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Why Are White Wines in Clear Bottles (Simple Explanation)

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You may notice that white wine is sometimes contained in darker-colored bottles. This is because it is better for the wine to limit its exposure to light – especially sunlight. However, if a wine company chooses to display the nuances of their wine’s color in clear glass, then they may face a challenge with consumers.

This is because consumers may expect to see the color of Rosé, Sauvignon Blanc, or Pinot Grigio through clear glass. Some wineries actually use boxes and cellophane wraps to protect wine that is bottled in clear glass. 

It’s important to use clear glass with caution because tests prove that even short-term exposure to sunlight can cause damage to wine, especially white wine or sparkling wine. Read below for more in-depth reasoning into why avoiding using clear bottles for white wine can be important. 

Why Are White Wines in Clear Bottles
Why Are White Wines in Clear Bottles

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Does the Color of Wine Bottle Matter? Short Explanation

The color of wine bottles matters. Tests on white and sparkling wines bottled in clear glass show that citrus aromas in white wines decrease, and off-flavors increase, after only 3.3 – 3.4 hours of exposure to fluorescent lights. During the tests, the lights were placed significantly closer to the wine bottles.

As mentioned, the lights were placed very close to the wine bottles, more than normal winery or display conditions, so it is important to note that the testing conditions were pretty extreme.

On the other hand, sunlight has 4,286 times the amount of UVA radiation than fluorescent lamps, so the sunlight would have increased the amount of cooked cabbage, leek, onion, and skunk aromas in the wine.

Why is Wine in Clear Bottles

Wine is usually in clear bottles for the sole purpose of marketing the wine. As mentioned above, consumers expect to see the color of the wine in the bottle. Winemakers whose primary focus is to protect their wine against UV can strike a happy medium and bottle their wine in a green or amber-colored glass. 

Read below for more details on green glass. 

Can You Bottle White Wine in Green Bottles?

You can bottle white wine in green bottles. Some of the green glass used for bottling the wine is called Champagne Green and is a vibrant green color. It is coined as such because of its dominant use in the Champagne region of France. Green does not provide 100% UV protection. The darkest green glass filters out only 63% and up to 92% of the light wavelengths. 

Winemakers in the California wine industry tend to use Champagne green glasses for popular wines including Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Antique green is a darker shade of green. Antique green glass is a very popular choice for wine bottles in the U.S. and provides UV protection from fading and oxidation too.

Red wine is somewhat protected by high tannins that bind the riboflavin, and the darker the glass the more protection it provides during aging. 

Another shade of green glass is dead leaf green (light yellow). This shade of green provides only some UV protection and is traditionally used for white wines. It is actually one of the traditional glass colors for wines from Burgundy, France.

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Can You Put White Wine in a Dark Bottle?

You can (and should) put white wine in a dark bottle. Unfortunately, like oil, wine is damaged and degraded by light so a dark bottle is better for storage. When exposed to light the polyphenols, which are aroma compounds, can change; citrus aromas decrease and cooked cabbage aromas increase

Vitamins are also degraded by UV light. Wine (especially good, healthy, naturally farmed organic and biodynamic wine) can include vitamins B2 (riboflavin), B6, and B12 and trace levels of A, C, and K along with other useful minerals like manganese, zinc, copper, and selenium.

Brown glass is best, followed by green and, in the last place, the least effective for protecting the wine from light damage is clear glass.

TIP: To learn how to store white wine after opening, check out this article I wrote. To discover if wine fridges are only for storing white wine, check out this complete guide I wrote. And for a complete breakdown of how to store wine long-term in 8 simple steps, you need to read this guide I wrote.

Why are Some White Wines in Dark Bottles

Why are Some White Wines in Dark Bottles
Why are Some White Wines in Dark Bottles

Some white wines are housed in dark bottles. This is because brown glass (as referenced earlier) filters out 97-98% of the light wavelengths and offers the best protection for white wines. They are commonly used outside of the Rhine region in Germany. 

If wineries were always basing their decision on the glass that best protects their wine, one would imagine us seeing many more examples of these bottles. 

The decision to forego brown glass shows that marketing or other factors can be a strong driver of winemaking decisions.

It’s also interesting to note that there are several reasons why red wine is bottled in dark-colored glass. First of all, wine is not to be exposed to any kind of light for long periods of time, whether it is sunlight or incandescent light.

Light increases wine’s likelihood to oxidize, causing it to break down, in turn affecting the color, aroma, and taste of the wine. Oxidized wine takes on a vinegary taste and loses its depth of flavor.

This Oxidation process caused by UV rays is much more common among red wines, therefore enforcing why the green glass bottles, mentioned above, were born.

Since red wines are often left to age, dark green bottles play an important part in preserving their quality along with temperature consistency.

Another reason dark bottles are used for red wines is so the consumer cannot judge the wine based solely on the color. 

A final reason some winemakers have proposed is that dark glass helps hide the natural sediments that come in them.

Sediment is a byproduct of winemaking that usually settles to the bottom of your glass, and it can form during the fermentation process or while a wine matures in a bottle. Sediment is completely natural and not harmful, with most of it made up of bits of seeds, grape skin, and crystal-like tartrate.

Some winemakers fine or filter their wines to remove these solids, while others prefer to leave them, believing it gives the wine more character and complexity. If its presence bothers you, simply decant or aerate the wine before serving.

TIP: If you want to know more about touching corks during wine storage visit this article. Another important piece of knowledge about corks is knowing if wine corks can be recycled, find out the complete explanation in this article. And if some of your corks are moldy, read this article and find out if the wine inside the bottle is okay.

Conclusion

When purchasing a bottle of wine, you account for the wine varietal, the brand, and the price, but now after reading this article, you may notice something that is virtually the same between every wine…the color of the wine bottle!

No, winemakers didn’t one day just construct a meeting in the early 1700s to agree on a color for the bottle, but as we have pointed out above, there is oftentimes a scientific reason for this color coordination between the type of wine and the color of the bottle. 

Since some wine bottles nowadays are bottled in UV-protected glass no matter what the color, the colors used are less necessary, but are rather continued as a tradition.

Also, it has been researched that 70 to 90 percent of wine purchased in America is consumed within 24 hours of buying. All in all, we know that what is inside the bottle is what truly matters.

The choice of color for a wine bottle depends on several considerations and each winery makes unique and custom decisions that are right for their brand.

One needs to decide how to balance their priorities between marketing, tradition, wine integrity – or a combination of the best practices in each area. Once the ultimate decision is made – most importantly – enjoy the choices!

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