The 6 S’s of tasting you learned for White Wine are exactly the same for Red Wine, but the devil is in the details.  We will move a little more quickly since the basics are already locked into your memory!

Sight:  What you see in a glass of wine can give you clues as to what you can expect when you drink it.

We’re going to once again start off with the basics by having you hold the wine glass by the stem, tilt the wine glass to 45o (or between 1 and 2 o’clock if that is easier to remember!) and look down through the wine to the white background.

Comparing the intensity and color of two different Pinot Noir’s at Alexana winery in the Willamette Valley (Newberg), OR.

  • Clarity – hold your glass up to the DOMSOM logo above.  Even with the much darker color of red wine, if you can clearly see the logo, the wine likely has no faults and was filtered during the wine making process.   Haze, dirty or cloudy appearance as you have learned can indicate an unfiltered wine such as organic or biodynamic wines.  Too heavy of clouding can indicate a wine fault.  Unlike white wines, not being able to see through a red wine at the deepest part of the wine glass bowl can simply be a result of an extremely pigmented wine.
  • Intensity – again by holding your glass up to a white background or the logo above, you can easily see the wine’s color.  In the case of red wine, grape skins are left in contact with the grape’s juice throughout the entire wine making process.  As with white’s it can change the longer a wine is aged before or after bottling, although in exactly the opposite way.  Young wines are typically bold and pure in color described as garnet, ruby even purple. As red wines age, the color will begin to transition to rust or brownish red resulting from oxygen as the wines are stored. 

CREATE COLOR GRAPHIC for red wine – see Wine Folly for good examples – could produce a color wheel to differentiate?

  Pale                                       Medium                                   Deep

  • Color – Red wines range from transparent to inky dark with colors frequently described as ruby, garnet and purple.  Ruby colored wines are closest to deep, pure red.  Typically the wine will be fairly young and little to no influence from oak.  Purplish wines have blue undertones and also will have spent very little time in the bottle.  Once you move into garnet, the color will take on slight brownish undertones.  This is due to the fact red wine colors change over time becoming lighter and taking on brownish tones.  One of the easiest ways to test for this is to look at the thinner edges as you tilt your glass.  The edges will tell all just like wrinkles on a raisin.