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Colour of Wine (Rant)

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Sue Courtney

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Colour of Wine (Rant)

by Sue Courtney » Tue Jun 06, 2006 7:12 pm

I was alerted to a topic on the Colour of Wine on the Netscape Forum, and wished the topic had been posted here so I could join in (my problem with Netscape is another topic that is off topic here). Someone said they wished there was a poster/chart that listed all the colours of wine - well there is. I've seen it. It was in French and a limited edition poster put out by a wine company, whose name I can't remember right now. They also put out a poster of the tastes of wine. Both these posters consisted of rows and rows of glasses, with explanations in French (and possibly English) below each glass.
I would sure love a copy of each of these posters.

As for naming colours, if I want to get more specific than dark red, fading brown-red in a red wine, I use gemstones or fruit colours mainly to correlate what I am seeing. Blackberry is a favourite for young wines that look like blackberries with their shiny lustre, their deep opaque black-red colour that is saturated almost to the rims, and the brighter crimson on the edges. Often used for young Aussie Shiraz.

But what about the gemstones, and in particular ruby and garnet?

Ruby is the most expensive red gemstone and a wine with a ruby hue should be bright and translucent rather than opaque. It shouldn't have any purple. It shouldn't have any black.
Did you know that ruby in the gem world is actually a form of corundum (aluminium oxide)? Red gem quality corundum is always called ruby while other gem quality corundums of all colours are sapphires and although most people think of sapphires as blue, they can be pink, yellow or green as well.

It seems that Garnet has historically been used for an older wine, and is still taught as such in courses like the Court of Master Sommeliers, but I think this is misleading as garnet has a whole array of colours from yellow browns to deep red black to purple violet. In fact if you see cheaper garnet jewellery - the stuff that is polished into little beads - it often has those violet hues. It is a colour to me that indicates youth in a wine, like many young NZ pinot noirs. And to many of the younger generation who wear those garnet beads, this is the colour they would think of, I'm sure.

Garnet, in the gem world, is a cheaper stone than ruby, it often has flaws (cracks and inclusions of other minerals) hence the stone is not always translucent unless cut very thin.

The pyrope garnet is the brightest of all the garnets and at its best could be confused with ruby, perhaps except for the blacker hues it imparts. Then there is the beautiful almandine garnet, which at its best is a deep red black to purple violet and often opaque in the core. It can also be a brownish red. Somewhere between the two stones is a pinky-red garnet called rhodolite.
A spessartine garnet has more of an orangey-red colour and doesn't have the intensity and depth that the redder garnets have.
A hessonite garnet is usually yellow brown.
Grossular comes in many colours but when red, is always orangey- red and never has the depth of the almandine or pyrope. And if you want to get into the rare side of garnets, there are some very rare, deep green varieties of grossular called Tsavorite.

If you have seen these stones both in the rough and made into jewellery, you will realise that the historical use of garnet in the wine world is so misleading - especially to anyone who wears those common black-red / purple-red violet beads, which during the course of writing this spiel, I have found are now very often dyed. Click here for pictures of garnet beads available today - and scroll to the subsequent pages as you will see the colour of natural garnet beads as well as dyed.

I don't believe we should be hanging on to the older meanings of words, such as garnet to indicate an older wine, just for the sake of it. It is up to the current generation of wine educators, wine writers, wine enthusiasts, people who post on wine discussion forums, to change the meanings of the historical words to have some bearing on the the real life parallels of todays drinkers. And this is why, when I describe a wine as garnet, I usually add a prefix of red-black, orange-red, almandine, pyrope, etc. And now after seeing those dyed beads, I will use purple-violet garnet more often too for a wine that is purple violet and has a gemmy appearance.

Now that said, I had a gorgeous Morris Liqueur Muscat the other day that was the colour of a gem-cut Scottish cairngorm.

Cheers,
Sue
PS If you think this was overly ranted, wait until I get on to 'mineral' (in another thread at another time).
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Re: Colour of Wine (Rant)

by Howie Hart » Tue Jun 06, 2006 8:06 pm

Sue Courtney wrote:Ruby....a form of corundum (aluminium oxide)..............Garnet, in the gem world, is a cheaper stone than ruby, it often has flaws (cracks and inclusions of other minerals)


Years ago I worked for an abrasive company, that manufactured not only the abrasive minerals, but finished products, such as sandpaper and grinding stones. One of the minerals they made was aluminium oxide (the other being silicon carbide). The synthetic aluminium oxide they produced was brown, but pure aluminium oxide is clear. Depending on contaminents present, it can be ruby, emerald, sapphire or other gemstones. We also made sandpaper from garnet, mined in upstate NY (Adirondac Mtns). This garnet was consistently orange. Just thought I'd share that.
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Neil Courtney

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Re: Colour of Wine (Rant)

by Neil Courtney » Tue Jun 06, 2006 8:24 pm

New Mountains From Old Rocks
http://gretchen.geo.rpi.edu/roecker/nys/adir_txt.html

Olivine metagabbro. Olivine metagabbro is less abundant than granitic gneiss and metanorthosite, but numerous masses of this rock are scattered throughout the eastern and southeastern Adirondacks (see Plate 2). Like metanorthosite, olivine metagabbro commonly has textures that show its igneous origin. It also contains features called coronas (Figure 4.10), which show incomplete chemical reactions between minerals. These reactions happened during metamorphism, but so slowly that even in the millions of years before the rock cooled the original minerals were not wholly consumed. Near the edges of some olivine metagabbro bodies, we find spectacular large red garnets that also formed during metamorphism (Figure 4.11). At the Barton Mine on Gore Mountain near North Creek, garnets up to one meter in diameter have been found.


Now that is one big garnet!
Cheers,
Neil Courtney

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Sue Courtney

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Re: Colour of Wine (Rant)

by Sue Courtney » Tue Jun 06, 2006 8:31 pm

Howie Hart wrote:
Sue Courtney wrote:Ruby....a form of corundum (aluminium oxide)..............Garnet, in the gem world, is a cheaper stone than ruby, it often has flaws (cracks and inclusions of other minerals)


Years ago I worked for an abrasive company, that manufactured not only the abrasive minerals, but finished products, such as sandpaper and grinding stones. One of the minerals they made was aluminium oxide (the other being silicon carbide). The synthetic aluminium oxide they produced was brown, but pure aluminium oxide is clear. Depending on contaminents present, it can be ruby, emerald, sapphire or other gemstones. We also made sandpaper from garnet, mined in upstate NY (Adirondac Mtns). This garnet was consistently orange. Just thought I'd share that.


Howie,
Naturally occuring emerald, is the bright green gem species of the mineral beryl, which has a chemical composition of Be3Al2Si6O18 (a silicate of beryllium and aluminium), whereas corundum is Al2O3 (aluminium oxide). Green Al2O3 is not chemically an emerald, but may have been called that because of its colour, perhaps?
I understand that Andironac garnet was not of gem quality, which was why it became an important source (the most important source?) of garnet for the US abrasive industry. I think in relation to wine, most people would correlate garnet to gem quality garnet though, as how many people would know the abrasive on their sandpaper was garnet as well?
Interesting though.
Cheers,
Sue
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Re: Colour of Wine (Rant)

by Paulo in Philly » Tue Jun 06, 2006 8:33 pm

I bow in reverence of your geekdom, Sue! <bow> :)
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Re: Colour of Wine (Rant)

by Thomas » Tue Jun 06, 2006 9:15 pm

Howie,

every company I ever worked for was abrasive--that's why I went out on my own :)
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Re: Colour of Wine (Rant)

by Neil Courtney » Tue Jun 06, 2006 9:19 pm

Sue Courtney wrote:I don't believe we should be hanging on to the older meanings of words, such as garnet to indicate an older wine, just for the sake of it. It is up to the current generation of wine educators, wine writers, wine enthusiasts, people who post on wine discussion forums, to change the meanings of the historical words to have some bearing on the the real life parallels of todays drinkers. And this is why, when I describe a wine as garnet, I usually add a prefix of red-black, orange-red, almandine, pyrope, etc. And now after seeing those dyed beads, I will use purple-violet garnet more often too for a wine that is purple violet and has a gemmy appearance.


This sounds like a good opportunity for us to change the English (American) language and invent some new words. Who's up for it? Do we have any language scholars out there?
Cheers,
Neil Courtney

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Re: Colour of Wine (Rant)

by Victorwine » Tue Jun 06, 2006 11:02 pm

Does this mean if one wants?
• Increase enthusiasm and interest.
• More energy.
• Action and confidence to go after ones dreams.
• Protection from fears and anxieties.
(Power and meaning of red gemstones)
Drink more red wines!

Does this mean if one wants?
• Clarity for decision making.
• Relief from “burnout”, panic, nervousness, or exhaustion.
• Sharper memory and concentration skills.
• Protection from depression during dull weather.
(Power and meaning of yellow gemstones)
Drink more Chardonnay!

Does this mean if one wants?
• Calm feelings.
• To neutralize aggressive behavior or disorder.
• Relaxation.
• Contentment.
(Power and meaning of pink gemstones)
Drink more pink wines!

Hey! I think we got something here!

Salute
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Re: Colour of Wine (Rant)

by James Roscoe » Tue Jun 06, 2006 11:10 pm

Victor,
What do we get if we just drink more wine?
Cheers!
James
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Re: Colour of Wine (Rant)

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Tue Jun 06, 2006 11:22 pm

Quite a nice chat here! In my youth, I always thought garnet referred to a brownish colour. Then I found Broadbents book on how to taste wine and marvelled at the pics of the different colours. Still confused alas!!
Same with the descriptor "black fruits"..what a cop-out!
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Re: Colour of Wine (Rant)

by Doug Surplus » Tue Jun 06, 2006 11:40 pm

James Roscoe wrote:Victor,
What do we get if we just drink more wine?
Cheers!
James


Drunk!
Doug

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Re: Colour of Wine (Rant)

by Victorwine » Tue Jun 06, 2006 11:53 pm

My intent was to make a correlation between the colors of wine and that of gemstones, nothing more.

Salute
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Re: Colour of Wine (Rant)

by Sue Courtney » Wed Jun 07, 2006 1:02 am

Victorwine wrote:My intent was to make a correlation between the colors of wine and that of gemstones, nothing more.

Salute


I liked it. By the way, here are some you could use to inspire you while you are drinking your chardonnay or pink.

Yellow gemstones - yellow topaz, citrine, golden beryl - and the famous Tiffany yellow diamond. There are others but so obscure only geeky mineral collectors would know them like this gemmy pale yellow mimetite. (The one is from Tsumeb in Namibia, but we collected tiny ones from Broken Hill in Australia)

Pink gemstones - spinel, rubellite and watermelon tourmaline for pink still wines; pale pink beryl and pale pink fluorite for delicately pink champagnes.

Cheers,
Sue
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Re: Colour of Wine (Rant)

by Mark S » Wed Jun 07, 2006 1:00 pm

Perhaps we merely need to invent some new minerals :roll:
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Re: Colour of Wine (Rant)

by Oliver McCrum » Wed Jun 07, 2006 4:51 pm

I've been meaning to go to a natural history museum to look at the precious and semi-precious stones, and this thread reminds me of that.

It's very hard to describe wine color, which after all is a very important part of the experience of drinking, without an endless string of 'reddish purple' or 'purplish red.'

One of my favorites is Topaz for a real tawny port.
Oliver
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Re: Colour of Wine (Rant)

by Sue Courtney » Wed Jun 07, 2006 4:55 pm

Mark S wrote:Perhaps we merely need to invent some new minerals :roll:


There are a whole lot of people already trying to do that. :wink:

So Mark, what do you correlate the colour of wine to, if anything? Perhaps fruit (lemon), mineral (gold), vegetation (straw). Isn't it easy to correlate the words in brackets to white wines?
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Re: Colour of Wine (Rant)

by Paul Winalski » Wed Jun 07, 2006 11:38 pm

Sue Courtney wrote:I was alerted to a topic on the Colour of Wine on the Netscape Forum, and wished the topic had been posted here so I could join in (my problem with Netscape is another topic that is off topic here). Someone said they wished there was a poster/chart that listed all the colours of wine - well there is. I've seen it. It was in French and a limited edition poster put out by a wine company, whose name I can't remember right now. They also put out a poster of the tastes of wine. Both these posters consisted of rows and rows of glasses, with explanations in French (and possibly English) below each glass.
I would sure love a copy of each of these posters.


I own a t-shirt that has a series of pinkish-purple semi-circular stains on it, such as might be left by a wine glass whose bottom was wet with the wine question. The stains are labeled in neat letters, "cabernet sauvignon", "merlot", "pinot noir", "zinfandel", "nebbiolo", "syrah", "grenache", .....

-Paul W.
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Re: Colour of Wine (Rant)

by Covert » Fri Jun 09, 2006 12:06 pm

Sue,

I wonder how many people who are color blind for red/green enjoy wine as much as the average enthusiast. Knowing that would shed some light on whether shades of color are really important, or important only because we think they are; which of course makes them equally important but in a more prejudicial way.

Covert
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Re: Colour of Wine (Rant)

by Sue Courtney » Fri Jun 09, 2006 4:27 pm

Covert, I know two blind men who enjoy wine probably far more than the average enthusiast. One is actually a winemaker. Their other senses, particularly smell and taste are heightened. Is colour important to a blind person? I am sure it is. I am sure they like to hear of the hue and of the clarity or opacity, to know it is in fitting with the style. I am sure they like to hear of the lustre as well - is it bright or dull, for example.
But as for a red/green colour blind person, surely they can see depth, clarity and brilliance? Their interpretation of the hue may be different but they can set their own standard. I would love to sit down with a glass of wine with a red/green colour blind person and have them describe what they are seeing.
Colour is important, whether you can see it or not. It tells part of the story of that glass of wine.

I had a Heathcote Estate Heathcote Shiraz 2003 from Victoria, Australia the other day. It was the most vivid, lurid, hot purple that I have ever seen in a wine. It was inky deep with a shining lustre and brilliantly hued crimson-purple rims. As I held the glass over the white paper of my notebook to contrast the colours even more, I was mesmerised and found it hard to draw my eyes away.
Cheers,
Sue
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Re: Colour of Wine (Rant)

by Gary Barlettano » Fri Jun 09, 2006 5:24 pm

Sue, you're on! The next time you're near San Francisco, let's take a glass or two or three and you can test my color perception. As I recently mentioned over in the Netscape world, I am very colorblind. Since, however, our descriptors are relative to objects in nature, oftentimes I come up with the same descriptors as do the color-sighted. Of course, we're not perceiving the same thing in an absolute sense. My eyes just don't have the equipment to do that. I often wonder if I'm missing anything and always look twice at the traffic lights.

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