Weekly wine defined: Anthocyanin

Mary writes:

Back in the Crush of 1999, one of my favorite wineries, Ravenswood, produced big red wines and black t-shirts with VISUALIZE anthocyanin printed in big red letters on the front. This was part of the “Big Reds Rock” campaign.

But what does it mean?

This term was alluded to in last week’s Weekly Wine Defined post on co-fermentation, so it’s only fitting that this week we bring you anthocyanin.

Technically speaking, anthocyanins are “members of a complex group of natural organic chemical compounds responsible for the red to purple colors of grapes and wines… These water soluble blue purple or red pigments occur in the cell sap and in grape skin, constitute the colour of black and red grape varieties. Anthocyanins and tannins are the main phenolics found in (red) grapes and wines,” according to Jancis Robinson, Master of Wine.

So what does all that scientific talk really mean? Basically anthocyanins, along with tannins, are what make red grape skins red, and what cause red wine to be red, deep purple or almost black.

Some grapes have more anthocyanins than others. Cab and Syrah have thick anthocyanin-rich skins, resulting in their rich purple colors. Pinot Noir and Gamay have thinner skins and thus, not quite as much anthocyanins.