What are the Real Differences Between Red Wine & White Wine?
Are you preparing for a Napa limo wine tour? If so, you’ll need to master a few basics so that you can maximize your experiences at all of the fabulous wine tastings you’ll be attending. This knowledge will also help guide your purchases, so that you’ll be happy with what you bought when you get back home. We’ll be honest — after the first 3-4 wine tastings, things will start running together. But if you learn enough to make good notes, you can recall what you tasted later and even go back and order more from the winery after your Napa wine tour is over.
One of the fundamental things to learn is the differences between red wine and white wine. They are entirely different, not just in color, but in taste, texture, and even nutritional values. Here’s everything that marks the differences between red and white wines.
Red wine comes from “black” grapes. Examples include pinot noir, cabernet franc, and cabernet sauvignon. Red wine also hails from other dark varieties of grapes, such as purple and red. White wine comes from lighter white or “green” grapes. Examples include pinot gringo, Riesling, and sauvignon blanc. Many Napa Valley wine tours include walking tours of the vineyards, where you can see both red and white grapes growing. Reds vary in shade from almost black to almost bright red. White grapes tend to be more consistent in color; usually appearing light green at the time of harvest. Interestingly, it takes white grapes longer to ripen and ready for harvest than it does most of the darker grape varieties.
The Skins & Seeds
Though the grapes themselves are different color, that difference isn’t really enough to account for all the differences in red and white wines. Most of the deep color of red wines doesn’t just come from the darkness of the grapes, but from the skin and seeds, where most of the color resides. Cut open a purple grape and you’ll see the insides are almost as lightly colored as a white grape. Processing or fermenting the grapes into wine using the skin and seeds imparts a darker color to red wine, as well as adding the tannins that deliver the texture. Fermented sans skin and seeds, white wines are not just lighter in color, but also lighter in both taste and texture. Many of the wineries you’ll visit on your Napa wine tour include tours of the wineries where you can see grapes being processed into wines, if you visit during the harvest and winemaking season.
The Winemaking Techniques
The skin and seeds aren’t the only difference in winemaking with red versus white wines. Oxidation is another technique. Oxidation is the process that causes the wines to trade their floral and fruity tastes in for richer, nuttier flavors, popular in red wines. Winemakers make use of oak barrels for this oxidation process, because oak wood “breathes,” allowing oxygen to seep inside. When winemakers prefer to limit the wine’s exposure to oxygen, they utilize steel tanks instead. This imparts the more floral, fruity taste that white wine is noted for. The amount of oxidation a winemaker allows during the fermentation process helps red wines achieve those rich velvety flavors, while white wines take on their zesty acidic flavors.
The Taste & Health Benefits of Red Vs. White Wines
The differences in grape varieties and winemaking techniques lends to a slight difference in nutritional values, as well. Though not radically different, red and white wines do provide different nutritional content and caloric values. While the skin and seeds utilized in making red wine deliver a bit of a nutritional boost, they also add a few calories to the mix. White wines are lower in calories, but also lack as much of the nutrients that studies show to be beneficial, especially to the heart. But chin up, white wine lovers! While white wines may not have *as many* of those nutrients, they’re still there! Drinking white wine delivers much of the heart-healthy punch as drinking red wine does, less a few of the calories.
Be sure to include a few wineries that specialize in white and a few that specialize in red when you schedule your Napa Valley wine tour. White wines are light and floral, and often sweet, excellent for serving with those poultry and fish dishes. But you’ll also want some hearty reds to go along with the red meat and heavier cheeses you serve. No wine collection is complete without some of (or a lot of) both!