Colors of White Wine – Day 3

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In DAY 3, Annie explains the first of four steps to wine tasting, the visual evaluation of wine. This episode is dedicated to colors of white wine.

We will discuss how wine gets its color, how to describe the color of wine, and what the color of wine can tell you.


Terrazas de los Andes Torrontés Reserva 2016



Peaches, Lemons, Something white to observe the wine color, like a napkin or white paper.


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Welcome back to DiVino Wine School.   I’m Annie.  I’m a sommelier and wine consultant, and the founder of DiVino. Today is Day three: Colors of White Wine

I made these videos to share my expertise and experience with you, wherever you are in the world. So let’s get started!

For today’s lesson, grab a glass of white wine.  If you’re following along and subscribed to our mailing list, I brought a Torrontés.

Let me know in the comments what you tasted today.

I also brought some peaches, lemon. It’s not peach season here in Kansas City, so I used canned peaches instead.

These are three aromas you might find in Torrontes, but you won’t recognize them in wine unless you know what they smell like.  As always, I’m happy to wait if you want to press pause and grab anything!

If you don’t have Torrontes, no worries! You can use any wine you like, as long as it’s white.  Let’s get started.

In the last episode we talked about building a scent vocabulary.  Definitely check out that video if you haven’t seen it.  Day 2 – Learn how to smell wine.

And if you have… I hope you’ve been doing your homework.

Remember, the only way to recognize scent notes in wine is to recognize them out in the real world and make an association to imprint them on your brain.

Now, how do you begin to identify and evaluate what is in the glass? Before tasting, or smelling, use your eyes. Color is your first clue.

Wine is red, white or rosé. These days orange wine is sort of a thing, but between you and me, it’s just white wine made in a different way. More on that later.  

In addition to color, much of the of the aroma, flavor, and texture of wine comes from the grape skin during wine making, so you can actually tell a great deal just by looking.

The best way to observe color is to look at it against a white background.

You can use a napkin, or even a piece of paper, as long as it’s white.  If you need a moment to get that, press pause.

Now tip the glass and look more closely.  Let the wine spread over the edges of the glass.  Watch the way the light hits it.

If a white wine is very pale yellow you can be almost certain it was made with white grapes, and when the grapes were crushed, the skins were filtered away fast, leaving no trace of color.

The longer the crushed grapes sit with their skins during the maceration process, the more color, aroma, and texture the wine will have.

It’s rare, but not impossible to find white wines made from red grapes. Champagne can be 100% Pinot Noir for example.  On the other side of the spectrum (no pun intended), Pinot Grigio actually has an amber color if you leave the skins on for a few days.

A rosé color means one of two things: either wine contains red grapes that were crushed and sat with the skins for a day or two before filtering. Or red and white wines were blended together.

But let’s get back to white. You can tell a lot about a wine’s age just by looking.

Wines are just like us.  Some of them age better than others. 

Some wines are late bloomers (like me), and others are best enjoyed fresh (like that guy I dated in summer, 2014. Just kidding.) But I’m not.

Wines come in all different colors, and they change colors throughout their lives.

When evaluating a white wine, if it has glints of green around the edges, or where it catches the light, that means it is very young, and probably harvested young too.

Young grapes have more acidity. Think of unripe fruit.

You should expect a snappy wine. Tartness, like a granny smith apple.  But no one wants to drink acid. So we use words like fresh, crisp and bright.  

A straw-yellow pale gold-colored wine with no green, means the grapes were harvested right on time, some riper than others, or that wine might had been aged a year or so. It’s still fresh but should be a little silkier (smoother on the palate) to balance out the acidity.

During and after fermentation, the color is exposed to oxygen and deepens over time.

A wine that glitters like white gold, and is a deep yellow indicates grapes that were extremely ripe or exposed to a lot of sunshine and warmth, or that the wine has been aged, most likely in oak barrels.

You can a little expect less zing, and little more silk. If it is a very high-quality wine, both elements will be balanced and this wine can likely age for several years.

 If the wine has no zing, no energy left, we would say it is flat, flabby, old, or simply lower quality. This wine might have been nicer in its youth.  

Stop saving that $8 dollar Chardonnay at the back of your fridge for a special occasion.

If your white wine is the color of honey, or even darker, that could mean a few things.

It could be very long skin contact during winemaking, what they call orange wine.  

Oramngewine is white wine made like red wine, with days or even weeks on the crushed skins.

Subtle oxidation shows up more easily in white grape juice, hence the deeper color.

Wine made in in this style also have powerful aromas and that sting of acidity and tannin that you get in a red wine.  They can be very interesting!  Let me know in the comments if you have had a wine made like this.

A darker hue could also mean a dessert wine.

Another explanation for darker color in a white wine is that  might have been made from very ripe, semi-dried grapes, like a dessert wine like Vin Santo or Passito or a fortified wine like Port.

Either way, you should expect very complex aromas and flavors, and depending on the type of wine, an even richer feeling on your palate and more sugar.

Lastly, the wine could simply be very old and/ or oxidized.

You can narrow down these possibilities by looking more closely at the consistency of the wine. That’s basically how it moves in the glass. Swishy like water, or slowly like syrup?  We’ll do a whole episode on consistency -in the glass and on your palate – so stay tuned.  Definitely sign-up and subscribe so you don’t miss it!

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