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Colored Glass

March 13, 2011

It’s never too early to teach your kids about wine. Even Little Miss Fussy knows the first two steps of wine appreciation:

–       First you look at the color
–       Then you take a deep sniff

Enjoying wine is primarily about taste and smell, but one of the things that is wonderful about wine is how it can use all of the senses. Paying some attention to the color of the wine shouldn’t be forgotten.

This is why it’s important to have clear wineglasses. Colored or tinted wine glasses are a terrible idea. I don’t even like glasses that are beveled and might refract light, thus changing the true color of what’s in the glass.

Clear wine bottles, on the other hand, are a travesty.

If color is important in wine appreciation, shouldn’t wine bottles be clear? After all, it’s the only attribute of a wine that can be known to the consumer without opening the bottle first.

This kind of thinking has led to more and more wine being sold in clear glass bottles.

Wine packaged in clear bottles has also been demonstrated to sell better. Think of a few bottles of chardonnay sitting on the shelf in a wine store. Which bottle will look more appealing, the brown one, the green one, or the one filled with the flaxen golden elixir.

Because those are really the two other choices for wine bottles: green glass or amber glass. There is a small quantity of blue glass on the market.

Except clear bottles do not protect wine from light. Colored bottles do. And if a bottle is exposed to enough light for enough time, it can create unpleasant smells and flavors in the wine. This includes the fluorescent lights in the wine store as the bottle sits patiently on a shelf waiting for you to bring it home.

I’ve never advocated for most people to try and create perfect wine storage conditions at home. For the most part, wine isn’t as fragile as many in the wine press would have you believe. All you need to do is try and keep it in a cool, dark place.

But that dark part shouldn’t be ignored.

White wines are the most sensitive to light’s harmful effects and amber bottles are the most effective at blocking the damaging rays. So it’s unfortunate that white wines have been the ones leading the charge towards clear bottles.

What is interesting is that wine manufacturers have come to learn that most consumers don’t care, and that many might not even notice. Thus they abandon good wine making for good marketing.

So here’s what I ask.

Spring is almost here. White wine season will soon be upon us. When you are out at the wine store looking for a refreshing summer white, please pay attention to the color of the bottle, and remember this: A brown or green bottle may not look appealing on the shelf, but it’s a good sign that the winery cares more about making sure the wine you drink tastes the way it should than they do about marketing.

In short, buy brown.

But that’s the only colored glass that should go near your wine. When it’s time to open the bottle and enjoy it, then I hope you have some clear wineglasses. If not, it’s high time they make it to your Amazon wish list.

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