The wine colour is the first sensation the wine taster receives. Although little attention is often paid to colour, it is in fact a very important source of information: it serves as a guide as to the type of wine being tasted. When the taster is blindfolded or if the wine is served in a tinted glass, it is often difficult to differentiate between a white wine, rosé or light red (particularly if the temperature is slightly high).
Colour is also an indication of the age of the wine and its condition.
It is therefore very important to have good lighting, a white background and suitable wine glasses.
Nowadays, the considerable technological progress implemented at the wineries, such as filters, clarifiers, amicrobic bottling, etc., means that it is unusual for a wine to have visible defects. When such defects do occur, it is generally due to poor storage.
The oxidised, turbid colour of a faulty wine should not be confused with the presence of a small sediment deposit which can be removed simply by decanting the bottle.
The visual analysis comprises the following stages:
- Analysis of the clarity of the wine. This is done by directly looking at the wine circle from top to bottom and also sideways. The wine should be brilliant, with no floating objects or veil. When the glass is raised and observed against the light, the wine should be transparent, crystal clear and with no floating flakes. If this is not the case, then it is said to be milky, turbid or veiled.
- Appreciation of the colour of the wine. The analysis of the "appearance" shall be made by slightly tilting the glass in order to determine:
- The opacity or depth of colour (which is termed the "robe" in red wines). This is an indication of the wine's tannic character and, therefore, its structure, given the fact that the same wine components are involved in both cases. It should never be presupposed that a deep colour is equivalent to a great wine, since this could simply be the result of an excessive tannin content or a rustic character. Intensity can be described as light, sustained, intense, dark ...
- Hue or description of the colour type (scarlet, cherry-red, ruby, brick red, tawny ...)
- Analysis of the effervescence (still wine, pearl, semi-sparkling or sparkling, persistence and bubble size, etc.)
- Viscosity and legs. This is the final visual analysis. The wine taster tilts the glass slightly and swirls the wine around the sides of the glass. The streaks of wine running down the glass are the wine tears or "legs". In principle, a wine with legs will be of a better quality than a wine without, however this statement requires some further qualification.
The wine legs are related to the alcohol content and to the wine's dry extract content, and these parameters are not necessarily positive. When a wine has poor legs, it is termed watery, liquid or fluid. Good legs merit the terms: unctuous, fatty, glycerine-laden, with tears, good legs.
A final observation along these lines: wine glasses are often washed in the dishwasher. This involves a final rinse aid to prevent water stains on the glass. However this rinse aid prevents the tears or legs from fully developing in the glass. To appreciate the full quality of the legs, the glasses need to be rinsed with water and dried with a linen lint-free cloth.