White wines range from yellow green to straw yellow, golden yellow, amber yellow, and, finally, topaz yellow. Very young wines take hints of green. These wines one drinks preferably during summer, in all their freshness and youth. They are not aged in casks, and are composed of aromatic grape varieties such as sauvignon, muscat, sylvaner, or riesling. According to the intensity of the sun they have been exposed to, or prolonged periods in the cask, these same white wines lose their green tints and take on straw yellow and golden yellow nuances. This is a sign that the wine is ready to be tasted. In Burgundy, a Puligny-Montrachet reaches this colour after five years. When it is amber yellow or topaz yellow one cn be sure one is tasting an older wine. However, the colour may also be due to the fact that it is past its prime as a result of oxidation, a phenomenon caused by the harmful effects of oxygen resulting from a prolonged period of storage in the bottle or in the cask. This observation, however, is not applicable to madeiras, sherrys, marsalas, vine de paille of the Jura, and other wines that are specific and charactistic product of a slow and carefully controlled process of oxygenation.
The colour of roses varies from pale pink to rose pink, salmon pink and then cherry pink and, the darkest, claret pink. The intensity of their colour depends most of all upon the assemblage. In general, the colour of light roses wavers between pale pink and rose pink. Wines with body present nuances of salmon, while the richest and the most well developed wines are marked buy the cherry pink or claret pink hue. Generally speaking roses have a bad reputation, and yet there are some excellent ones available the world over. It should be noted that the age of a rose wine is not necessarily an indication of its quality. A colour that is too light and slightly orangey nuances indicate a wine that has been aged too long. This characteristic is confirmed by a nose with a hit of animal and a mouth lacking in acidity. The opposite is true of a grande cuvee Champagne rose whose colour is marked by onion skin nuances, for this is a positive sign of aging (keep in mind, of course, that the presence of carbon dioxide increases the sensation of freshness in th emouth and preserves the wine from rapid development).
Red wine colours vary from purple to orange, with gradations of ruby, garnet and tile red in between. A purple red colour denotes an extremely young wine, ruby red and garnet red, wines that are mature and ready to drink. Tile reds and orange reds signify wines that have aged. The temporal development among red wines also depends upon the region where they are produced. A wine of a tile red colour might be exceptional for a great terrior of Tuscany (Italy), or for a bottle of Ribera del Duero (Spain); however, in a pinot noir of the Ahr (Germany), it would be a sign that the wine is past its prime.