What is the Difference between Red and White Wine?

Whether you are a white wine lover or you prefer the taste of red wine, or even if you are partial to a glass of both, you may well have wondered what on earth makes them so different.

Both of them are wine. Both of them are made from grapes (aren’t they?). Both of them are delicious. So, what is the difference between them? 

As it turns out, there are a number of differences between red wine and white wine, and luckily for you, we just happen to know all of them. In this article, we will be exploring the main differences between red wine and white wine and will be explaining elements of winemaking such as the grapes used and the process so you can see exactly what sets them apart. 

So, if you wondered what made red wine red and white wine white, then this could be the perfect article for you. Serving suggestion: enjoy this article with a glass of your favorite vino! 

Red wine and white wine are made with different grapes 

The first important difference between red wine and white wine (and possibly the most vital), is that they are made with different types of grapes. 

Generally, you can expect red wine to be made from red grapes (although these are often called purple grapes and even black grapes).

These grapes make some of the most delicious red wines in the world, such as the much-loved Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Malbec, among others. 

White wine, on the other hand, is made using white grapes. Of course, white grapes are actually more green than white, but you get what we mean! White grapes make Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and some types of Moscato. 

As well as different grapes, they are also made with different parts of the grapes. Red wine, for example, uses the skins of red grapes. The seeds are also included in the process of making red wine! These parts of the grapes are what give red wine its color. 

On the other hand, white wine is made without seeds and skins. For this reason, they are much paler wines, and often a little sweeter when compared to red wine.

It is for this reason that red wine is often viewed as being the more beneficial of the two. This is because the seeds and skins of a grape are the parts that have the most health benefits. 

The process to make the wine

Red wine and white wine are made in slightly different ways. The biggest difference comes in the form of the barrels in which they are stored to age. Red wine often gets stored in oak barrels. This increases oxidation which, in turn, allows for a richer, slightly nutty taste. 

White wine, on the other hand, needs less exposure to oxygen, and so stainless steel tanks may be used by winemakers instead of wooden barrels. This gives white wine its fruity, floral notes. 

They have a different taste (and smell)

We couldn’t possibly talk about the differences between red wine and white wine without addressing the most glaringly obvious difference – their taste! If you are a lover of both red and white wine, we are sure that you will agree that the tastes of them are very different

As we mentioned in the previous section, red wine often has a deeper, nutter flavor. You can expect it to taste smooth, rich, and be reminiscent of dark fruits.

Some people also think that red wine tastes a little more bitter when compared to white wine. This bitterness is caused by the skins and seeds that remain in the grapes during the process. 

White wine, on the other hand, is far more light and refreshing. The fruit undertones are often a little sweeter and more citrusy.

Some white wines are dry and crisp, depending on what type you decide to go for but always remain sweeter than red wine because there are no seeds or skins to make it bitter. 

As well as a different taste, red and white wine both have different aromas. Red wine can smell quite rich, and almost -jam or jelly-like. It can smell quite bitter and be reminiscent of woody scents, as well as dark berries.

White wine on the other hand has a much lighter aroma. It smells fresh, sweet, and citrusy. It may even smell a little floral to some people. Both types of wine can sometimes smell acidic and reminiscent of vinegar! 

Pairings (what they go well with) 

You often hear of people choosing wines to pair with meals and dishes. As such, it is important to take note of the fact that white wine pairs well with some dishes but not so well with others.

The same goes for red wine, some dishes complement red wine well, whereas others just make no sense to be served together. 

Of course, red wine and white wine are both broad groups of wines, respectively. This means that while white wine might pair well with a certain dish, it does not mean that all types of white wine will work.

However, there are some dishes that we can tell you about that generally work well with one or the other. First, let’s look at what pairs well with white wine: 

  • Whitefish dishes (think cod, haddock, and hake)
  • Chicken dishes
  • Salads (especially fresh summer salads)
  • Fruity desserts 
  • Stir-fries 
  • Sushi
  • Thai curry dishes 
  • Strawberries 
  • Creamy desserts 

Of course, this is just a handful of dishes that pair well with white wine. Generally, it does not matter which type you use, but you may want to ask your server for more advice or consult a wine specialist to be sure that you’re serving the right wine. Now, let’s see what pairs well with red wine: 

  • Red meat, especially steak dishes
  • Chocolate-based desserts
  • Tomato-based dishes, especially Italian food like pasta
  • Duck dishes 
  • Game meat
  • Tapas
  • Certain cheeses
  • Rich Mediterranean stews 

Again, this is just a small selection of food to pair with red wine. In truth, you should drink your favorite wine whatever it may be, regardless of whether it pairs well! 

Christina Day
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