Appearance can tell you quite a bit about a wine, and it is often the first sensory encounter that the drinker has with the beverage , unless the wine happens to be sparkling, in which case it will be the sound of those tiny bubbles bursting in glass. Ordinarily, we at drinkingjapan.org do not spend too much time talking about the color of a wine, but this week’s tasting was the exception. We had the pleasure of drinking Enzan Rouge 2020 from Enzan Wine Co., Ltd. (塩山洋酒酒造株式会社)–more about this later, of course—but had difficulty agreeing on its color. Is it purple, ruby, strawberry colored?
Purple, of course, was once the color of royalty and fellow travelers; i.e., the rich and powerful. The English expression “born to the purple” attests to that. Purple’s lofty status can be observed in Japan, as well, where the peons were once told it was verboten…to them, of course. “In Japan a deep purple, murasaki, was kin-jiki, or a forbidden colour, off-limits to ordinary people.”1 Purple gradually lost its cachet over the years and then plummeted to the pavement in the 19th Century. Though a popular color at that time, the dye was then being produced from murexide, a euphemism to hide the fact that it was obtained from guano—that’s bird sh*t to you and me.
History aside, purple might indicate that a wine is rather young, as might be expected in a 2020 vintage. It could also be the result of powerful anthocyanins in the grape skins of the variety used and/or extended maceration. What could account for our differing color observations with respect to Enzan Rouge 2020? Well, the wine is a blend of Muscat Bailey A (74%) and Black Queen (26%). We suspect that the anthocyanins in the Muscat Bailey A skins provided what some of us perceived as ruby, and the Black Queen skins contributed to the purple hue that other tasters identified. Hence, the color is probably purple-red.
Enzan Rouge 2020, a product of Yamanashi Prefecture, is an enjoyable wine, dry, high in acidity, with noticeable vanilla notes both on the nose and on the palate. After about ten minutes of breathing the wine opened up to reveal some floral and perhaps citrus (specifically, lime) aromas. The body is medium (-) and the abv is 11%. The oak is abundantly evident in this wine, and it is wonderful. A higher alcohol content and greater body would add more complexity to this wine and, in so doing, make it born to the purple.
1The Secret Lives of Colour by Kassia St Clair (UK: John Murray [Publishers], 2016).