Identifying Colours: Red Wines

We are sort of doing a disservice to varietals to categorise them so broadly: reds, whites, rose… Sure, it helps us wine drinkers to identify the flavour we’d like to order, sip and buy, but oh the poor wine. Each varietal is as unique in appearance as it is in flavour. So, here’s our ode and crash course in what the shades of red varietals mean, and how you can use them as cues to choose the palate you prefer. 

Red wine colours can vary widely depending on the grape variety, winemaking techniques, and ageing process. The colour of red wine can provide important clues about its age, flavour profile, and even its potential for ageing.

Ruby Red: Ruby red wines are young and typically lighter in body. They exhibit vibrant red hues, often with purple undertones, like plums and blackcurrents. These wines are commonly associated with fresh and fruity flavours. Our Sangiovese Cellar Door Release 2022 is a deep ruby and plum, with blackcurrant flavours with a persistent oak undertone. The Cabernet Sauvignon Tulloch Range 2021 displays luscious fruit forward flavours, demonstrating perfectly the typical flavours to expect from a ruby shade of red wine.

Garnet: Garnet-coloured red wines are usually a bit older than ruby red wines; a deep, rich, dark shade of red that includes hints of brown, orange and purple. They display medium intensity and often have a balance between fruitiness and more developed flavours. The Shiraz HECTOR Limited Release 2018 or our Private Bin Pokolbin Dry Red 2011 both offer a dramatic and dark hue, with a bold and robust flavour. 

Deep Purple/Inky: Deep purple or inky red wines often signify young wines that have been made from deeply pigmented grapes. These wines are typically full-bodied and may exhibit bold, concentrated flavours. With ageing, these wines may develop more complex characteristics. Our Chairman’s Selection Limited Release Shiraz 2021 is the perfect example of this shade translating into a robust flavour experience, with its rich plum and cherry, carried with spice and tobacco. 

Brown: A brownish hue in red wine can suggest oxidation, which can occur when a wine is exposed to too much oxygen. While some wines are intended to have an oxidative character, excessive browning may indicate a flaw in the wine. Typically, you’re not aiming to actually drink brown red wine… This is more a sign that it’s not going to be poured at your next dinner party and might instead end up in the sink. A sad end to the bottle, we agree, but better to know with the eyes than find out after a sour sip. 

Of course, these descriptions are general observations you can fairly confidently make when discerning between varietals. However, specific grape varieties and winemaking practices can lead to variations in colour and their corresponding meanings. Additionally, wine colour is not the sole indicator of quality or taste, as the flavour profile of a wine is influenced by numerous factors beyond colour.

When assessing a red wine, you really can’t go past a tasting. Your palate is the truest indicator of not just a good wine, but a great one that you personally want to savour and enjoy with your favourite people.

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