What Is Black Wine? The Mystery Behind Its Color

Introduction

So, we all know about the traditional colors of wine – white, red, rose, and the not-so-traditional ones like orange, blue, and even green.

But what about black wine? Yes, black wine does exist, though it’s not truly black. Instead, black wine refers to red wines with such a deep hue that they appear almost black. These wines have a long history, and they are still crafted today.

Let’s learn more about this intriguing aspect of winemaking.

Black Wine Grapes

Black wine grapes contribute to the production of red wines with an alluringly deep and intense color.

One prominent variety in this category is the Saperavi grape, which originates from the wine-rich land of Georgia.

black wine grapes

Another noteworthy black wine grape is the Alicante Bouschet. This grape variety is unique in that both its skin and flesh boast a deep red hue, contributing significantly to the wine’s intense color. Originally from France, Alicante Bouschet has found homes in various wine regions around the world, thriving in diverse climates.

Malbec, hailing from the Bordeaux region of France, is another black grape that has gained international acclaim. Known for its velvety texture and dark, inky shade, Malbec has found a new home in Argentina, where it has become a flagship grape, producing bold and flavorful wine.

The hue of black wine grapes comes from anthocyanins, pigments found in the skin of the grapes. These compounds not only lend the wine its striking color but also contribute to its antioxidant properties and potential health benefits.

blue grapes and glasses

Tenturier (word meaning “dyer” in French) grapes, known for their unique characteristic of having red pulp in addition to red skins, impart a deep and intense tint to red wine.

The cultivation and winemaking processes for black wine grapes require meticulous attention to detail. Factors such as soil, climate, and winemaking techniques influence the final product’s characteristics. The result is a spectrum of red wines that vary in intensity, ranging from deep garnet to almost black.

Saperavi Wine

Saperavi wine has its roots deeply embedded in the ancient viticultural landscapes of Georgia. The Saperavi grape, translating to “dye,” hints at its defining characteristic—the ability to yield wines of a profoundly deep, almost opaque hue.

Saperavi

Dating back to 6000 B.C.E., Saperavi stands as one of the oldest grape varietals, a resilient survivor through the annals of winemaking history. Nestled in the valleys of Georgia, this grape has become synonymous with the country’s winemaking identity. The allure of Saperavi lies not only in its visual intensity but also in its robust and complex flavor profile.

Saperavi wines often showcase notes of dark berries, plum, and spice, layered over a firm tannic structure.

What distinguishes Saperavi further is its role in the traditional Georgian winemaking method of fermenting and aging in qvevris—large clay vessels buried underground. This ancient technique imparts a unique character to Saperavi wines, capturing the essence of both the grape juice and the long winemaking heritage.

Internationally acclaimed, Saperavi has garnered attention beyond Georgia’s borders, with winemakers in various regions, like the United States, seeking to harness its potential. It can be enjoyed when young for its vibrant fruitiness or aged a few years for a more complex taste.

a bottle and a glass

Cahors Wine

Cahors wine traces its origins to the vineyards of southwest France, along the meandering Lot River. Named after the town of Cahors, this appellation is synonymous with the Malbec grape, locally known as “Côt” or “Auxerrois.”

The vineyards, steeped in history dating back to the Roman era, thrive in the unique terroir of the region, characterized by limestone plateaus and the river, imparting a distinctive character to Cahors wines.

Renowned for its deep, inky color and robust structure, Cahors wine often captivates with its intense blackberry and plum notes, complemented by nuances of spice and a hint of earthiness. The Malbec grape, predominant in Cahors blends, contributes to the wine’s bold tannins and full-bodied profile.

A hallmark of Cahors winemaking is the “black wine” label moniker, derived from the wine’s intense hue and historical significance. Historically, Cahors wines were traded along the medieval trade routes, gaining favor in England and Russia. The wine’s durability and depth earned it a place of distinction.

Modern Cahors wine producers continue to honor tradition while embracing innovation. The vinos, often aged in oak barrels, balance the traditional intensity with refined elegance.

dark bottle white background

Recommended read: Wine in Plastic Bottles: Benefits and Disadvantages

Black Wine Characteristics

Black wines have a visually mesmerizing deep, nearly impenetrable hue owed to high anthocyanin levels in grape skins.

The aroma of black wines unveils a lot of rich, dark notes. They exhibit aromas of blackberry, blueberry, raspberry, plum, and black cherry.

On the palate, black wines offer a great taste journey. Dark fruit notes take center stage, complemented by layers of blackcurrant, dark chocolate, and occasional hints of smokiness. This complex interplay of flavors reflects the grape variety and terroir, evolving and deepening with each sip.

The body of black wines is usually full-bodied and velvety. Firm tannins contribute to a substantial mouthfeel, providing structure and aging potential.

pouring into glass

Black Wine Food Pairing

Pairing black wines with food is an exploration of delightful contrasts and harmonious flavors. These bold wines, with their deep hues and rich profiles, find companionship in a variety of dishes.

Grilled meats, like a steak or lamb chops, complement the firm tannins and dark fruit notes. Hearty beef stew or truffle-infused risotto accentuates the wine’s depth.

The boldness of black wines pairs exceptionally well with hard cheeses, such as aged cheddar or gouda.

For dessert, dark chocolate treats provide a sweet conclusion, echoing the nuanced flavors of the wine.

Stan Kushkin

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