64 Shades of Wine: The Crayola Experiment


Who doesn’t love a freshly opened box of crayons?

Inspired by the UC Davis Color wheel, and coloring books of old, I decided to challenge the classic 64 pack and the wine spectrum to succintly demonstrate (a) the range of colors in wine, (b) how wine colors change over time, and (c) the ability of crayons to go from kindergarten through career.

(Spoiler Alert: Crayola Can do it.)

As Crayola clearly indicates below, there’s quite a range of colors for both reds and whites. Each grape variety naturally has a different level of pigments which occur in the skins of the grapes, which transfers into the wine as the skins and juice sit together during fermentation.  This pigment level is what initially gives wines their color potential, and limits the color expression a winemaker can get from other techniques like aging. The lightest Syrah will always be darker and more purple than the darkest Pinot Noir, for example.

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“Light Cranberry to Violet”–The Reds

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“Yellow-Green to Peach”–The Whites

Post fermentation and the natural color inputs comes barrel and then bottle aging, both of which change the color of the wine. As red wines interact with oak, and then age in-bottle,  the pigment particles in the wine start to separate (hence the foul, chewy sediment in old bottles of wine) causing the wines to get lighter in color.  The opposite happens to white wines, which get darker and richer in color as they age (“Dandelion” to “Golden Rod” in Crayola terms).

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Red Wines Lose Color with Age

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Whites gain color with age.

Because pink wines always deserve a mention, just know they can be any color from light salmon to magenta. (Which is awesome.)

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And Rosés get all sorts of crazy.

The Wine Spectrum Uncorked:

Laura Loves: This article on the scientific ins and outs of wine coloration.

How the Heck Do You Even Check the Color of the Wine?:

1.Fill a glass 1/3 full with the wine to be analyzed–don’t over pour, or you won’t be able to see the color!

  1. Hold the glass on an angle over a white sheet of paper.
  2. Check out the wine’s color in the middle and edges of the glass. Also, is it opaque? Are there any questionable particles floating around?
  3. Just drink it.
  • March 4, 2013
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