Appearance of White & Red Wines

In this lesson you will explore the WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) Systematic Approach to Tasting, Level 2 Tasting Grid. Tasting wine is subjective, since we are all built with our own unique sensory experiences. We all have varying tolerance levels when it comes to smell and taste, therefore it is important to understand the key elements of a wine’s structure, in order to analyze the wine without our judgement or bias. Using a wine grid gives us language to describe wine in a cohesive and understandable way.

Tasting environment– Make sure to always taste wine in a well-lit room with no other aromas or loud noises present. Tasting wine requires full sensory focus. Put the dogs out, a movie on for the kids, and don’t spray on your favorite perfume before you taste. Well-lit and a calm ambiance goes a long way.

Tasting etiquette– There’s a big difference between tasting and consuming. For these purposes, use a spitoon (or spit bucket). An ample sample pour is about 4 oz.

Analyze the color of your wine by using a white piece of paper as a background to the glass. Hold the glass at a 45 degree angle away from you, with the paper behind it. A concentrated wine will be dense in color and not show through the glass. A lightly concentrated wine will be see-through, and often change in color from core to the rim.

Remember that red wines lose color with age and white wines will darken in color with age. 


The three main components of the grid are as follows:

Here is how to evaluate a wine based on appearance:

Let’s start with the appearance of a white wine. The wine is evaluated on clarity, intensity, and color. Here we are looking for either yellow, gold or amber. White wines have varying colors because of age, climate of origin, winemaking techniques and time on skins or skin contact. Intensity of a wine can indicate age because white wines get deeper as they age. A simple, youthful wine will be clear, pale intensity and yellow in color (for example.) An aged white wine (take Meursault) will be clear, medium intensity, and gold in color.


The appearance of a red wine is based on clarity, intensity and color. The color of a red wine is purple, ruby, garnet or tawny. Most red wines you will come across are either purple or ruby. Very aged wines will be garnet and port is tawny.


Video on Appearance

Recommended white wines to try:

  1. Neutral white ~Pinot Grigio
  2. Aromatic white ~ Gewurztraminer or Viognier
  3. Oaked white ~ Chenin Blanc or Chardonnay
  4. Light-bodied, low-tannin red (Beaujolais Villages) of acceptable or good quality
  5. Full-bodied, high-tannin red (Barolo) of very good or outstanding quality