The first step in enjoying a glass of wine is examining it visually. Knowing how to read a wine using visual keys can tell you many things about it’s past, present and future. What does the color tell me? What are ‘legs’ I hear everyone talking about? Read on…
What to do:
- Pickup the glass by the stem (fingerprints are ugly and the heat from your hand will warm up the wine)
- Give it a few swirls (2 or 3) (looking for viscosity)
- Tilt it sideways against a white napkin or piece of paper (lets us see the gradient)
- Stand it back up (check out those legs)
Taking a Closer Look:
As you look at the wine on step 2 and 3, note the following: The color can indicate the grape type, check the About Grapes page for help on matching the color to the grape. If the wine is dark, chances are it was a warm growing season. This is a result of a high grape skin to juice ratio. Cooler temperatures produce wines with lighter hues due to unripe or diluted grapes. Red wines get their color from the grape skins steeping in the fermentation tanks with the juice (remember, red grapes can make white wines too) therefore, if the wine is extremely dark, you may say the winemaker chose a longer steeping time, which can also increase flavor. As reds bottle age, their colors lighten and become more ‘brick’ or ‘amber’ like. Also with bottle age may come sediment, it’s harmless. Once you get to step 4, you’ll notice the film on the glass where the wine swirled up to is breaking apart and streaming down the glass. The streams are called ‘Legs’ or ‘Tears’. Legs indicate the alcohol content in the wine. The more legs...the higher the alcohol content.
Talking about wine Ice-Breaker:
Did you know that with age, red wines become lighter while white wines typically become darker?