floral and aromatic tendencies.  The most commonly known light bodied white wine is Sauvignon Blanc (which is labeled as Sancerre, and Pouilly Fumè in France for the regions where it is grown). This is a wonderfully fresh, zippy and refreshing wine. When it is produced in cooler regions (e.g., New Zealand), it can take on aromas of herbs and vegetables such as tarragon, celery, freshly mowed grass and green peppers.  In warmer regions (e.g., California), Sauvignon Blanc transitions to the tropical and citrus fruit flavors such as green melon, grapefruit and lime. This is a wine that is widely popular and goes great with so many foods such as shellfish and soft cheeses.

Other light bodied whites that tend toward citrus and crisp fruit flavors include Pinot Grigio (Pinot Gris), French Chablis, Albariño, Grenache Blanc, Vinho Verde. Unoaked Chardonnays also tend to be crisp and fresh with green apple and citrus flavors.

Light bodied white wines such as Riesling, Chenin Blanc and Muscat Blanc tend to be very aeromatic with highly perfumed floral aromas of sweet fruit. Pinot Blanc, Verdicchio and Vermentino also typically have floral tendencies.

All of these light bodied white wines are able to retain their fruity characteristics by being fermented in stainless steel or concrete tanks versus oak barrels that can add additional flavors and aromas to a wine.

Light bodied white wines are a great place to start if you are just getting into tasting and learned about wines.  They are generally served cold and easy on the palette.  But don't get me wrong. Many of the wines in this category are highly praised, enjoyed by collectors and connoisseur alike and can demand high prices throughout the world. But, they are also some of the most approachable wines.  So try one of these. I think you'll like them. Cheers!