Wine Color Guide for Quality and Age

Wine aficionados devote their time to studying the colors, the smells, and the years of wine to distinguish quality from … not. With all of the books out there, all of the tips from experts, enjoying a glass becomes heinously complicated. Thankfully, color makes it all a little easier to understand.

While judging a wine for taste, ‘smelling bouquets’ and spitting wine out can seem a little bit backwards (because, after all, isn’t wine for drinking?), it’s really about appreciating different aromas and tastes without being totally smashed. color can tell us a great deal about a wine before we raise our glasses. Tilt them instead. Pouring a small amount of wine and tilting the glass at (approx.) 45º will spread the wine enough for us to observe a span of its color… and to determine the quality of a wine in the white, blush, or red families… where trees have rings, wines have color.


I saw Gary Vaynerchuk on Late Night with Conan O’Brien last week so I think it is really fun to see him bust up our color guide in his latest episode on Wine Library’s “Does The Color of a Wine Have a Huge Impact on Quality or Age?”

In this episode he does a great job of showing some examples of how, while color can be fun to look at and enjoy as part of wine… it is NOT an indicator of quality or age in wine. Thanks for taking the time to explain what we got wrong in our theory and for showing some examples.

The Colors of White Wines

White Wine Colors

White wine isn’t truly white. In fact, it’s a bit yellow. It can be made from any type of grape as long as the skin of the grape is removed before the fermenting process

Brown Wine

A brownish white wine can denote fermantation from partially dried grapes. Turning brown, however means the wine is oxidised and unhealthy.

Amber Green Wine

Typical of OLD dessert or wines made from partially dried grapes. Also the unhealthy shade of oxidized wine.

Yellow Brown Wine

It is true that aging a white wine takes on more brown, but it is also true that the wine can take on barrel color.

Gold Wine

A pale gold color is characteristic of great wines in their mature state.

Straw Wine

Straw yellow is a common shade of wines with moderate age.

Yellow Green Wine

Observing a pale straw color with a bit of green, suggests a very young wine.

The Colors of Blush Wines

Blush Wine Colors

Rosé wines are often called ‘blushes.’ Sort of an in-between wine, soft pinks find their home here in the early stages of aging rosé wine. As it ages further, these wines can take on a bit of an orange or even brown color, though, again, brown represents oxidisation.

Lavenender Wine

A typical shade for young, often immature wines.

Rose Wine

This is the classic shade for blush wines made with short skin contact in the fermentation process.

Salmon Wine

Young wines from dark grapes vinified with little skin contact can also show hints of orange, coral or salmon.

Strawberry Wine

A pale shade of red obtained by slightly longer skin contact in the fermentation process.

Copper Wine

Young wines from dark grapes vinified with little skin contact can also show hints of orange, coral or salmon

Orange Wine

Some blush wines takes on tawny shades with age, though usually signs of browning mean the wine is oxidizing.

The Colors of Red Wines

Red Wine Colors

Finally, red wines are deep red in color. Observing a purple-red suggests a young, but more often immature wine. Ruby is still young, but aged a bit from purple-red. Using the word ‘garnet’ is classic for wines in their prime. Brick red, however, is a little fickle. Paler shades are old, but still healthy, while seeing a bit of yellow or brown suggests a wine past its time. While seeing that bit of yellow or brown at the edge of the tilted wine, it does not necessarily mean the wine is undrinkable.

Purple Wine

Purple-red is a common shade for young, often immature wines.

Ruby Red Wine

Ruby wines are a more evolved but still youthful shade.

Deep Red Wine

Garnet is the color word for classic wines at the peak of their maturity.

Red Brown Wine

These shades are associated with older but still healthy wines.

Mahogany Wine

Wines with a warm orange color at the rim of the glass during their prime maturation period.

Brown Wine

Dark brown colors indicate that the wine is past its prime, though some old red wines are still quite drinkable.

With wine, it seems as though what you see is what you get, leaving the aromas and added flavors to be joyfully discovered. Enjoy your pursuit of finding the perfect glass.

Full Disclosure:
We are not wine experts. We are color lovers. The colors above are exaggerated to help illustrate the color changes in wines. If you are drinking a wine that is actually as bright as some of the white & blush colors above, you’re probably drinking a wine cooler… Not quite “wine.” No wine was harmed in the creation of this post, but a lot was consumed. If you’re a wine expert and we got something wrong, let us know and we’ll update it.

More Wine Information:

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Author: ruecian

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