“Bricking” is one of the terms that describe what happens to a wine’s color as it ages. When red wine is young, it’s a deep ruby purple color, but as it ages, the redness fades, and the wine becomes a reddish-brown color, like a brick. Ergo, “bricking.” You can see bricking most apparently on the edges of the wine in a glass.
The fading redness is caused by phenols (compounds found in grape skin) binding together in the wine over time. Phenols are part of what lends the wine its ruby color—so as they bind together and solidify, it browns the wine. Phenols binding together is what also creates sediment in a bottle of aged wine.
The bricking process is triggered by oxidation, with noticeable differences in color around the 10-year mark. If you’ve seen apples turn brown after they’ve been cut, it’s the same process, only wines age much slower.
Is Bricking Good for Wine?
Bricking is not inherently good or bad—it’s a natural process that happens to all red wines. However, there are some situations where it might be a favorable sign. For instance, bricking is a sign the wine is aged. The phenols binding indicate that tannins have softened, and the fruit flavors have faded while other notes come forward. For our team, some of our favorite vintages have a brown, reddish color. If you love the complex flavor of aged red wine (we recommend you try it if you haven’t!), bricking is a natural part of the aging process.
However, there are situations where bricking could be a bad sign as well.
For instance, if your wine is far too young to have browned so quickly, then the wine itself might have become overexposed to oxygen. Sometimes, that’s a result of overheated or uninsulated storage or a bad cork. That doesn’t necessarily make it undrinkable—but it’s worth asking why a young wine browned so quickly.
In general, bricking doesn’t really speak to the quality of a wine. Wines don’t develop in a straight line, which means there are peaks and valleys in their flavors as time passes. Whether bricking is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for wine will depend on the structure of the particular wine. Some wines will still be excellent even if they’re a dark reddish-brown while other wines will reach their peak long before bricking occurs.As always, trust your palate. Taste wines at different stages of development, and you’ll start to get a sense for how they’re developing and what flavors the aging process will yield. If there’s one thing we can urge you to do, it’s this: don’t be afraid of wine that changes color over time. You may find that your favorite wine takes a few years to show its best features!