Reds: Tannins and Tastings

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At Seagar’s Prime Steaks & Seafood we’re seeing red — red wine that is. Indulge with us as we learn more about what gives red wine its color and how so many hues of red can be seen amongst the different varieties.

Grape Skins & Maceration

The color in wine comes from the skins of the grape so you can actually crush the grapes and get what would be a clear or very pale rose color out of one of the darkest grapes. Take for instance a Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc or Petite Sirah — without contacting with the skins, these typically garnet and ruby wines can be produced almost clear.

The process is called Maceration, which can be best thought of as steeping. While the wine is fermenting they leave the skin in contact with the grapes until they achieve the color saturation that they want. Essentially like dying the wine with the skins, making it possible for you to adjust the color of the wine. So if you want a clearer wine you don’t leave the grape skin in contact or “macerate” as long. That is one of the ways to get really saturated colors from wines and what adds to the tannin count or tannin level.

Tannins

Tannins can be described best as biting into an apple — that sort of dry feeling you get. When you bite into an apple it can sometimes be very sharp and it can be sometimes be very subtle, it’s the same thing with wines. Just like an apple, the reasoning for this in wines is the skin or rather the peel of the fruit. Think of eating a peeled apple, the taste is very sweet. However when you leave the peel on and bite into it there is a complexity to it — the same is true with wine.

Tannins come from the grape skin and grape seeds, which are typically referred to as the “must”. After the grapes have been pressed and all the juice is extracted out of it the tannins are found in the skin and seeds. Tannins can also come from oak but that is a more complex topic for another time.

Hues

Rosé wines are typically made from a red wine varietal, they achieve their color in sometimes as short as a day and a half. With darker wines like a Cabernet it takes around two weeks of skin contact to achieve the right color. The exception of the red varietal wines, Pinot Noir is a darker grape varietal but the skin is not left in contact as long as it would be for a darker wine like a Merlot or Petit Verdot.

Typically associated with red wines, the color palette stands amongst ruby, dark ruby and garnet. Claret, the British term for Bordeaux, is used to describe a clear pale light colored wine and as you delve into Italian wines and older wines there are different hues to associate with those.

Brick is usually used to describe an older wine, because of its brick and rusty color. It is atypical to find a wine that is a 2014, however if you do open a 2014 and it has a brickish color it should raise a question mark. The color is only suspended in the wine for a certain amount of time — after awhile heat damage and sunlight damage can cause the color to detach from one another making the wine almost see through.