What’s the Difference Between Red Wine and White Wine?

redwhiteWait a minute! That sounds like an answer from the “Stupid Questions” category on Jeopardy.

Of course, the obvious answer is the color, but perhaps not so obvious is how the colors come to be.

It all begins with the grapes, and the grapes used to make red wine typically are darker and have more pigment.

What happens after the grapes are harvested plays another critical role in the ultimate color of the wine to be made from them.

For white wines, the grapes are pressed in order to squeeze as much juice out of them as possible, and then that juice is fermented.

For red wines, the same pressing process is used, but it most cases, that juice is fermented along with the skins of the grapes and sometimes even the stems. Once fermentation is completed, the solid materials are removed. But by that time, they have done their job: They have given the wine a darker color, not to mention, in most cases, a richer body.

Here are three more generalizations about the differences between red wines and white wines:

  1. Red wines retain more tannins, which is what makes them taste “dry.” It’s the lack of tannins in white wines that make them lighter and more refreshing on the palate.
  2. Because of their bolder flavors, red wines make great pairing partners for beef, pork, aged cheeses and even dark chocolate. Because of their lighter, more fruitful flavors, white wines pair beautifully with fish, poultry and fruit-based dishes and glazes.
  3. Generally speaking, red wine offers more health benefits that white wine because it contains heart-healthy polyphenols and antioxidants. However, among people who are sensitive to tannins, white wine is the better choice for avoiding headaches, studies have shown.


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