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The Differences Between Red and White Wines

Most people who drink wine will have a preference for red or white. This preference can be based on a number of variables, most of which go beyond just the color. Indeed, there are several differences between red and white wines that allow for personal taste. Think you know all the differences? Read on and find out!



The Grapes


It is a common misconception that red wine is made from red grapes and white wine from white grapes. Actually, if you’ve ever eaten regular grapes as a snack, you know that the inside flesh of all grapes is just about the same color, a sort of translucent yellowy or white color. Indeed, the juice of all grapes, red and white, is clear. What makes the difference between red and white wines is not the color of the grape, but whether the skins of the grape are left intact. 


To make white wine, the skins are removed before the fermentation process begins. It is true that most white wines are made from white grapes, but there are many white wines, including several varieties of Champagne, that are made from red grapes with the skin removed. This is called the “blanc de noir” (white from black) style. 


Red wine requires that the skins of red grapes stay on during fermentation. Keeping the skin in contact with the juice extracts the color and flavor, much like steeping tea. The longer the skin is in contact with the juice, the stronger the flavor and darker the color. 



The Taste


After how the wine is made, the major difference comes into play with the flavor profile of each variety. Of course, white wines will differ from each other, and so will reds, but it is possible to generalize the broad flavor and aroma notes in each. 


White wines exhibit undertones invoking tangy fruits like citrus (lemon and lime) and orchard fruits (apple, pear, peach). Some white wines will even bring a tropical flavor, like mango or pineapple. White wines also tend to be much sweeter than reds, having higher sugar content and fewer tannins. Undertone aromas may be herbaceous, bringing to mind grass and bell peppers, or even creamy vanilla, as noted in oak-aged Chardonnay. 


Reds, on the other hand, have heartier fruit flavors. Rich cherry, blackberry, and plum are often flavors that stand out. Red wines can also have warm notes of tobacco or even leather. The depth of the flavor noted often comes from how thick the skins of the grapes are and how long they are left fermenting with the juices. 



The Structure


The structure of the wine is a concept that many people aren’t used to describing. It refers to how the drink physically feels in the mouth. For example, whole milk and a soft drink will feel entirely different in your mouth. Milk has a thicker, creamier structure, while soda has a zingy, light texture. Wine is very much the same in this way. 


White wines tend to be crisper and often tangy. They might be described as light and sharp. Red wines, on the other hand, tend to have a broader smooth feel in the mouth, and the wine itself may be physically more dense than white. However, the tannins present in white wines can provide a mouth-puckering effect. 


Final Thoughts

As you have seen, there are a few key differences between white and red wines. There is such a huge variety of flavor profiles and structures that it is impossible to have only one favorite. If you’d like to try some of the most luscious wines available, make a reservation at Bricco for a glass or two and suggested food pairings.