Understanding the Difference Between Red and White Wine

    Difference Between Red and White Wine

    Most people know that wine is crafted from grapes – or rather, from grape juice that has been fermented. So, what is the difference between red and white types of wine?

    Comparing Red vs. White Wine

    Even without being entirely sure, most people intuitively guess that the difference between red and white wines usually points to the color of the grapes used to craft the wine.

    However, the juice from both types of grapes is clear, so that means there are other factors in play that impact the color of the final wine product. One of the essential differences is that red wine is fermented with the skins/seeds of the grapes, whereas its white counterpart is not.

    Consider the following regarding the art of wine-making:

    Different Wines are Made with Different Colors of Grapes

    From a fundamental perspective, red wine – like a Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir, is made from red grapes. White wines – like Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay, are made from white grapes. However, while this is the general rule, there are exceptions.

    For instance, a unique variety of wine is made from the fermentation of white grapes with their skins/seeds. These wines are made with a rare technique that creates tannins, which form the structure of red wine. These exceptionally delicious wines are called Orange Wines and have a similar taste profile to that of red wines.  

    Different Wines Employ Different Wine-Making Techniques

    Red wines are adored because they offer a soft, velvety, rich flavor. White wine lovers appreciate its floral aromas, fruity notes, and zesty acidic flavor.

    The methodologies to achieve these very distinct results vary. The most significant difference in these wine-making processes has to do with the oxidation of the wine. An increase in oxidation will cause the wine to lose its fruity and floral notes but, in exchange, create a smooth, rich, and nutty wine. Winemakers adjust oxygen levels to create the desired outcome –

    • To increase oxidation, red wine is crafted in breathable oak barrels.
    • To decrease oxidation, white wine is crafted in stainless steel tanks that maintain its floral and fruity notes.

    Red & White Wine Have Different Stylistic Profiles

    Simply by virtue of each wine’s production method, red and white have distinct stylistic profiles – typically characterized by these two aspects – Fruit Flavor and Structure.

    Fruit Flavor Profiles in Wine

    As one would expect, red and white wine provide a distinct set of tastes. While it is hard to generalize about this aspect of a wine flavor profile, reds create a variety of berry tastes that range from cherries/strawberries (found in lighter red wines) to blackberries in richer red wine varieties. Experts can even identify secondary non-fruit herbal dimensions, etc.

    For white wines, the fruit notes range from citrus for brighter white wines to pears, apples, and other orchard fruits as the flavors intensify. Certain white wines may exhibit tropical fruit notes, including mango, pineapple, and guava.

    Structure Profiles in Wine

    Describing the concept of structure is a bit more challenging. This wine aspect refers to the inter-relationship of all the wine’s elements – how they come together and feel in your mouth. Is it smooth? Does it hit sharply? Does the wine have a light, fresh crispness, or does it hit the palette with a heavy broad stroke?

    The main component of red wine structure is tannins – the astringent phenolic compounds found in grape skins and other plant materials. The tannins provide structure and taste and help create the complexity of flavors red wine is known for. In addition, tannins help to preserve red wine, which is why they typically age longer than white wines.