By Cristal Guiet on May 13th, 2023

All wines are made from grapes and fall into three main color categories: colors, red, rosé, and white. All three wine types have many similarities, but can also display very unique characteristics depending on which color category they fit into.

As you start to better understand the different attributes of each wine color, you will be able to more easily identify the age of the wine as well other elements of its structure - body, tannins, and sweetness.

In the article below we will run through the three different colors of wines to better understand their profile.

It is a misconception that all white wines come from white grapes. Some fantastic white wines are made from red grapes. All grape juice starts out clear, pale, or light green in color.

The clear juice only changes color once it has come into contact with the skins of the red grapes.

White Wines - As mentioned above white wines can be made from white, green, or red grapes. A perfect example of this is the Champagne Blanc de Noirs (White wine made from black grape) these Champagnes are made either from Pinot Meunier or Pinot Noir grapes or are combined together.

However, not all white wines that come from red grapes are as tasty as Champagne.

When making white wine regardless of what color grapes the wine is made from, the skins and seeds are immediately separated from the juice as soon as the grapes are pressed to avoid any undesirable characteristics in the wine.

Chardonnay, a white grape variety originally from France, is the most commonly used grape worldwide for producing white wines and is considered the king of white wine.

Other white grapes that are commonly used for white wine production are Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer, and Chenin Blanc.

Wine Color Variations

The different color variations help to identify the type of white wine that you are drinking and also can give an indication of its composition.



Common Grape Variety/Wine type

Light yellow or pale green

Almost colorless with high clarity and color overtones

Muscadet, Vinho Verde, Pinot Grigio, Albariño

Light gold or Lemon Yellow

Most white wines

Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc

Pale to deep golden

Oaked wines or ones that have highly extracted color as well as low acidity and bold flavors.

Aged Chardonnays, Marsanne, Viognier

Deep Gold, amber green, orange, or saturated straw tones

Can be either dull or dark in appearance

Sweet wines and dessert wines (or wines that are past their prime due to oxidation)

White wine becomes darker as it ages, turning a deep yellow or gold color, and may even eventually change to a brown color the longer the wine ages.

Most white wines do not benefit from aging (unless they are sweet or full-bodied wines).

Young and old wine difference

Rosé Wines - Made from either red or purple grapes. The final color of the wine is determined by the amount of time the juice has been in contact with the skins which produces a vast array of different shades of rosé wines.

Light-bodied rosés display an almost clear color with pink tints, a fuller-bodied wine can be deep bright red. The deeper the color of the wine the more full-bodied it is.

Rosé wines as a rule should be drunk when they are young as they lose their freshness if they are kept for too long, though there are some rosés that are made with the Mourvèdre grape that can age for a maximum of ten years.

 Wine Color Changes

As rosé wines age, they often take on a more distinct orange color.

Older Rose Wine

Red Wines - Like rosé wines as they also come in many different shades, as a general rule, the lighter the color the lighter the body of the wine. Red wines often spend a long time fermenting on the grape skills which helps to create their complex structure.

If you are looking for a light-bodied red wine then a young Pinot Noir or Gamay wine is a perfect choice. Syrah and Mourvèdre wines are full-bodied wines that are usually very dark in color, with well-balanced silky tannins.

If you are a fan of complex full-bodied red wines then look no further. However, the body of the wine will depend on how it was made so there will always be exceptions to these rules.

Red wine with higher tannins usually is more opaque in color. Red wines that have a higher sulfite content or are fermented at high temperatures usually display less color intensity.

The pH level of red wine can affect its color - wines with a pH of 3.6 or more often display a magenta (bluish tint) with lower levels of 3.4-3.6 showing more violet color and those wines with the lowest pH are often characterized by having a strong red hue.

It is natural for a red wine to lose up to 85% of its anthocyanin (the color pigment in red wine) within the first five years of aging, though the wine will still appear to be quite red, the color will appear to be less intense.

Very old red wines will often turn brown after extended aging in the bottle.

 Young White WineColor charts courtesy of Matthew Clark

What are the most important differences between the three different wine types?

White and rosé wines are often easier to drink than red wines as they often have a much less complex taste profile and overall structure, which makes them more easily approachable to a broad spectrum of wine drinkers.

Red wines are often less enticing as they are often quite complex and it may take time for the palate to learn to enjoy and appreciate a Syrah, Sangiovese, or Mourvèdre wine as their structure and aromas are often quite powerful to the point of sometimes even being overwhelming!

What cannot be disputed is that once you fall in love with a certain type of wine, regardless of its color, it is quite possible that you continue this love affair for the rest of your life.

Is one wine better than another?

No wine is better than another, however, depending on the occasion such as drinking the wine alone, the weather conditions, or if it is matched with food will play an important role in the choice of wine that should be made.

The individual palate and experience of the wine drinker will also be an important factor in the choice of wine, as some wine drinkers may have a preference for light, fruitier wines that when served chilled can be very refreshing while others may prefer more complex and tannic red wines.

It all comes down to a matter of personal taste.

What wine to choose?

Your choice of wine will depend on many different factors, the most important being what kind of wine you enjoy.

Heavy full-bodied red wines go best with rich foods and are often more enjoyable to drink during the cooler months of late autumn, winter, or early spring.

If you choose to drink a full-bodied red wine in the summer, chilling it down to 64.4°F (18°C) is recommended and will make it more palatable in the hot weather.

Lighter white and rosé wines are an obvious choice during the warmer spring, summer, and autumn months but likewise can be enjoyed throughout the year.

A perfect example of drinking light wines in cold weather is the tradition of celebrating New Year's Eve with a glass of Champagne!

White, rosé, and red wines are all delightful, each one of them has a different experience for the wine drinker due to their unique characteristics.

There is no right or wrong time to drink certain color wine, as always your choice of wine will be determined by the characteristics that you prefer in a wine regardless of what color that wine might be or what time of the year you choose to drink it.


Author: Cristal Guiet

Cristal has more than twenty three years of experience in the wine industry. In addition to creating wine lists in Michelin three-star restaurants, working with prestigious London wine merchants, and starting her own wine tourism company in France, Cristal has been writing about wine for over fifteen years. She holds the Advanced degree from Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), and resides in London.

What are the real differences between red, rosé, and white wines?

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