White or Red?
It’s the classic choice when it comes to wine. Even those who know next to nothing about wine have a preference of white or red. What makes these two wines so different?
We assume it’s just a difference in grapes: white grapes make white wine, while red makes red wines. While that’s true to some extent, the grapes alone don’t create the stark differences in color and taste. Red and white wines are determined more by their fermentation process than by their grapes.
Red wine grapes are fermented with the grape skins and seeds–a process known as ‘maceration’–which gives the wine its rich red coloring. The longer a grape macerates, the darker the color and more intense the flavor will be. Pinot Noir, for example, is made with light-skinned red grapes for a fresher, brighter red; Cabernet Sauvignon is made with thick-skinned red grapes, is macerated for a longer period of time, and has a much darker, much more intense taste as a result.
White wine grapes, on the other hand, are pressed prior to fermentation. Virtually all grapes, when pressed, produce clear juice. So if just the juice is fermenting, then it remains clear. That means that you can make white wine with red grapes: Blanc de Noir wines, for example, are classified as whites even though they’re made with Pinot noir and Pinot Meunier grapes (both of which are red grapes).
What happens if you macerate white grapes? You get Orange Wines!
The next step that differentiates these two wines is the vessel in which the grapes are fermented. The rich, smooth flavor of red wines comes from deliberate, controlled oxidation–when oxygen is allowed to alter the chemical structure–by aging the wine in oak barrels. It brings out the flavors and richness, as well as the “tannins” (a kind of polyphenol, which is an antioxidant micronutrient) that produce the dry, complex flavors in red wine. Tannins are found in both wood and grape skins & seeds. The result is a deeper, richer, smoother flavor.
White wines, however, are defined by their fresh, fruity, and floral tastes, which comes from the juice remaining unaltered. By aging the wine in a stainless steel vat, the wine doesn’t undergo oxidation (which would cause it to lose those light, floral notes), and doesn’t ingress tannins, keeping it light, floral, and fruity.
Of course, there are always exceptions. Chardonnay is made with white grapes in the white wine way, but is aged in oak barrels. This makes Chardonnay creamier and nuttier than most other whites. And some red wines, in order to preserve their floral flavors, are aged in stainless steel tanks.
No matter your preference of wines–or even if you don’t have a preference–we have wines that will excite your palate. If you’re curious to know more about the difference between whites, reds, and everything in between, visit our winery! Chat with our expert staff and find a wine that’s made just for you.