You probably have a preference when it comes to red or white wine, but do you really know what the difference is? It might surprise you to learn that the unique characteristics which distinguish the two go far beyond grape and colour. In fact, understanding what the differences are might actually help you discover a variety from the other camp that you would have otherwise overlooked.
Here’s an inside look at eight of the fascinating differences between red and white wines:
1. They are made with different grapes
This might seem no like a non-brainer, but the differences are in fact a lot more nuanced than you may assume at first. Although we now associate the classics of both red and white wine with distinct grapes, they actually almost all comes from the same species of grape. Vitis vinifera, which experts believed were first black grapes, eventually mutated to create their white counterpart.
2. The process by which they develop their colour varies
The rich colour associated with red wines is produced by fermenting the juice with the skins and seeds of the grape. White wines, alternatively, are pressed off of the skins and seeds before the fermentation process takes place.
3. They are aged in very different materials
Most often, red wines are aged in oak barrels. White wines, on the other hand, are typically aged in stainless steel vats. The reason for this is that oak barrels allow a higher degree of oxidation, which causes the wines to lose their fruity flavour in exchange for a rich, nutty and smoother overall flavour. When the goal is to maintain floral and fruit flavours, oxygen exposure is best limited, and that is why stainless steel is used.
4. They have different chemical compounds
When it comes to the oft posed question of which type of wine is “better for you,” the chemical compounds come into play. It is an easy enough question to answer, as the health benefits associated with wine are found in the skins and seeds of the wine grape, then red wines are the style of wine that’s commonly considered “healthier.”
5. White wine is usually served on its own or with lighter foods
It’s an unspoken rule that you buy white wine for lighter and casual meals, while you buy red wine for heavier, more formal meals. White wine is more commonly featured as a standalone drink or served alongside light snacks. Due to the higher complexity of many red wines, you’re likely to find them suggested as an accompaniment to richer and dishes and meals.
6. Red wine is less commonly served as an aperitif or as in ingredient in a cocktail
When it comes to pre-dinner drinks, you’re unlikely to see red wine on the menu. Likewise, it is rare to combine red wine with any other sodas, juices, or spirits. Although a white wine spritz is relatively common, no equivalent exists for red wine. The exception is red sangria, in which red wine, typically of a lower quality is combined with fruity liquors and citrus juices.
7. White wine tends to have a lower alcohol content
Although the varies depending on where the wine is produced, as a general rule, white wine tends to be on the lighter side both in terms of flavour and alcohol content. Dry white wines with a low alcohol content also have significantly less calories than a high-alcohol, sweeter red wine.
8. Red wine is more popular overall
If you’re buying wine for a party, for example, more experts suggest going with the 70/30 rule. Overall, it is found that about 70% of people tend to reach for red over white when given the option. Of course, this could be influenced dramatically by the time of year and the dishes being served.