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What are the Differences between Red Wines and White Wines?

Aside from the obvious colour differences, red and white wines can vary in numerous ways. The differences in their composition can affect their taste, the foods they should be paired with, and their ability to age. Different types of grapes may be used for each type of wine, but in some instances the same grape varietal can produce both a red and white type with contrasting flavours and bouquets.

Fermentation Process

The first difference to be mentioned regarding red wine and white wine is the way they’re made. Red wine will generally be made form black grapes while whites can be made from black or green or a combination of both.

When making red wine, the manufacturer leaves the skins, seeds, and stems in the fermenting vat with the juices to allow the extra tannins to leech into the liquid. For white wine the juice would first be extracted from the skins, seeds, and stems then fermented on its own. Blush wine is produced by removing the skins part way through the fermentation process.

Taste and Tannins

The tannins in wine that give it a more bitter flavour come mostly from the skins. Because red wines are fermented in a vat with the skin, they a have higher tannin content and generally have a more dry and bitter flavour. Whites usually taste fresher and crisper as their tannin content is lower.

Aging

The tannins in wine help to preserve it, so for the most part, red wines can be aged longer and will taste better with age as the tannins mellow. Some of the tannins can be removed to make the wine ready for immediate consumption, which is why white wines are usually ready to drink much more quickly as they naturally have a lower tannin content.

Flavours

Generally speaking, red wines will have a more bitter, mouth puckering taste while whites will be much smoother and sweeter. Reds may taste heavier and full-bodied and lights may be fresher and fruitier, but in some cases those characteristics could be reversed. Tasting as many wines as possible will give you the best idea of what to expect with each type and can give you a better appreciation of the differences between white and red wine.

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Choosing the Right Wine for Your Meal

When pairing a wine with any given meal, a few guidelines should be followed. It’s important not to overpower the food being served while choosing something that will compliment the taste. If you want to keep the process simple there are some very general rules you can follow, but to choose the perfect wine a little more experience and research may be required.

Wine and Food Pairing Basics

Generally speaking, it’s usually a safe bet to pair red wine with richer foods and white wines with lighter meals. You may also choose to use a wine from a certain region with foods that come from the same area. The right wine should prepare your palate for the meal you’re enjoying rather that clash with it, so choosing a wine that is less complex that your food can be a good start.

When to Use a Red Wine

On most occasions, a red wine can be served with red meats and red sauces. They can go well with beef, lamb, pasta, or anything rich and hearty. Some red wines are more bitter than others, so depending on your personal tastes and your own experiences, you may find a personal preference for which wine variety you like best with different types of meats.

White Wines with Your Meals

White wines are usually crisper and fruitier and can be paired best with lightly seasoned foods. Chicken, fish, pork, and foods with light sauces will usually taste best with a white wine. Sweeter whites can be served with fruits and salads while a drier type may taste best with something that has a bit more spice.

Getting More Information on Specific Wines

A certain degree of trial and error maybe required if you have a pickier palate, but starting with the basics will point you in the right direction. Tasting more wines can expand your knowledge base and being open to the suggestions of experienced sommeliers when dining out may introduce you to potentially new and delightful wine and food pairings.

The proper wine should add to the flavour of the meal rather than distract from it. If you’re serving a multi-course meal, it can be a good idea to offer a different type of wine for each course. Your own tastes will be the final deciding factor on which wines to serve with which meals, but additional tips and advice can be found on manufacturer’s websites, in-store from your wine retailer, or even by the suggestions of regular dinner party guests.

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Tips on Getting the Most from Your Wine Tasting Experience

In order to really get everything you can out of your wine tasting experience, it’s important to use as many of your senses as you can to get the full feeling of a particular wine. The taste is not the only thing about a great wine there is to be appreciated, so take a step back and approach your wine tasting with your full attention.

Visual

Whether you’re hosting a wine tasting party or participating in a tour, you’ll want to be able to clearly see the wine you’ll be tasting. A white background or table cloth should be provided to hold the wine against so you can see the subtle colour hues that may be present. A clear glass should be used as opposed to anything coloured or frosted and the glass should be held by the stem to avoid smudging on the bowl.

Visual clues can tell you a fair bit about any given wine. Deep purple hues for red wines will tell you they’re still young while a more brownish tinge can indicate an older vintage. White wines may turn more golden as they age. Swirling your wine in the glass and looking for the film that coats the side, known as its legs, can give you an idea of the alcohol content.

Aroma

Before tasting the wine, swirl it around in the glass, inhale, and get a feel for the aroma. Fruity, earthy, or spicy scents may be detected and will give you an idea of the wine’s flavour. A cork smell or moldy scent can alert you to a wine that may be off before you taste it.

Flavour

Once you take a sip, move the wine around your mouth a bit. Not only will you prevent a shock to your palate, you will allow the wine to hit all areas of your mouth which respond to sweet, sour, salty and bitter tastes. Allowing some air into your mouth will aerate the wine and may allow you to better judge the flavours.

It may take some time to develop your wine appreciation skills, but tasting as many wines as possible will add to your experience and eventually your tastes will become more discerning. Be sure to have a clean palate before tasting and take the time to really evaluate the first impression and the resulting finish. The more skilled you become the more flavours and complexities you’ll be able to notice in different wines.

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