The color of wine

Burgundy! It’s a wine. It’s a color! But here’s a question to ponder: Which came first, the color or the wine?

Notes for you

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• For the holidays: Food and wine books you’ll like
• Today’s tasting report: Perrin “Nature” Côtes du Rhône

All right, that’s not a serious question, and we all know it. Burgundy – Bourgogne in French – is not just a wine but a color, a reddish-purple shade that reflects the familiar hue of one of the world’s most iconic wines.

The original name goes back to the ancient Burgundians, a Germanic tribe that migrated from the Rhine to the Rhône valley and built a kingdom there some 1,600 years ago. They made wine, the wine was good, and over the centuries its fame spread far and wide. Eventually the wine lent its name to just about anything with a similar color, from a beautiful sunset to that sweater that your aunt is secretly knitting for your holiday gift.

To get downright nerdy about it, the precise color that the world now knows as Burgundy is represented by hex code #800020, RGB (128,0,32). That translates to a mix of 80% pure red and 20% pure blue: Reddish-purple, tilted toward the red. Which, if you think about it, is a reasonably accurate description of the color of last week’s featured Bourgogne Pinot Noir.

Burgundy, the official color: Hex code #800020,  RGB (128,0,32).

Burgundy, the official color: Hex code #800020, RGB (128,0,32).

The folks at Adobe Inc., who presumably know a thing or two about color, unleash their inner philosopher on their information page about the color Burgundy:

Savor rich and sophisticated burgundy.
A sophisticated mix of red and purple, the burgundy color gets its name from the similarly colored French wine. It evokes a feeling of refinement and is often associated with the rich and famous — but it also has a serious tone and can be perceived as an intense hue, even bordering on intimidating.

“Sophisticated”? “Refinement”? “Rich and famous”? “Intimidating“!? Okay, Adobe. That might be a little over the top. But it might not be that far from reality. Perhaps because wine evokes a poetic connection with luxury, wine lovers seem to fall back on jewels and precious metals as metaphors for wine colors.

When I eyeball a red wine, I tend to place it first into either the ruby (reddish) or garnet (purplish) category, then qualify that with “dark,” “medium” or “light” and perhaps “hazy,” “clear,” or “brilliant.” Every now and then an otherwise worthy red wine simply doesn’t strike me as jewel-like, so I’ll fall back on “purple,” “reddish-purple” or even “blackish-purple.”

My most frequent color analogies for white wines range from shades of gold (yellowish), brass (greenish gold) or straw (pale yellow), although an occasional white is so colorless that watery is the best call.

Rosé wines show their own range of colors, from salmon to copper to rosy to startling pink on up to light cherry red.

What’s the point of all this? Look on it as pardon-the-expression slowing down to smell the rosé. I can’t think of many more effective ways to sharpen our palates than to taste our wine mindfully. Slow down. Pause. Take this time to look thoughtfully at the wine, ponder its color, clarity, and hue … reflect on it, maybe even jot down a few quick thoughts to reinforce the memory. And then it’s on to swirling, sniffing, and finally tasting a wine that has gained our undivided attention.

Good wine isn’t cheap. It’s worth establishing this small, harmless ritual to heighten our appreciation and train our tasting skills. And, just possibly, to nudge us toward being more mindful in other aspects of our lives.


Today’s Tasting Report

Famille Perrin 2020 “Nature” Côtes du Rhône ($13.99)

Perrin "Nature"

Dubbed “Nature” because it’s made with certified organic grapes, Famille Perrin 2020 “Nature” Côtes du Rhône shows an attractive dark-ruby color all the way to a thin clear edge, with bright crimson glints against the light. A lovely mix of ripe raspberries and cherries fill the nose and palate, with floral black pepper and a distant whiff of roses following. Firm acidity and palatable tannic astringency build structure, with potent 14.5% alcohol staying out of the way. It all adds up to a fine Southern Rhône red at a value price. U.S. importer: Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, Ala. (Nov. 29, 2023)

FOOD MATCH: Red meat – beef or lamb or even game – is the customary companion, but it will also work well with roast poultry (think holiday feasts), cheese dishes, a cheese pizza or pasta with tomato-based sauces.

WHEN TO DRINK: Generic Côtes du Rhône isn’t known for long aging, but this quality model should hold, or even evolve, in a good cellar through 2025 and possibly beyond. On the other hand, why not enjoy it now, while it’s showing so well?

I found it for a dollar less than’s $15 average U.S. retail. In either case, it’s an excellent value in the middle teens. The wine could justify a tab several dollars higher, but I’d be wary of a retailer that sought that kind of margin.

Here’s a detailed English-language fact sheet from Famille Perrin.

Check prices and find vendors for Perrin “Nature” Côtes du Rhône on

Learn more about Famille Perrin and browse sources for its wines at this Wine-Searcher link.

Follow this Wine-Searcher link to read about Côtes du Rhône and find listings for dozens of wines from the region.


Wine Focus December 2023
Benchmarks of Grenache

Our online Wine Focus topic for December 2023 is Benchmarks of Grenache. This easy-to-like red variety is one of the 13 permitted grapes in Southern Rhône blends, including the classic Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Grenache is probably best known for this historic role, but it’s also important in Spain, and gathering steam in California and other wine regions around the world.

As always, you are welcome to open a bottle, jot down a note, and bring your impressions and your questions to our WineLovers Discussion Group. Let’s talk about Grenache!


Find the wines you want

Explore Wine-Searcher is the place to go online if you want to find where to buy a particular wine that interests you. What’s more, offers so much more. It’s well worth a visit just to discover its many features, including its popular list of the world’s Top 10 Best Value Wines.


Good wines we’ve tried under $10.99!

Want tips to still more good, inexpensive wines? Here are Wine-Searcher links to vendors and prices for a bunch more wines for $10.99 or less that I’ve told you about in recent years. In some cases the prices may have risen over the $10.99 mark since I reviewed them, but they should still be excellent bargains. Please tell us about your favorites!


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