The Big Difference Between Red Wine and White Wine

A glass of wine with dinner or for happy hour is a good thing. And the type of wine you drink may depend on several different things, including your preference for red wine vs white wine. But when you choose one or the other - or rosé wines or champagne or dessert wine - do you know the difference in what you're drinking other than the color of the wine in your glass? If your first thought is that the wine tastes different depending on if it's red wine or white wine, well, that's not wrong, but it's also not always the case. Here are the differences between red and white wine.

Wine grapes

It seems like a no-brainer to say that red wine, such as Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Malbec, is made from red or black grapes, and white wine, including Viognier, Riesling or Chardonnay, is made from white grapes. It's right in the name of Sauvignon Blanc, the green grape that makes a white wine.

But it's not that easy. While wines do tend to follow their grape color, all grape juice is clear. What makes red wine, red, is that the fermentation process for red wines starts with the grape skins. In white wine, the grape skins are removed before fermentation starts.

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You can make white wine from red grapes. In fact, some Champagnes are made from red grapes including Pinot Noir grapes, in a style called blanc de noir (or "white of blacks"). Pinot Gris, or Pinot Grigio in Italy, is made from the Pinot Noir grape, which is red.

You can also make white wine using the grape skins. This kind of process is unusual and produces white wines with tannin. If you find one of these so-called orange wines, you should definitely try it.

Some grapes are used to make both red wines and white wines, such as Zinfandel and Pinot Noir. And some grape growing regions like Burgundy and Bordeaux produce grapes that make both red and white wines.

Making red wine vs white wine

Past the inclusion or not of grape skins, winemakers use different winemaking methods for red wine and white wine.

Typically, red wine is aged in oak barrels, while white wine ages in stainless steel tanks. The aging process has to do with the desired taste. Wine drinkers who like red wines tend to enjoy the rich or bold taste, while white wine drinkers are looking for something with acidity and fruity or mineral-tasting. Just as you might allow a bottle of red wine to breathe before drinking, the process to make red wine relies on oxidation, which is promoted by oak barrels. White wine avoids oxidation, thus the stainless steel tanks to keep oxygen out.

Health benefits of wine

Drinking wine does have some health benefits, though they differ a little bit depending on the type of wine. Grape skins contain polyphenols, or antioxidants, which is why red wine may lower cholesterol and help protect you from heart disease. White wine is usually lower in alcohol content, calories and carbs.

Wine lovers can agree that no matter which type of wine is your favorite, a glass of wine is one of life's true pleasures.

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