What makes red wine red?

The most obvious thing about red wine is that it is red. How it got to be red is less obvious.

The juice of most wine grapes is clear, so how does red wine get to be red? It’s the skin. Part of the red wine-making process is allowing the juice to remain in contact with the grape skins during fermentation. This prolonged contact allows not only colour, but many of the characteristics we associate with red wine to be extracted from the skin. This is responsible for the fundamental character differences between red and white wines.

One of the prominent substances coming from the skin are tannins. In order to mitigate the tannins in young red wines, winemakers blend less tannic varieties, like Merlot, with the higher tannin varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon. The French have been blending wines for hundreds of years. Bordeaux is a magnificent example.

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