IS A RED WINE so deeply-hued you can’t see beyond its surface inherently of better quality than one you can peer right into . . . or even through? Wine marketers are betting your answer is yes. They’ve been whispering this little bit of market research into the ears of winemakers for decades now. long enough to convince them of its gospel truth. Today almost all red wines — regardless of grape variety or place of origin — are darker today than they were 30 years ago. It’s conventional wisdom: opacity is preferable to transparency.
But these terms have another meaning, too. Wine whose sources and components are unknown or obscure may also be described as opaque; while wine whose origins are apparent, open to inspection, and readily visible can rightly be said to be transparent.
Transparency of this kind is a real virtue – something to strive for and applaud when we find it. We want government, business, and our personal relationships to be transparent, not opaque. In the same way that we’re concerned to know what medical school our doctor attended and whether the asparagus on our plate was organically farmed, we want to know where our wine came from and who made it.