Wine has been around for thousands of years, and has been mostly a sign of affluence and prosperity. However, for some countries, it is a table staple especially for meat-eating cultures. Studies have also shown that wines, particularly red and white wines, may have significant health benefits.
In today’s modern social setting where important and influential people have to sit through endless cocktail parties, wine appreciation has gone beyond having a sip or two. Whether you’re an aspiring wine (or even food) connoisseur, or just someone who appreciates a good drink or two, these few insights into the most popular wines would give you a hand when you reach for that wine glass.
Let’s have a look at two of the most sought after wine class: red wine and white wine.
What is red wine?
One of the most popular wines out there, the red wine got its name from its rich, velvety dark color, ranging from violet, red to brown – which indicates the wine’s age, from the young ones, to mature and older wines. It is made from dark-colored grapes, the black and red types, and it is processed together with their skins.
Red wines, normally aged in oak barrels, usually have higher alcohol content. In this way they lose their fruity tones and instead have smooth, nutty flavors. They go well with lean meat, including stews and poultry. For snacks, it’s perfect with cheese, pizza, salads and even chocolates.
What is white wine?
White wine is made from white grapes, but there are some made from darker grapes as well. It is light color because the skins are removed before fermentation. Without the skins, white wine is sweeter than red wine.
White wines are typically aged in stainless steel vats which reduce oxidation, thereby preserving its natural floral and fruit tang. Refreshing and light, white wines are good before, between and after meals. It goes well with light dishes like fish, prawn, and vegetables. And because of its acidic, fruity taste, and aroma, it is also ideal for cooking.
What are the differences between red and white wines?
Aside from the obvious difference of color, there’s the type of grape used, taste and how the wines are made. White wines mostly have dry, crisp, fruity flavor. While red wines tend to have rich and bitter taste.
But the main difference is in the process of making wine. White wines are fermented without the grape skins, thus giving it that light, sweet taste.The skins, stems, and seeds are removed before pressing and fermentation. The skins also give color to the wine, that's why white wines have a lighter color and red wines have darker hues.
Red wine is crushed together with the skins and seeds before fermentation which makes it bolder and more bitter. And as the skins are mixed with their juice and goes straight to the vats, it takes a lot longer to mature.
And while both red and white ones have healthy compounds, red wines are known to have more health benefits. This is because most of the good, healthy stuff is found in the skin and seeds. One major difference is that only red wine has reservatrol, known to help with cholesterol levels and preventing blood clots. Thus, it’s widely known that, if drank in moderation, red wines can be good for the heart.
While it is common to use black or red grapes to make red wine, and white grapes to make white wines, there are some red grapes used for white wines and vice versa. An example is Blanc de Noirs sparkling white wine which uses Pinot red grapes, and Orange Wine which uses white grapes but is processed and tastes like red wine.
What are some popular red wine varieties?
Red wines are often classified by how they feel in the mouth, or body type – light-bodied, medium-bodied and full-bodied. They tend to be bitter, with a puckering taste in the mouth because of the plant compound tannin found in the grape skin and seeds. They go great with any meat, cheese and chocolates.
- Light-bodied: red wines like Pinot Noir, it goes down well with vegetables, shellfish, sushi or salmon, poultry and beef and any meats. Considered one of the lightest of the red wines, it has a silky smooth feel and light, fruity tones like raspberry or cranberry.
- Medium-bodied: sweet red wines such as America’s Merlot are perfect with a plate of spicy smoked white and red meats and hard cheeses.There are varied flavors, chocolate or tea-like or a smooth fruity taste, not too dry that you can wash down anything with it.
Another great choice in this class is the Syrah as called in France, or Shiraz as it's called in Australia. It is a fun drink, spicy and bold with hints of blackberry. With its smoky and meaty flavor, it is a delightful pair with a plate of salty and spicy meats and cheese.
- Flavorful and full-bodied: dry reds like Cabernet Sauvignon are perfect partners with fatty meats, cheeses, and entire meals including desserts. A must in every meal, it has spicy tones of currants and cherries. It has the highest tannin mouth-feel and alcohol content that gives such a heavy impression on the senses.
Other delectable red wines to try out:
- If you’re going for the sweet red wine with that alcohol kick, then fruity Zinfandel is for you. With its spicy strawberry tones, it’s the perfect match to pizza,pasta, BBQ pork ribs, and spicy curry meats.
- France’s and Argentina’s Malbec smoky plum or cherry flavors go well with leaner meats like steaks or spicy Mexican or Indian food.
- Italy’s red grape Sangiovese will play with your tastebuds, with its very earthy flavor and cherry notes, it’s a good combination with pizza and pasta.
- Or another Italian favorite, the strong acidic tannin flavors of Nebbiolo to wash down heavy feasts of fatty game meat like goose, duck, and boar.
What are some popular white wine varieties?
A few white wines are very popular with wine enthusiasts, but there are actually a lot of varieties out there. There’s a wide range of flavors to choose from for the discriminating palate. White wines are excellent not only with fish and fruit, but also with poultry and pork. Let’s have a look at the more popular ones and how best to appreciate them.
- Full and rich: whites such as Chardonnay usually go with grilled chicken, cooked vegetables, shellfish, breads and tomato-based pastas. Undeniably one of the most popular of the white wines with its citrus or buttery flavor, this French wine has made it way to Californian and Australian wineries in the 1960s.
- Light and dry: white wines like Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio work well with light meals and appetizers like fresh salads, fish and creams.
Crisp and refreshing, France’s Sauvignon Blanc has different flavor and aroma depending on the climate of the area it came from. From sweet to grassy flavor, and flowery to fruity scents, it can enhance the flavor of lightly flavored food.
The golden yellow Pinot Gris, otherwise known as Pinot Grigio, from France, have full and spicy tang; while the Italian type is lighter and more acidic.
- Sweet whites like Germany’s Riesling is great for party food and hors d'oeuvres like cheese platters, creamy pasta, breads, and smoked meats. This highly popular white wine has a fruity crisp apple taste and aroma.
- There are also other white wines worth mentioning:
- -France’s Semillon with its sweet fig flavor is another favorite dry and sweet white wine.
- -Viognier from France, Australia or California with its full body, but soft tropical and spicy flavor.
- -France’s dry Chenin Blanc with notes of apple and honey.
- -Dessert wine, semi-dry Pinot Blanc from France with its sweet, crisp, refreshing nutty flavors.
Red wines and white wines are diverse in flavor and aroma, and there is at least one for any who appreciate the complexities of this wonderful alcoholic drink.