It’s true. You can learn a lot about a wine’s flavors just by looking at your glass. The color of a wine comes from its contact with the skins after the grapes have been pressed; the longer the skins sit with their juice, the more color, texture, and flavor a wine pulls from them.
Body & Flavor
You call tell a lot about about a wine’s body and flavor when you notice its color. Take a look at the Pinot Gris on the left vs. the Chardonnay on the right. The Pinot Gris’ shade of yellow is very light, bright and translucent. White wines with a lighter color usually have minimal or no contact with the skins and typically taste very crisp and refreshing. The Chardonnay’s yellow color, on the other hand, is deep and full, almost the color of straw. This darker color is a good sign that the wine was aged in oak, which means it will have a richer, creamier taste and full-bodied texture.
The same holds true when looking at red wine. If the wine is a lighter red, like the Pinot Noir on the left, it should taste light and bright with fresh berry flavors, and may even be a little tart. As the shade of red gets darker and darker, like the Cabernet Franc on the right, the more bold, rich and spicy it will taste and feel on your palate. Also, the darker the rouge, the longer a red wine has been aged in oak which also imparts stronger flavors and textures within the wine.
Vintage also plays an important factor in the color of a wine. The older a white wine is, the darker its color will be. The opposite is true for red wines which get lighter with age. Young wines also tend to be more translucent and bright in color, while older wines will start to dull. Just think about how fruit eventually turns brown when exposed to air. The same is true as oxidation slowly seeps into a bottle through its cork, and over time, changes its color.
Young, white wine with no variation vs. an older red wine with some rim variation.
A wine’s age can also be seen in what’s call the rim variation - the difference in color from a wine at its core out to its rim. Older wines will show a range of fading colors from the core to the rim. Red wines will be darker at the core and gradually get more translucent, while white wines will be lighter at the core and become darker towards the rim.