Red Wine vs White Wine

This topic always sparks lively dinner party conversations!

Before we delve into personal preferences and what they might reveal about you, let's explore some interesting facts about the differences between red and white wines and how these distinctions evolved.

To begin, ampelographers, those who study grapevines, believe that the very first grapes (Vitis vinifera) were actually black, giving rise to red wine. Over time, natural mutations occurred, leading to the creation of white grape varieties.

One fascinating example of this kind of mutation can be observed in the phenological evolution of Pinot Noir (a black grape) to Pinot Gris (grey) and further to Pinot Blanc (white). All three grape varieties share the same DNA but yield remarkably different wines!

So, it seems logical to assume that red grapes produce red wine, and white grapes produce white wine, right? Well, yes... and no.

White grapes can also give rise to "orange" wines, while red grapes can produce a version of champagne, which is white in colour. There's even a white Pinot Noir, which can range from a pale straw hue to a deep yellow, depending on the winemaking style. An excellent example is Pinot d'Alsace, typically un-oaked and light-bodied.

Now, let's explore the winemaking process, which differs for red and white wines.

Generally, the fermentation of red wine includes grape skins, the primary source of pigments known as "anthocyanins."

In contrast, the fermentation of white wine typically avoids skin contact, preventing the infusion of colour. An interesting case is orange wine, which ferments 'white wine' using a 'red wine' method, often with prolonged skin contact lasting days, weeks, months, or even years! The resulting wine often drinks like a red wine, even though it's not classified as such. It offers a unique tasting experience, but I'd advise trying it for yourself and keeping an open mind.

An intriguing note on grape pigmentation is that the appearance of red, purple, or blue colours depends on the pH level. When the pH is lower (more acidic), anthocyanins tend to display a reddish colour. As the pH level rises (becomes less acidic), the colour can shift towards purple and even blue tones.

This phenomenon is particularly noticeable in red wines.Winemakers carefully manage the pH levels during the winemaking process to achieve the desired colour and balance of flavours in the final product. So, the acidity of the wine can not only affect its taste but also its visual appearance, adding another layer of complexity to the world of wine.

Now, back to red versus white wine preferences and some playful yet sweeping generalisations about what your choice might say about you:

  • Red wine drinkers hold a glass by its stem; white wine drinkers often keep their pinky finger up.
  • Red wine enthusiasts love cozying up by the fire; white wine lovers prefer a sunny summer's day.
  • Red wine aficionados might leave voicemails; white wine sippers are more inclined to send texts.
  • Red wine fans relish a good book; white wine devotees enjoy a good movie.
  • Red wine connoisseurs gravitate toward the mountains; white wine enthusiasts favour the sea.

So, the age-old question remains: which is the best choice?

That's the beauty of wine. Some may despise chardonnay but adore sauvignon blanc, while others steer clear of pinot noir but stock up on sangiovese. Some insist on nothing but French wines, whilst others seek out wines which practically numb the tastebuds, leaving their mouths as dry as... well, you get the idea!

Ultimately, your preference is uniquely yours, and there's a wine out there to match it perfectly. Cheers to that!