Why is wine in colored bottles?

Answered by Ian Ramirez

is often stored and sold in colored bottles for a specific reason – to limit its exposure to light. This practice has been followed for many years, and it serves an important purpose in preserving the quality of the wine.

The main reason for using colored bottles is to protect the wine from the harmful effects of light. Sunlight, as well as incandescent light, can have a detrimental impact on wine. When wine is exposed to light for extended periods, it undergoes a process called photodegradation. This process breaks down the wine's chemical compounds, leading to changes in color, aroma, and taste.

One of the most noticeable effects of light exposure on wine is the loss of color. White wines can become darker and start to take on a brownish hue, while red wines can fade and lose their vibrant color. This change in color is not only visually unappealing but also an indication that the wine has undergone chemical changes due to oxidation.

In addition to color changes, light exposure can also alter the aroma and taste of wine. Oxidation caused by light can lead to the development of off-putting aromas and flavors. The wine may lose its fruity or floral notes and instead take on a more oxidized, stale character. In some cases, the wine can even develop a vinegar-like taste, which is highly undesirable.

To prevent these negative effects, winemakers use colored bottles, usually green, brown, or dark blue, which act as a barrier to light. These colored bottles help to filter out ultraviolet (UV) rays, which are particularly harmful to wine. UV rays can accelerate the oxidation process and cause even more rapid degradation of the wine's quality.

The choice of bottle color can vary depending on the type of wine and the winemaker's preference. Green bottles are commonly used for white wines, while brown or dark blue bottles are often employed for red wines. These colors offer different levels of protection against light, with green bottles providing the most effective shielding.

It is worth noting that while colored bottles are an important step in protecting wine, they are not the only safeguard. Wineries also take other measures to minimize light exposure, such as storing wine in dark cellars or using tinted glass windows. Additionally, many wineries use capsules or foils to cover the bottle necks, further reducing the wine's exposure to light.

In my experience as a sommelier, I have witnessed the impact of light exposure on wine firsthand. I have tasted wines that have been improperly stored or displayed in brightly lit areas, and the difference in quality is striking. Wines that have been subjected to light often lack the depth of flavor and complexity that is characteristic of well-preserved wines. The oxidation process can significantly diminish their overall appeal and enjoyment.

Colored wine bottles are used to limit exposure to light and protect the wine from the damaging effects of sunlight and incandescent light. Light exposure can lead to oxidation, causing changes in color, aroma, and taste. By using colored bottles, winemakers can preserve the integrity and quality of their wines, ensuring that consumers can enjoy them at their best.