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Are Red Wine Grapes Red Throughout the Whole Growing Season?

A vineyard.
A glass of red wine.
Red wine fermenting in a vat.
Red wine grapes first grow green and then turn red.
Grapes.
The fermentation process gives red wine its deep red color.
A picnic basket with a bottle of red wine.
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  • Written By: Devon Pryor
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 26 November 2014
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Contrary to popular belief, red wine grapes are not red throughout the entire growing season. Both red wine grapes and white wine grapes are green when they first begin to form. In fact, like all fruits, white and red wine grapes begin as flowers. The first stage of grape growth is the bud burst — this is when a small green growth appears on the vine of the grape plant in spring. The bud burst develops leaves and a collection of flowers called an inflorescence. The flowers bloom small and white, and as they are fertilized, begin to develop into grapes. At this point the natural sugars and pigmentations in the skin have not yet formed.

It is during the ripening of both white and red wine grapes when the sugars and colors are gradually expressed. As white wine grapes mature, they may take on a golden color or, in the case of the Gewürztraminer wine grape, a pinkish hue. They may develop brown specks or splotches on the skin, or they may retain the bright green color of their youth. Some white wine grapes, such as the pinot gris/grigio grape, develop a light reddish purple hue like a red wine grape.

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True red wine grapes, though they may resemble white wine grapes during the ripening process, are distinctly darker at maturation. They range in color from deep red, to purple, to almost black. Many develop a dry, dusty appearance on the skin, like a film that can be rubbed off to reveal the glossy skin beneath. Even in a mature bunch of red wine grapes, there may be a handful of green grapes that failed to change color as they grew.

The various pigments that lend wine grapes their colors exist in the skins. The inner fruit of the grape is faintly golden yellow, almost without color. It is during the fermentation process that the color of the wine is decided. The juice from crushed white wine grapes is separated from the skins for fermentation. Juice from crushed red wine grapes, however, is fermented along with the skins, giving red wine its color.

Rosé, white zinfandel, and blush wines have a light pink color because the skin is left with the juice only for a short time period during fermentation. Though this is the traditional method of making pink wines, it is now often forgone. Wine makers will more often blend finished red and white wines to create a pink wine.

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pleonasm
Post 3

@Mor - Well, in the case of most of the fruits that people eat and grow, and wines in particular, I think we've properly interfered enough that it might be difficult to extrapolate on what grapes should look like by looking at nature.

There are a lot of different kinds of grape vines out there and red wine grapes are often bred to be more red so that they make a deeper wine color. Since that's basically tweaking evolution to our advantage, it could result in fruits that are red before they are ripe. So it's not that far-fetched to wonder, particularly if you're someone who has never seen a grape vine, as a lot of city-folk might not have.

Mor
Post 2

@KoiwiGal - I think most fruits change color when they are ripe to signal that they are ripe. The point of the fruit is usually to attract animals or birds to eat it and carry the seeds away, so if the fruit is eaten before the seed is ready then the system doesn't work. It's basically a form of color coding.

KoiwiGal
Post 1

I guess this wouldn't have ever occurred to me because we had a grape vine when I was growing up. We had a lot of other fruit trees as well and I'm not sure if any of them start out as anything except green when they are young.

Although now that I'm thinking about it, our grape vine was actually grown for the leaves rather than for the grapes and I don't think they ever turned red, but mostly stayed small and green. We only picked the leaves and used them as wrapping for certain meals.

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