Betty's Wine Musings

Why Do Aged Wines Change Color?

The other day, I opened an eight-year-old bottle of white wine that was very pale eight years ago and is now bright, sunshiny yellow. In this article, we’ll look at why aged wines change color. I hope you enjoy it.


My eight-year-old wine is bright yellow!
My eight-year-old wine is bright yellow!

Does Bright Yellow Mean the Wine Is Bad?

No. Not at all. According to Dr. Vinny of Wine Spectator, “As wine ages for a very long time, red and white wines tend to end up almost the same color.” An amber color. I’ve never aged my whites long enough to get to that point. I’ve had some reds get close.

Have some color-changed wines gone bad? Yes. This definitely happens. Especially if too much oxygen hits the wine after bottling. When a wine is seriously oxidized, it won’t be good. But is it the color that makes the wine bad or something else? Wine has so many dimensions. The color is just one of the elements that factors into the goodness of a wine.

By the way, my eight-year-old white blend tasted great, with beautiful notes of pear. Normally, they say that a wine’s character increases with aging. I didn’t see that with this wine. I loved the wine eight years ago, and I still loved it now.

Why Does the Wine Change Color?

According to Gold Medal Wine Club, “much of the color change in wine has to do with the amount of tannins in the wine and the impact of oxygen…Tannins are…a molecular compound called phenols that can influence how a wine tastes, smells and looks as it ages. Since tannins live in grape skins, and red wines have far more contact with grape skins, the color of red wines are more affected by this factor than white wines.”
Wine Spectator talks further about how tannin impacts the aging of red wine by saying “Over time, those phenols link together…and drop out of suspension. That both accounts for sediment in an older wine, and the reason why the red color fades.”
On the oxygen front, phenolics turn brown when exposed to oxygen. A little bit of oxygen is good and can cause a potentially enriching aging reaction.  But if a cork is faulty and lets in too much oxygen, you’re likely to end up with a problematic wine.
Interestingly, if a wine is highly acidic, it isn’t likely to get as much of a color change as a wine that is lower in acidity.

As an independent wine consultant with WineShop At Home, I absolutely enjoy bringing a taste of the Napa wine country home to you one sip at a time. Whether you simply love to drink wine, seek a special personalized wine gift, or are in search of a new wine jobs opportunity as a wine consultant, feel free to contact me for a truly unique wine tasting experience!

Cheers, Betty Kaufman
WineShop At Home

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