The Differences Between Red and White Wine

The difference between red and white wine isn’t just visual. Red and white wines have significant differences when it comes to taste, the maturation process, and even on the molecular level. Here are the differences between red and white wine:


Red wine is made from black grapes. These grapes tend to have blue or black tints. Here are the most popular types of red wine varieties:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon- full bodied
  • Merlot- has a chocolate or tea-like flavor
  • Pinot Noir- light, fruity flavor profile
  • Shiraz- full bodied, smoky or meaty flavor
  • Zinfandel- rich, dark, spicy profile

White wine is made with white grapes. Some winemakers use sweeter black grapes. The juice made from these grapes is made colorless by removing the skin before fermentation. Here are the most common white wine varieties:

  • Chardonnay- full, with citrus or butter flavor
  • Sauvignon blanc– herbal or melon flavor
  • Semillon– fig flavor profile
  • Moscato– grapefruit, musky flavor
  • Pinot grigio– crisp and dry
  • Riesling- light, crisp, apple taste


White wines have a wide range of taste. Some white wines are very sweet, and others dry. White wine has light, fruity flavors. White wines pair with fish, poultry, pork, and fruit.

Red wines tend to be on the bitter side, with a puckering taste. Red wine is bolder and has more complexity. Red wines go great with beef, pork, chocolate, and cheeses.


Tannin is what makes wine taste dry or bitter. To be more specific, it’s a plant compound that binds to proteins and amino acids and is what gives red wine that pucker feeling when you drink it.

White wines have little or no tannins. Tannins are found in the skin of the grape, which is removed when making white wine. The lack of tannins give white wine its sweeter, lighter taste.

Red wines have large amounts of tannins. The skin of the grape is left on throughout the wine making process when making red wine, which deposits tannins into the juice. Some winemakers also use the seeds of the grapes, which is another significant source of tannin. These molecules give red wine its bitter taste. It’s also responsible for the mouthfeel of red wine. Mouthfeel is a term for the puckering sensation in the back of your mouth when you drink red wine.


White wines have a higher sugar content and lower acidity levels. White wine contains phenolics called hydroxycinnamates and hydroxybenzoates. Complex phenolics aren’t present in white wine, giving it a less complex flavor profile than red wine.

Red wines contain less sugar and carbohydrates than white wine. They also tend to be more acidic. Red wine contains both types of phenolics that white wine does, with the addition of more complex molecules. Red wine also contains flavanoids, procyanidins, complex esters, and anthocyanins. These phenolics give red wine its astringency, bold taste, and its deep color.

Wine Production Process

The skin of the grape is removed before making the juice for white wine. The skin is what gives wine its color, and the removal of the skin is what allows winemakers to be able to use black grapes when making red wine. However, even with the skin removed, some tannins wind up in the juice during production. These tannins are removed by adding fining agents at different points in the process. The production of white wine typically involves a two step process.

The first step in the process is called a free run. During a free run, the juice is pressed as little as possible to remove as much of the initial tannins as possible. In the second step, the juice is mixed with skin and squeezed. The amount of squeezing required depends on the desired sweet or dryness of the wine. In the last step, fining agents are added to achieve the desired taste of the white wine. White wines have a shorter maturation and fermentation process.

white wine

With red wine, the skin of the grapes remain in the juice during the winemaking process. The grapes are soaked before and after fermentation. The skin of the grape is mixed into the juice throughout the fermentation process to counteract the effects of carbon dioxide production. Red wines are allowed to mature for longer periods than red wine.


Red wine has much more health benefits than red wine. Red wine contains heart healthy polyphenols and antioxidants. These molecules protect the lining of your blood vessels and reduce inflammation. One particular molecule called reservatrol is especially healthy and is found only in red wine, not white.

Reservatrol helps cholesterol levels. This molecule reduces LDL (bad) cholesterol. Reservatrol also prevents blood clots. In a study with mice, this compound also reduced the risk of diabetes and obesity. However, these effects were seen at very high levels of reservatrol, the equivalent of 1,000 liters of red wine per day in humans. The effects on cholesterol are seen in small amounts in people, the equivalent of one glass per day.

However, white wine is less likely to cause headaches or migraines in certain people. Some people are sensitive to tannins, and this sensitivity triggers headaches. White wines contain the least amount of tannins, which makes it the best option for those who get migraines after drinking red wine. While doctors aren’t sure why red wine triggers headaches in certain people, tannins in red wine are believed to encourage production of serotonin.

Red and white wine have major differences that go beyond appearance. They differ in taste, chemistry, and production.