Ask Wine Wizard

Color Problems In My Pinot Noir


Joe Koterba — North Eastham, Massachusetts asks,

I have been making red wine from fresh grapes for a number of years, but this is my first year in which I have crushed and de-stemmed 400 pounds of Pinot Noir. These grapes came from California, and I crushed them on September 14th. After crushing, I used potassium metabisulfite to stun the wild yeast and used RC-212 to start the primary fermentation after testing the pH, acid, and Brix (24.5). The primary fermentation is moving along as it should, but the must color has me concerned. I expected to have a light red color, but I have a light brown color. What is the likely cause, and will the color change after skin exposure? Thanks for your help.

I had this exact problem happen to me this year with one of my lots of Russian River Pinot. Thankfully, the original brick-red color disappeared and was replaced by bright red once the fermentation got going and the wine got back into a reductive carbon dioxide-rich environment and after a few day’s skin exposure. On this lot, I also used Colorpro fermentation enzyme from Scott Laboratories to help extract color from the skins. After pressing, the red color has stayed and I expect the wine to look fine. Some would say, “Welcome to the World of Pinot!” As you may be aware, Pinot Noir is a naturally color-poor varietal. Additionally, the colored compounds tend to be more of the red spectrum rather than blue-purple. For this reason, when we make Pinot, we have to, first of all, be patient and manage our expectations; there’s no way a Pinot Noir will ever look like a Petite Sirah. We also need to do some additional things, like perhaps use a fermentative enzyme and definitely be careful of oxygen exposure after fermentation in
Response by Alison Crowe.