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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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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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