There are some significant differences between red wine vs white wine, except for the obvious visual appearance. From the moment they are on the vine, to the winemaking process, as well as, as you might expect, in the flavor characteristics, just to name a few.  Knowing the key differences between red and white wine will assist you in making informed decisions about wine and food pairings, wine storage, and wine drinking for health benefits. In this post, you'll get the low down on all differences between red wine and white wine.

Red wine vs white wine: A quick primer on two wine styles

What is red wine?

One of the most popular wines, red wine gets its name from its rich, velvety dark hue, which ranges from violet to red to brown and reflects the wine's age, from young to mature and older. It's produced from dark-colored grapes, both black and red, that are processed with their skins.

The alcohol content of red wines aged in oak barrels is usually higher. They lose their fruity tones and gain smooth, nutty flavors as a result.

What is white wine?

White wine is produced from white grapes, but certain darker grapes are used as well. It has a pale hue because the peels are removed before fermentation. As a result, white wine is usually sweeter than red wine. Stainless steel vats are used to age white wines, which decrease oxidation and preserve the wine's original floral and fruit tang. 

Refreshing and light, they're great before, during, and after meals.

What are the differences between red wine vs white wine?

Grapes used

Generally speaking, red wines (Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, etc.) are made with red grapes, while white wines are made with white grapes (Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, etc).

Besides, there are a few exceptions, as the juice is clear for all grapes, you can make white wine from red grapes as well. This is common in Champagne, as most Champagne bottles are made with Pinot Noir (black grape), Pinot Meunier (black grape), and Chardonnay (white grape). The result is a clear, white sparkling wine even though 2/3 of the grapes used are red.

Wine-making process

The main difference between red wine vs white wine stems from how they’re made. When fermenting red wines, winemakers keep the red grape skins on — this practice gives red wine its ruby hue. The fact that the red wine’s fermentation process included actual particles of the grapes (the skins), means that the resulting color is much redder. This is because the juice has absorbed the tannins that are contained inside these particles. 

By contrast, in white wine-making production, grapes have their skins removed and are crushed into a clear grape juice. 

Winemakers use two very different winemaking methods to produce these two wine styles. The most notable difference between red and white winemaking is oxidation, which causes the wines to lose their floral and fruit aromas in exchange for richer, nutty flavors and greater smoothness. To boost oxygen, winemakers utilize wood barrels as they breathe and allow the wine to ingress oxygen. On the other hand, to reduce the exposure to oxygen, winemakers employ stainless steel tanks, which ensure that wines maintain their fruitiness and flower flavors.

Red wine is usually aged in oak barrels while the majority of white wines are matured in cast iron vessels. These oak vessels allow oxygen into the red wine, smoothing out the acidity. This may not seem like much, but it has a certain impact on the wine's texture as well as the drinking experience. 

Tannin levels

Tannins are a component found in both the skin and the seeds of grapes. In fact, it's a naturally occurring polyphenol that you probably take on a regular basis (unknowingly) — tea, for example, has a high tannin concentration and gets its color and flavor from this substance.

Tannins have an astringent nature that generates a dry, puckery mouthfeel, which is common in red wines with high tannin levels. Simply consider how black tea tastes without sugar - it's the dry sensation you get in the middle of your tongue or in the front of your mouth that is caused by the tannins.

As mentioned before, tannin levels in red wines are typically much higher than in white wines. This is simply due to the fact that red wine is made with the skins of grapes included. These skins contain a high level of tannins, which transfer into the wine during the wine-making process and give the drink its deep red color.  The grape juice, which is generally colorless in both red and white wine grapes, does not contribute to the color.

When making white wines, it's often ideal to avoid higher tannin levels, and the wine is frequently made only from grape juice. Fining agents are usually added to the wine in order to remove as much tannin as possible. When the tannins are removed, the wine becomes more clear (or white), as is characteristic of white wine.

Alcohol content

Generally, red wine has a higher alcohol content than white wine. To explain why this is the case, you must first understand the origins of wine's alcohol. The alcohol in the wine originates from the sugar present in the grapes which turns into alcohol during the fermentation process in winemaking.

As red wine grapes are harvested at a later stage of ripeness than white wine grapes, they tend to have higher sugar content. As a result of the increased sugar content, red wines have a higher alcohol percentage after the winemaking process is completed.

Flavors in red wine vs white wine

Various flavor characteristics may overlap when it comes to describing red and white wines. Red wines are enjoyed for their soft, rich, and velvety flavors, whereas white wines are known for their zesty acidity, floral aromas, and pure fruit notes. 

In addition, red wine tends to have a fuller body than its white counterpart, thus producing a heavier weight on the palate. Having said that, there are also full-bodied white wines and light-bodied reds, depending on the purpose of the winemaker.

Red wine vs white wine: Health benefits

Whether you’re looking for a low-sugar alcoholic drink for medical or lifestyle reasons, white wine is the best choice. Dry white whites are perfect if you have diabetes, follow the keto diet, or simply want to minimize your sugar intake because they are naturally lower in sugar than their red cousins.

And among many white wines, Brut is an excellent option. This sparkling, bone-dry white wine tastes crisp, smooth, and refreshing in the mouth. Take Chandon Brut, for example. This brut is made with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. The result is a fresh, fruity,  creamy, elegant, well-balanced fizz with hints of citrus, peach, and apple.

Chandon Brut

Still, there is some good news for red wine drinkers. While red wine has a higher sugar content than white wine, it has its own set of health benefits. Red wine, which contains polyphenol (called antioxidant) resveratrol, has been proven in studies to enhance good cholesterol levels while lowering "bad" cholesterol levels. It's also linked to bettering the function of blood vessels and provides many other health benefits if consumed moderately.

When it comes to the red vs. white wine debate, the winner is determined by your personal health situation.

Red wine vs white wine in food pairings

Red wines can make a match in heaven with lean meat, including stews and poultry. For snacks, this wine style is perfect with cheese, pizza, salads, and even chocolates. Here are some delicious red wine food pairing ideas:

  • Pinot Noir, a low-tannin red wine, could pair beautifully with roast pork and duck.
  • Barolo, a rich, full-bodied red wine can perfectly cut through fatty meats and greasy dishes, such as rump roast.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon is a full-bodied, high-tannin wine and you never go wrong pairing it with steak dinners.

White wine, on the other hand, goes well with light dishes like prawns, fish, and vegetables. And because of its acidic, fruity taste, and distinctive aroma, it is also ideal for cooking. Great white wine and food pairings include:

  • Chardonnay is a white wine that can be matured in the same way that red wine is, giving it nutty and savory flavors. It's delicious with white meats like chicken, turkey, and salmon.
  • Sauvignon Blanc is a light-bodied white wine that is crisp and pleasant. It goes well with a variety of cheeses, oysters, and green vegetables due to its strong flavors.
  • Riesling has a wide range of flavor profiles depending on where the grapes are cultivated. Some rieslings, for example, are tooth-achingly sweet, while others are bone-dry. Pair Riesling with light poultry or sushi for a dry riesling. Try it with blue cheese or apple pie for a sweeter twist.

Red wine vs white wine: Best wine bottles for you to choose from

As you can see, there are lots of factors to consider when making a choice between red wine vs white wine. If you're more towards sharp, fresh, citrusy flavors, you’ll likely find many delightful white wines to enjoy. If you can’t resist berry flavors, there are plenty of red wines that will satisfy your berry cravings. Here are some of the best wine bottles for every drinker.

Jacob's Creek Cabernet Sauvignon

This is a classic Australian Cabernet Sauvignon, with blackcurrants bursting from the glass, mild tannins, and well-balanced acidity. Its rich red and dark berry fruit aromas make it approachable, making it ideal for individuals who are new to Cabernet Sauvignon wines. Most significantly, the gentle cedar and spice aromas might linger long after you've swallowed, leaving you with a very smooth and well-structured experience.

  • Alcohol content: 13.7%
  • Price at Drinkie.ph: 630 PHP + 1 FREE wine glass

Montrouge Merlot

Alternatively, if you are obsessed with cherry/blackberry and licorice, you can’t go wrong giving it a try for the Montrouge Merlot. It is a red wine made on the right bank of the Gironde river. Thanks to the supply aroma on the finish, the drink is worth a position in our list of high-rated red wines to satisfy your palate.

  • Alcohol content: 14%
  • Price at Drinkies.ph: 499PHP.

Yellow Tail Merlot

Yellow Tail Merlot is another prime red wine from South Eastern Australia, an Australian giant of the finest quality that is available in the Philippine wine market. Noticeably, the drink is appealing with red berry, cherry fruit flavors along with a refreshing hint of mint, making your gathering an unforgettable moment with your loved ones.

  • Alcohol content: 13.5%
  • Price at Drinkies.ph: 546 PHP 

Jacob’s Creek Riesling

Jacob's Creek Riesling is one of the best high-quality and also affordable white wines you're likely to experience this festive season. The current vintage style is all about zesty aromas and flavors, including lime, passionfruit, and spice - as well as impressive varietal intensity and zip. Meanwhile, this clear,  bright-looking white wine has extremely beautiful, subtle floral notes of cinnamon as well.

  • Alcohol content: 11.1%
  • Price at Drinkies.ph: 630 PHP + 1 FREE wine glass

Yellow Tail Chardonnay

Yellow Tail Chardonnay is a well-balanced mix of white grapes from some of Australia's greatest vineyards. This white wine has beautiful lemon honeydew flavors that are complemented by a slight wood fragrance. The wine offers a delicate yet fresh texture, balanced acidity, and a smooth, creamy finish.

  • Alcohol content: 11.5%
  • Price at Drinkies: 540 PHP 

Before you go: Moderation is the key

Now that you’ve been equipped with essential information about the differences between red wine vs white wine and also introduced to the best bottles to choose from. In the end, wine preference is a matter of personal preference. And anyone who chooses to drink alcoholic beverages, whether for health or pleasure, should do so in moderation.

According to the American Heart Association, people only drink alcohol in moderation—that is, one to two drinks per day for males and one drink per day for women. One drink equals 12 oz. beer, 4 oz. wine, 1.5 oz. 80 proof spirits, or 1 oz. 100 proof spirits. So, drink responsibly.