Wine Blog

Red wines vs white wines, part 1

When someone asks me if I prefer white or red wines, I always respond that it is impossible to choose. Everything depends on my state of humor, food or occasion. Today I invite you to know the differences and myths about these two great wine families.

By Ania Smolec / July 07, 2017
Wine Journalist

The first and biggest difference is the color. Whites present shades from a yellowish-green to orange, while reds have a broad chromatic spectrum, starting from a vibrant purple to brown tonalities. Obvious, right?

Let’s talk about some urban myths about reds versus whites that fly over the world of wine and sometimes distract us from the true knowledge between these two families.

Myth 1: Color = style

Many times, we speak of white and red wines as different styles. It’s true, but also inaccurate. Oh, what a contradiction! A sweet wine can be white or red. Or, of light, medium or heavy body, sweet, sparkling or fortified. And the same happens with reds.

cata - anotar

But if we stick to its color only, we can simplify things and define only three categories: white, pink and red. Remember: the color of the wine does not define its style. Only the genetic origin of the grapes!

Myth 2: Whites and reds are produced in the same way

Yes, broadly, but there are important differences. First, let’s go to the vineyard. Each strain has its personality, demands different types of soil and climatic conditions, and its grapes are harvested at different times.

gamela vendimia

Now, let’s go to the cellar, where the grape, or rather the grape juice, turns into wine. The difference is that white wines are fermented without their skins, although some daring winemakers also make long macerations to produce more fatty and concentrated white wines, as is the case of the very fashionable orange wines. The reds, however, are fermented with their skins to extract more color and tannic structure.

Myth 3: Alcohol Content

This myth says that whites are light as a juice and reds have a lot of alcohol. That is not true. It all depends on the style of wine. In both white and red wines, you can find light body styles.

cata nariz aroma

There are also white wines that have 14 or 15% alcohol, such as the French Hermitage Blanc with 14%, or red icons such as Don Melchor that in some vintages reaches 14.5%.

Myth 4: Only the red wines are good for aging

True, but only partially. Both white and red can be stored for years in the cellar. Everything depends on the structure of the wine, concentration and levels of acidity and alcohol.

cava bodega

But yes. Reds have a longer storage potential thanks to the tannin content of their skins. The tannins of the white wines, in the majority of the cases, come from their aging in barrel.

Myth 5: Reds are more expensive

Not necessarily. The price of a wine depends on the origin of the grape, a selection of a vineyard with special characteristics, the punctilious work in the cellar and / or the power and history of a brand. There are so many variables!

Wine Shop 3

In France, where some of  the world’s most expensive wines are produced, high prices not only come from Bordeaux and its great reds, but there are also fabulous terroir whites and selected appellations, as is the case with some Burgundy Chardonnay, which are very appreciated by collectors.

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