Wine colors can vary greatly, depending on the type of grapes used, how they
were pressed and fermented, how the resulting wine was aged, racked, fined, and
The following are terms used to describe the different colors of white, blush,
and red wines.
To accurately determine the wine’s color, you should pour a small amount into a glass, and then hold the glass away from you at a 45 degree angle. This will help spread the wine over the surface of the glass, so light can more easily pass through it. Look through the core (the middle) of the wine, and note the color you see.
You can also try holding the glass up to a light, but be careful not to use too bright a light source, as this could make the wine appear lighter than its actual color.
Wine clarity refers to the amount of undissolved matter floating in a wine.
A wine with greater clarity appears purer. Light passing through a wine with great clarity appears sharp and brilliant. This rule of thumb goes for all wines, including red wines with great depth of color.
A wine with less clarity may appear cloudy or hazy when viewed in a wine glass.
Clarity is commonly used as a measure of quality, as it directly relates to how much or how little a wine was fined (refined) during its production. A wine with greater clarity is thought to be purer and of higher quality.
The rule of thumb is taste wines in this order: white to red, dry to sweet.
By starting with lighter, dryer wines, your palette will be able to sense their gentler characteristics, and not become overwhelmed by fuller-bodied wines.
As you taste additional wines, your palette may become accustomed to the wines, even “numbed” a bit. By working from light-white, towards more potent and full bodied red wines, your palette will always have something new and additional to pick out and sense.
The primary difference between a sweet wine and dry wine is in their sugar content.
A dry wine may contain less than 1% residual sugars, or less than .5% for a “bone dry” wine (below which a human palette can detect no sugars).
On the other hand, a sweet (or dessert) wine may contain 20% or more residual sugar. Some late harvest dessert wines contain upwards of 25% residual sugars.