Varietal and Color

Hey Readers!

I had a conversation recently about wine and color, particularly White Zin’s and pink Pinot Grigio, and it got me thinking. We’ve already discussed what causes the color of a wine, (a combination of grape color, skin contact during fermentation, barrel aging, chemicals present in the fruit and boiling down to heighten color concentration) but how does the specific varietal come in to play?

I’ve shown you examples of varietals whose color is directly impacted by the varietal, like Nebbiolo with its beautiful golden rim, and we’ve discussed how hues are effected by grape skins, particularly in white wines. But, I think it’s time to dive into the wold of pink, ruby and orange to find out how they’ve come to be their unique and beautiful selves. 

So, the conversation that sparked this post started with a question that I had barely ever given thought to. 

What is White Zinfandel, really?

After a little research, I find myself more than a little bit surprised at the answer. White Zinfandel truly comes from Zinfandel grapes. I always assumed that it was a true blush in that it was created from a blend of red and white grapes. I don’t recall having tasted a White Zinfandel or a blush, as I’ve always been told that they are sugary sweet, and I’ve only recently found myself enjoying sweeter wines. But just this one little fact makes me curious to try a few and judge for myself. 

The history of White Zinfandel is even more interesting to me than the fact that it is a varietal wine. The wine was first created in 1958 as a rose style wine made from Zinfandel grown in Lodi, California, since the sale of Zinfandel and other fine wines had dropped off exponentially. Around the 1970’s, Sutter Home decided to experiment with the style, but the wine experienced a problem where the yeast died before consuming all the sugar, a condition called stuck fermentation. This created the sweet quality that the wine is known for today. The wine became so popular that it saved the old vines of Zinfandel in Lodi which wine makers were considering ripping out, single-handed. 

(See I always knew every wine had its purpose.) 

Learning this, I chose to look more closely at the history of other similar styles like Red Moscato and White Merlot. Here’s what I found out. Red Moscato can be made in a variety of ways, either with white or pink Moscato as a base blended with other red varietals for body, color and structure or with red Moscato grapes as the primary or only varietal. Beringer’s red Moscato combines Moscato, Petite Sirah, and Zinfandel creating a sweet fruity red wine with an allegedly good body, and there are other wines that fall into this category. White Merlot, is made the same way as White Zinfandel, a stylistic rose with a shorter fermentation period. Pinot Grigio is pretty versatile varietal as well, and can create wines that range the entire color spectrum. In the end, varietal doesn’t have much at all to do with the appearance of the wine, its all up to the whims of the winemaker. 

The things you learn when you do a little research. Am I right? For #winewednesday I will be comparing a few pink styles against their more standard counterparts to see how flavor is affected by the color shift. If your curiosity has also been peaked, I recommend you try a few and let me know what you think in the comments below or on #winewednesday!


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