It is clear to see that there is a difference between red and white wines. However, these differences go far beyond the color of the grape.
The differences between the grapes affect how they are grown, harvested, aged, health benefits, and how they taste.
Differences in Grapes
The biggest difference in how red and white wines are made is how long the skins and seeds sit with the juice that makes the wine.
White wines are immediately pressed off the skins and seeds before being fermented.
Red wines are fermented with the skin and seeds still in contact with the juice.
The grapes also have many different flavonoids, which affect the taste of the wine.
White wines tend to be more acidic. They have more flavors of tropical fruit, flowers, and minerals.
Red wines tend to be both tannic and acidic. They have more flavors of red fruits, berries, spices, and herbs. Some of these flavors may also come from the oak barrels they are aged in.
Factors Affecting Color
Not all red and white grapes are made the same. There are many factors that will affect the color of the wine.
- The varietal of the grape
- Region and terroir
- The thickness of the grape skin- For example, Pinot Noir is much thinner skinned than a Cabernet Sauvignon and will be lighter in color, even though they are both red grapes
- How the grapes are harvested (how long the juice is in contact with the skins)
- Age of the wine– White wines darken as they age while red wines lighten
Differences in Taste
Many factors affect the taste of wine:
- Weather patterns
- The varietal of grape(s)
- Winemaking and fermentation process
- Use of oak barrels or stainless steel
- Winemakers additives during the winemaking process
- Age of the wine
Switching Things Up: Orange and Rose Wine
Let’s switch things up. Did you know that red grapes can be made in the style of white wine and that white grapes can be made in the style of red wine? We mostly see this with red grapes being made into a rose.
However, orange wine is also a thing. This happens mostly in the Republic of Georgia and other ancient wine-producing regions.
How does this affect the wines health benefits?
Rose will contain far fewer antioxidants and healthy chemical compounds than regular red wine. While an orange wine will contain far more antioxidants and healthy chemical compounds than regular white wine.
It is common to come across articles claiming that red wine is loaded with health benefits. Why is that? And why is white wine not considered the healthiest type of wine?
It is true. Red wine has many antioxidants, is heart-healthy, and has also been proven to help reduce blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and the risk of heart disease. These benefits come from the skin of the grape and seeds, which also contain tannins. The pigments and skins contain all these great chemical compounds like resveratrol and beneficial polyphenols.
Some studies even suggest that wine contains anti-aging properties.
Often, a glass of red wine contains fewer calories and less sugar than a glass of white wine.
Because these are found in the skin and seeds of the grapes, the darker the skin color and the longer the skins are in contact with the juice during fermentation, the more beneficial chemical compounds will be in the wine.
This could make a dark and juicy Zinfandel a tad more healthy than a medium-bodied Merlot. However, the best wines are the wines you enjoy; white wine drinkers.