The first question whenever you order a glass of wine: Red or White? Almost everyone has a preference between the two. On a nationwide scale, Americans tend to prefer red wine at 51% and white at 46% of the dollar volume sold, according to a 2014 Nielsen data scan. The taste of the two differs, making the basis for most people’s preference. Obviously, the color differs as well, but there are plenty of other distinctions between the types of wine in how they are made. Know these differences in how red and white wine are made and impress your friends the next time you’re browsing through wine stores.
The fundamentals of the differences in types of wine come from the grapes that make them. Red wines are made with red or black grapes, and white wines are made from white grapes. However, virtually all wines on today’s shelves originate from one species of grape called Vitis vinifera. Experts in the study and classification of grapes, also called ampelographers, believe that the first Vitis vinifera grapes were black and that a natural mutation resulted in the first white grapes.
The parts of the grapes that winemakers use also make a difference in the type of wine that they produce. Red wines are fermented with the grape skins and seeds, primarily to get the red color. Most white wines are fermented without those parts of the grape.
The distinct flavors and notes of each wine are typically what makes a person favor one over the other, and these distinctions are primarily a result of the level of oxidation during the winemaking. Increased oxidation causes a wine to lose its floral and fruity notes in favor of rich, nutty flavors and more smoothness.
The latter features are distinctive of red wines, so makers use oak barrels that breathe and allow the wine to take in oxygen. White winemakers try to reduce exposure to oxygen by using stainless steel tanks. This allows white wine to keep its fruitiness and floral flavors.
In the way that craft beer is brewed differently than other beer brands, types of wine have their own unique production methods. These methods are what create the flavorful wines that we love and why we can have such a great variety from which to choose.