Ask Wine Wizard

Red Wine Stabilization


Paul Stadler — New Freedom, Pennsylvania asks,

I have had numerous red wines throw off color as they are fermenting and right on through getting ready to bottle. Is this an acidity problem and how can I correct this?

Ever open a bottle of red wine you’ve lovingly saved for 20 years only to be disappointed as a brick-orange liquid followed by a brownish sludge falls into your glass? The issue of color optimization and retention in red wines is a large and complicated one — I could probably write at least ten articles on the topic. The colored matter in almost all grapes is contained only in the skin, though the green or yellowish flesh can contain important color precursors and elements important to color retention like natural acids. The most basic thing to know is that some red grape varieties tend to have more or less color components and color precursors than others. Cabernet Sauvignon, for example, tends to have more (and more stable) color than Pinot Noir. So the first thing to contend with, whatever your grape or must chemistry, is the grape variety itself. In my experience the following grapes tend to have color-retention problems: Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Nebbiolo, and many hybrid varieties. Safer color-retaining bets include Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and
Response by Alison Crowe.