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A guide to wine colour and what it can tell you

Discover the world of wine colour with our guide to the vibrant hues of red, white, and rosé wines. Discover what your wine's colour means.
Wine Colour - People holding glasses with different wine colours in - main image

While it’s easy to label a wine as red or white, a closer look at wine colours can reveals a lot about a wine’s style and character even before you’ve had your first sip.

Whether it’s the ruby hues of a full-bodied red, the delicate blush of a rosé or a white wine’s golden glow – each wine shade reveals details of a wine’s origin, grape variety, and winemaking process. By learning how to interpret wine colours, you’ll gain valuable insights into the wine’s flavour profile and complexity.

What affects wine colour?

Grape skin colour

Grape juice is itself colourless, so the colour of a wine is the result of contact with the grape skins.

Red and rosé wines are made from black-skinned grapes with the grape skins left in contact with the juice for differing times. White wine can be made from black grapes, if the skins are removed straight after pressing – Champagne is made in this way. Most white wines are, however, made from white-skinned grapes.


Wine grapes grown in warmer climates develop thicker skins to protect themselves from the sun and the heat, unlike those grown in cooler climates. The thicker the grape skin, the more pigment from the skin makes it into the wine.


When making wine, grape skins are added to the juice during a process called fermentation (also known as maceration), which gives the wine its colour. The longer the grape skins are in contact with the juice, the darker the wine becomes. This process can last from just a few hours to over a week.


As wines age, they can change colour. White wines deepen in colour as they age, while as red wine matures its initial deep ruby hues will turn to a brick red hue, and even an orangey colour when fully aged.

Wine Colour - colour of rose wine, red wine and white wine

How to check the colour of wine

Wine can change colour and hue depending on the light you’re looking at it in, so getting a clear colour reading is key when making the right wine choice for you.

A simple way to get an accurate idea of your wine’s colour is to hold it against a piece of plain white paper in natural light. Tilt the glass slightly towards the paper, and away from you, so the wine spreads out in the glass and becomes more opaque. This helps you get a clearer reading of the wine colour than just looking at a full glass head-on.

Read our bluffers guide to wine.

Red wine colour

The colour of red wine can vary drastically across varieties and styles. The three most common red wine colours are ruby, purple and garnet. Each of these colours has three different intensities.


Ruby is the lightest red wine colour, leaning more towards magenta than other red wine styles. The body and tannins of ruby wine will depend on the grape variety, but ruby red wines are typically smooth and lighter on the tongue, with bright, medium acidity.

The palest ruby wine available is Pinot Noir. The GSM blend and Tempranillo are popular medium ruby red wines, with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon the deepest ruby wines.

Read our guide on dry red wine.


Purple red wines are less bright than their ruby siblings with less opacity. However, they have more structure, with full bodies and velvety tannins. As the name suggests, they’re inky and luxurious in colour.

Valpolicella is the lightest purple red wine, followed by Malbec and Shiraz as the medium purple wines, with Pinotage the deepest available.


Garnet red wines have a beautiful autumnal tinge, similar to red brick or Autumn leaves. These wines pack a punch, with characteristically high acidity, tannins and medium to full bodies.

Nebbiolo is the lightest garnet red wine available, with Sangiovese slightly deeper in colour. Sangiovese usually undergoes light oak barrel ageing too, which deepens its natural colour.

From Cabernet Sauvignon blends to Shiraz blends, shop our Vegan-friendly red wines.

White wine colour

Like red wine, white wine comes in three different colours – straw, yellow and gold. Each of these colours has three different strengths.


The lightest colour of white wine, straw white wines are characterised by their delicate style and colour. They’re light in body and tannins but very dry and high in acidity. These wines may have a slight tinge of green and will appear almost clear around the edges.

The palest straw-coloured white wine is Muscadet, the deepest being Albariño. A young Riesling sits somewhere in the middle.


Solid, pale gold colour, yellow-white wines have a fresh acidity and are relatively low in tannins. This, paired with their citrus and juicy white fruit flavours, makes them a refreshing choice all year round.

Popular white wines in this colour category are Grüner Veltliner (the palest) with Sauvignon Blanc, a medium yellow colour, and aged Riesling, the deepest.


Golden white wines look as luxurious as they taste. With a richer, warmer yellow hue than the other white wines, these white wines have a medium acidity and are typically full-bodied – creamy and smooth.

Chenin Blanc is the palest golden white wine available, Viognier slightly deeper than that, and Chardonnay and Semillon are the deepest golden white wines available.

Browse our range of small-batch white blends.

Rosé wine colour

Although rosé wine is predominantly made with black wine grapes, such as Pinot Noir or Zinfandel, the colour of rosé wine can vary drastically during the maceration process. By limiting the amount of time the grape skins are in contact with the fermenting juices, a winemaker can creates the pretty pink hues we know and love.

Find out more about some of the most popular wine grape varieties.

Like red and white wine, rosé comes in a range of shades, the three main being copper, salmon and pink. Each of these shades also comes in different intensities.

Copper rosé wines are delicate and dry, with light bodies and refreshing acidity – think Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris rosé wines.

Salmon rosé wines differ in that they are a little sweeter and a little less acidic but are still light in body and tannins – they’re easy drinkers and the most popular rosé style. Popular varieties include White Zinfandel and Sangiovese rosé.

However, the pink rosé wines are bolder and more fruit-forward than their lighter siblings, with zingy medium acidity and grippy tannins, although still as dry. This style includes Grenache and Mourvèdre rosé.

RedHeads produce small-batch delicious wine blends. Browse all our wines now.