If you’re new to wine, choosing between the red and white variants will be a daunting task. Not knowing what makes them different is where most people go wrong while choosing wine. Besides taste and texture, there are many fascinating factors that differentiate red wine from white wine. While both wines are packed with antioxidants and bring many health benefits, some components are unique only to red wine, while white wine also has its own set of distinctive characteristics. Check out usualwines.com if you’re interested in knowing the different types of wine.
Below are the differences between red and white wine:
1. Types Of Grapes Used
As a general rule, red wines are made from red grapes and white wines are made from white grapes. However, It’s believed that all the wines found in the market today were originally made from a single grape variety called vitis vinifera, a black grape variety used for making red wine. Over time, the natural mutation of this variety created the first white wine grapes.
2. Fermentation Process
One of the main differences between red and white wine lies in its fermentation process. Once the grape juice is processed, red wines are fermented with their seeds and skin, whereas white wines aren’t. The red color of the wine is attributed to the skin of the grapes. When the skin is removed before fermentation, this results in clear white wine.
During the fermentation process for red wines, the grape skins remain in contact with the juice, which is a process known as maceration. This extraction process gives the color and flavor to red wine. Longer processes of maceration produce more intensely flavored and full-bodied wines like Zinfandel. Light-skinned grapes like Pinot Noir produce a mild and refreshing flavor with less tannins.
3 . Methods Of Production
The oxidation process gives red wine its smooth, velvety texture and a nutty flavor, while white wine gets a citrus, floral aroma and a refreshing texture. To increase the oxygen, wine is kept in oak barrels, which allow the wine to breathe. This increase in oxidation makes the wine lose its fruity notes, bringing about its rich, nutty flavor. This is characteristic of wines like Cabernet Sauvignon. On the other hand, to limit oxidation, wines are kept in steel barrels. This helps the wine retain its floral and fruity notes like Sauvignon Blanc.
4. Fruity Flavor
A wine’s flavor depends on many factors, but one of the key distinctions between red and white wine lies in their fruity notes. Light-textured white wines are characterized by their citrus flavors while more full-bodied ones have tropical fruit flavors like mango.
Meanwhile, the fruity notes red wines often come from the berry family. Lighter reds come from cherries and more intense reds come from blackberries.
5. Structural Components
The structural component of a wine largely determines how it feels in the mouth. Does it have light floral notes, or is it smooth and velvety in texture with nutty flavors?
The skin of the grapes gives red wine its key structural component—tannins. Tannins have a barky, astringent flavor, and are responsible for giving red wine its complex notes, which help them age slower. For white wines, the key structural component is acidity. Acids are more pronounced in whites than reds, giving white wine its crisp flavor.
6. Alcohol Content And Calories
There is more alcohol content in red wines compared to whites. Alcohol content depends on the sugar levels present in the grapes at the time of harvest. White grapes are harvested much earlier than red grapes, making the latter high on sugar content. During the fermentation process, the sugars turn into alcohol. Because of this, red wines contain more calories than white wines as calories come from the sugars or alcohol content.
While both wines are packed with beneficial nutrients, red wines have higher amounts of antioxidants. Resveratrol, an antioxidant found exclusively in red wines, is known for its anti-aging properties, which is why red wines are more commonly mentioned when it comes to good health.
8. Food Pairing
Pairing red and white wines with food also differ. The classic rule for this is to pair zesty, light white wines with fresh salads, while rich, nutty red wines are paired with red meats, and can be served chilled. The key to food and wine pairings depend on how these flavors and textures match.
Below are a few popular red wines and the food they complement:
- Pinot Noir: Pinot Noir has an aromatic flavor and is a light-bodied red wine. Lighter Pinots pair well with pasta, fish or salmon.
- Shiraz: A medium-bodied red, Shiraz is very versatile and works well with a variety of foods. Light Shiraz pairs well with mildly spicy ethnic dishes.
- Cabernet Sauvignon: This is a full-bodied wine that can be paired with practically all red meats. Cabernet Sauvignon also pairs well with aged cheeses like cheddar or gouda.
On the other hand, here are some varieties of white wine with their corresponding food pairings:
- Sauvignon Blanc: Sauvignon Blanc is a light-bodied white wine with less alcohol content and sweeter notes. It pairs well with sushi, grilled white meats, or seafood.
- Chenin Blanc: This is a medium-bodied, dry white wine with citrus notes. It’s very versatile and can be paired with a variety of foods, but often goes well with oysters, scallops, and salads.
- Chardonnay: This full-bodied dry wine with more complex notes pairs well with lobsters and pungent cheeses.
Though both red and white wines come with a lot of similarities, their differences, such as the amount of tannins and fruity notes, are what make them unique. Structural differences between these two types of wine is another key factor that can separate one from the other. The nuanced texture or flavor of each wine is distinct, and you can certainly find a different wine for every occasion. While choosing between red or white, make sure you keep your notes ready!