If I told you this is a red wine, and so is the next one, and the next, I would not be wrong. But it wouldn’t tell you much. And yet, the first thing we know about a wine, most of the time, is what it looks like.
Being bewitched by a wine is a bit like falling in love – first sight matters, but then you have to remind yourself that it isn’t everything. Seeing beyond that superficial first impression is important, and it’s all about training: sharpen your eyes and be more observant – just as you can train your nose to smell properly and train your memory for scents by sniffing fruits and flowers around you.
How often do you look at a landscape or skyscape and notice the play of light, the highlights and shadows. Hues and density of colour?
Beauty yes, but also information. Wine has its own language for colour and texture, as it does for aromas and flavours; some wine writers care more about this than others.
Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate offers us “the deep garnet-purple colored 2017 Lafite Rothschild” and Jancis Robinson writing of a 1993 Sassicaia from Italy notes “deep garnet still. Very youthful and healthy colour” and a 2013 Pinot Noir from New Zealand is “pale crimson” while Wine Folly writes more simply about “a deeply colored wine” for the new Primitivos from Italy and Jamie Goode rarely bothers to talk about what a wine looks like, but he makes up for it with his nose and palate descriptions
Try looking up before you look down into your glass.
Yesterday’s visual lessons come from clouds over Geneva, the middle of France and Spain, down to the Costa del Sol. Unsettled and varied at all altitudes, they promised a shift in weather and the strong possibility of storms. Beauty – and information, if only we learn to read them.
Note that the first five photos were taken over or very near Geneva; the last four between Teba and Ardales in Andalusia, Spain, a distance of about 30 km.
For more on cloud types and altitudes where they are found, try the University of Colorado science education web site.
For more on colour in wine: Wine Folly has a useful chart, but also good basic information on wine and colour.
Also very good for explanations about why colour matters and what to look for: Social Vignerons, with Bouchard Aîné’s beautiful colour charts (colours in French).