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What makes red wine red?

perché il vino è rosso, due calici e un grappolo d'uva - EFW
Written by EFW Staff

Many people wonder what makes red wine red

In a country like Italy, that is historically and traditionally a produces of great wine, it is used to pair the dishes with a good red wine. The majority of the consumers of wine, however, don’t know what makes red wine red. Usually, the final colour of the wine is given to the colour of the grapes used to produce it, but how we will show in the following rows, it isn’t completely true.

The vinification process

Vinification is the general term, which means the different phases of the wine production. The process starts with the picking of the grapes, both red and white, in the moment when the sugar degree reached during the ripening will be suitable for the right alcoholic volume at the end of the fermentation.
The grapes, once picked are deprived of the stalks and leaves. Then the pressing process starts in order to obtain the must: a sugary liquid, made mainly of grape juice. The peels and the residuals of the seeds macerate with the must with the aim to extract polyphenols, phenols and the anthocyanins (pigments of the family of the polyphenols) contained in it. For a vinification in red, the maceration will last from 7 to 21 days with the aim to extract the greatest quantity of pigments and aromas. If the contact with peels and seeds, called pomace, take place for a shorter period of time, the wines will have less intense shades of red, from rosé to white. These types of wines are produced through maceration with the pomace that last few hours, long enough to allow the extraction of the aromas and not the pigments. These substances, above all the antocyanins, are responsible of the colouring of the wine and are contained both in the white grapes and in the red ones.

What makes red wine red? It is a matter of pigments…

The fermentation is the process when the must is transformed into wine. In this process, sugars are transformed into alcohol thanks to the yeasts naturally contained in the bunch of grapes and the development of carbon dioxide and heat. During the fermentation process also the polyphenols are subjected to changes of the molecules that varies according to the temperatures and the quantity of air in the liquid. They cause reactions of polymerization or combination of with other phenols or polysaccharide or proteins with the creation of more complex and structured molecules that change the aroma and the colour of the wine. The reactions of the polyphenols contribute to the creation of the final pigments that give the red colour to the wine.
As we have already said, the intensity of the colour depends on the quantity of pigments extracted during the maceration process. After the fermentation, wine will be subjected to further variations of its colour during the ageing process in barrel or bottle.

To conclude

People, probably believe that the colour of the wine could be a consequence of the colour of the grapes, other people think that it is a matter of chemistry cause, unfortunately, sometimes producers use food colouring as it often happens for the food that we eat.
Fortunately the wine colouring is consequence of the natural and thousand-years-old production processes of this drink that is a natural and healthy product, that consumed with moderation, has benefits on the human organism.

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EFW Staff