The Colour and Tint of Red Wine Grapes

Wed, 06/22/2011 - 07:15 -- admin

Pinot Noir is an almost transparent grape whose colouring matter is weak.  Of a ruby red with a hint of purple when young, it takes on a brick red tint at maturity.  The colour of grand crus and premier crus can develop into a garnet red with tile red tint when aged for a decade.  Responsible for the famous red wines of the Cote d’Or, it is among the most delivate varieties, capable of displaying its finest qualities only in the noblest of soil, with a low yield and careful vinification.  When these conditions are not respected, it can produce an ordinary wine of little colour and great acidity

Cabernet Sauvignon, very fashionable these days, is planted all over the world.  A leading grape variety in the Bordelais, in particular witht eh classified growths of Medoc, it begins life with a purple colour with a purple red tint, developing into ruby with a garnet tint when mature.  If it is a grand cru, during exceptional years it turns to a tile red colour with an orangey tint, a sign of its great complecity.  In France, it is often assembled with merlot, cabernet franc, and petit verdot, but this practice is not so common in other countries.  A resistant variety of late maturity, contrary to its blending companion, the merlot, it reaches its apogee particularly during sunny months of September and October in the northern hemisphere and of March in the southern hemisphere.

Syrah, like Cabernet, is currently very popular all over the world.  Symbolic of countries like Australia, where it is known as shiraz, this variety is also grown in Chile, Italy and Spain.  King of the northern Rhone valley, where it gives birth to such prestigious appellations as Cornas, Hermitage, and Cote-Rotie, its colouring matter is very deep and rich, with blue and black tints at the beginning of life.  Chromatic development is quite slow, passing from a violet purple to garnet at the moment of its maturity.  This variety has a long life and can produce a slight hint of tile red after fifteen years.  But if can also be consumed young, when the taster observes its purplish red.  It thrives in a sunny, autumnal Indian summer, which preserves the natural acidity of its grapes and their phenolic maturity.  Its fruit, gathered when both skins and pips are fully ripe, provides a bouquet that is rich in aroma, a body of excellent quality, as well as tannins completely free of any bitter edge.

Grenache, the most widely cultivated red wine vine the world over, particularly in Spain, expresses a strength and an elegance one finds with a certain class in the Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  It is of a deep colour in the Priorat, a bit lighter in the Gigondas, and its chromatic development is rapid during the first few years of life.  Extremely sensitive to oxidation, it rapidly develops a ruby colour tending towards garnet with a tint of brick red.

Gamay, typical of the Beaujolais region., but also successfully grown in cooler climates such as the Loire and Switzerland, presents purple and deep purple tones.  the chromatic scale rapidly develops towards a garnet ruby.  In general, it is appreciated when young (one tofour years).  This is a vine that matures early and flourishes, though without spectacular results, in the warmest regions (California, the Mediterranean basin, Australia).

Nebbiolo is among the noblest of Italian red wine vines.  It has a complex bouquet and exemplary capacity for aging.  Lacking in density, its colour is easily recognizable.  To mellow its tannins, it should be aged in the cask between two and four years.  Garnet nuances appear then, and will eventually turn into a hint of tile red.