Wine is perhaps one of the most popular drinks around. It has been for literally thousands of years. However, it should be noted that taking the time to truly understand wine and what makes it complex can make the experience that much more satisfying. If we may be so bold, we would argue that better appreciation makes the drink taste even better.
That being said, we shall delve into the very basics of wine – red and white. Obviously, a quick look should be enough to tell you which wine is red and which is white. However, there are subtleties to it that are certainly worth knowing and thinking about.
Red vs. White Wine – What’s the Difference?
We all know that both red and white wine look different, and it would be virtually impossible to confuse them based on that alone. However, our other senses could also be of help here as both of these wine types taste different differently as well.
To be more precise white wine is known for its fruity, if not light, flavors. This is what makes them perfect pairs for poultry, pork, and fish dishes. The most famous white wine variety simply has to be the Chardonnay with the Sauvignon Blanc coming in at a close second. Of course, if you want to broaden your horizon, then you should also give the Moscato, Pinot Grigio, and the Gewürztraminer a try.
On the other hand, red wines are known to have a hint of bitterness that is undeniably bolder and more complex than their pale counterpart. Like with white wines, they come in a wide array of varieties. The most famous would be the Merlot and the Pinot Noir. However, true connoisseurs would also be familiar with names such as the Sangiovese, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as the Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel, Barbera, just to name a few.
Grape Skin, Tannins, and the Fermentation Process
So, the question that needs to be answered at this point is: why are they so different in terms of taste and color? In a nutshell, it all comes down to the role of the grape skins during the process of making wine and the substance known as tannins.
Basically, Tannins are a substance found in grapes and other fruits. It can be best described by its bitter taste and the feeling of dryness it leaves in the mouth. Tannins can wind up in your wine through the fermenting process; specifically, when the winemaker leaves the grape skin with juice as it ferments. Keep in mind that the longer the grape skin remains in contact with the wine, the stronger the taste will be. As you may have guessed by now, this also explains how the color of the wine is determined.
In a nutshell, pink or white wine have lower levels of tannins. This is because they have had little to no contact with the grape skin. On the other hand, red wines acquire their color and their high tannin content by having the skin sit on the wine juice as it ferments.
So, there you have it. One of the most basic questions regarding wine has been answered.