Understanding the Differences between Red and White Wine

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When it comes to wine, you may like some colors more than others.  Some people prefer red wine while some like white or pink. Wines are available in several types but the difference between all of them isn’t just visual. Red and white wine are the two most popular spirits available and they both differ from each other in terms of color, taste, ingredients, and maturation process. However, one thing is common among all wines- they all come from fermented grape juice. Most of us believe that the difference between red and white wine is simply that red wine comes from red grapes and white wine is made of white grapes. But the truth is, red and white wine differs from each other primarily because of a little component called tannins that results in the difference of color.

What are Tannins?

Red wine differs from white wine not because of the grape pulp but the skins. Almost all grapes produce clear juice which means that the difference lies in the grape skin. There is a component known as tannins which are present in the grapes’ skins and seeds. It is this tannin that gives a dry feeling in the middle of your tongue. So, how does tannin impact wines?

To understand the role of tannins, we need to know the process of winemaking. The process of producing white wine involves removing grape skin which results in giving clear juice. The grape skin is peeled before fermentation and that produces a transparent white wine. So, even if a wine is made from red grapes, removing skin makes the wine white. This style of making white wine from red grapes is known as “blanc de noir.”

Red wine, on the other hand, is made with grape skin which gives it a higher amount of tannins. The process involves fermenting grape juice which also contains the grape skin and sometimes even pieces of the grapes. Once the fermentation process is finished, the solids particles are removed. The tannins in the skin not only give color to the wine but also impact the flavor and other characteristics of the wine.

Alcohol Content Difference

When looking at the differences, alcohol content is another important factor besides wine color. Typically, red wines have higher alcohol content and to know the reason, we need to understand the wine production process. Think of making a cup of tea. Putting a teabag in the boiling water for long gives a darker, richer, and more intense flavor to the tea. Similarly, red wine is fermented along with skin, known as “maceration” which helps in extracting color and flavor. The alcohol in wine comes from the sugar that is present in the grapes which turn into alcohol during the fermentation process. The grapes used for red wines are riper and have higher sugar content than white wine grapes.

Grapes & Taste

Typically, red wine comes from black or red grapes- grapes that have blue or black tints. The most popular red wines are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, and more. White wine is made of white (green) grapes and the most popular ones are Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, and more. White wines are usually sweet and have light, fruity flavors. Red wines, in contrast, are on the bitter side and have more complexity.

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