Can you tell the difference between a Pinot Noir and a Cabernet Sauvignon – just by holding it up to the light? Not only is it a great party trick, the colour of the wine also gives you a hint of its flavours and taste. From Red to Rosé, we walk through the various shades and hues, and recommend our favourite bottles to help you try it out.

Identify wine by colour

Red Wine

 1. Pinot Noir | Bright Crimson

Bright in colour, Pinot Noir is the lightest of the Red wine varietals. Some Pinot Noirs, depending on the winemaking can also be quite translucent with minimal colour extracted from the grape. Pinot Noir is packed with red cherry fruits and an intense flavour. Pinot Noir can also have quite an “earthy” flavour to it (like mushrooms), sometimes floral. Our pick: McWilliam’s McW 660 Reserve Tumbarumba Pinot Noir is the ideal wine to pair with roasted duck or mushroom risotto.

2. Tempranillo | Garnet

Tempranillo shows off a garnet colour which can vary from purple tones to a “orangey-red”. This vibrant rouge variety can derive from any combination of plum, red currant, raspberry and cherry fruit flavours. The palate is soft but full-bodied, with flavours of mulberry and spicy red currants, and cherry. Our pick: The McWilliam’s Off The Press Shiraz Tempranillo can be described as bold and spicy.

3. Shiraz | Deep Purple / Ruby with violet Hues

Shiraz varies in colour from a deep purple or deep ruby red with purple hues – the common element is that it shows off the purple elements in its colour. This comes from the “plum-like” flavour profile of Shiraz. Our pick: the McW 660 Reserve Hilltops Shiraz is ripe and layered.The deep purple colour shows aromas plummy fruit with meaty and floral nuances. The palate is complex, and layered with red fruits grading into purple and a darker, liquorice-like depth at its core. Floral hints, meaty pan-juice characters and subtle stem-derived characters give complexity and detail to the ripe fruit. The richness of the mid-palate moves into a long, fine finish.

3. Cabernet Sauvignon | Deep Ruby

A darker-hued variety, Cabernet Sauvignon shows off darker fruits like blackcurrant, plum, dark cherry and chocolate which contribute to its deeper. richer colour. Our pick: McWilliam’s Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is a classically structured, full bodied Cabernet. Taut, dense palate expands and unfurls with fine, chalky tannin supporting cassis, redcurrant and dark chocolate.

Red Wine types by colour

 White Wine

1. Pinot Grigio | Pale Lemon

Pale in colour, Pinot Grigio is thought to have developed centuries ago from a mutation of the Pinot Noir grape. On the vine it can vary from a brownish colour to light gray colour (Gris is French for gray). Pinot Gris grapes produce a wine with light lemon to bright yellow colours. Our pick: the refreshing McWilliam’s On The Grapevine Pinot Grigio is bright straw with nuances of copper with fresh ripe pear and white peach aromas lifted by white floral notes. The pear and green apple flavour follow through from the nose to the palate with nuances of mineral and floral notes also evident. A moderate amount of residual sugar helps to provide weight and balance to this easy drinking food friendly style.

2. Sauvignon Blanc | Pale Straw

Straw is a way of describing yellow, so pale straw is a light yellow colour. Sauvignon Blanc depending on where is it grown, is predominantly a pale straw with hints of green but can tend towards a mid-yellow colour in warmer climates. Sauvignon Blanc does not enjoy hot climates so tends to be grown in cooler climates and exhibits more of the pale straw colour. Our pick: McWilliams McW 480 Tumbarumba Sauvignon Blanc is grown in the cool Tumbarumba climate and shows off pale straw colour with green hues. It is a fresh style displaying passionfruit and other exotic tropical fruit flavours with a delicate mineral finish.

3. Chardonnay | Straw

Chardonnay can start from the Pale straw and extend through to a richer straw yellow colour – especially if it is aged in oak. The use of oak adds to the richness of the colour and also to the taste. Our pick: McWilliam’s Single Vineyard Tumbarumba Chardonnay grown in a cool climate tends towards a pale straw colour with pristine aromas of grapefruit, green apple and white nectarine with complex notes of fennel. The palate is a backbone of citrus and refined texture leading to a long refreshing finish. A wine of both purity and power with intense length and flavour.

4. Sémillon | Gold

Semillon is one of the noble grape varieties that can age very well. Young Semillon wines tend to be lighter in colour but as they age can take on a wonderful gold hue. Our pick: McWilliam’s Morning Light Botrytis Semillon is an aged dessert wine with Semillon grapes exhibiting a light gold with amber hues With intense flavours of lemon marmalade, dried apricot and mango are evident, with nuances of peach, red apple, and exotic lantana fruit flavours this is a wonderful Semillon dessert wine.

White Wine types by Colour


1. Rosé | Pale Blush

On The Grapevine Rosé combines the aromas of wild strawberries and melon, with a subtle hint of grapefruit and tart cherry. Dry and savoury, the palate displays bright, crisp acidity and a mineral texture. It is perfect for a summer luncheon with grilled seafood and salads.

2. Fruitwood Pink | Blush

McWilliam’s Fruitwood Pink is a wonderfully fruit-driven wine for those who enjoy the “sweeter” things in life. Dazzling tropical flavours of pineapple and guava are well balanced with clean lemon and lime citrus notes. Enjoy it chilled on a hot summer’s day or as the base ingredient for a wine cocktail.

Rose Wine Types by Colour

This is an edited version of a story that first appeared on WineMag.