In the battle of red vs. white wine, which one reigns supreme? Well, there’s not a single answer, since it truly depends on your personal taste and preferences.
Although red wine and white wine are similar in many ways, they also greatly differ. Both wines are both made from the fermentation of grapes, but there are some key differences in this process.
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When fermenting red wine, winemakers leave the red grape skins on — this gives red wine its ruby hue. By contrast, white wine grapes are crushed into a clear grape juice, with their skins removed.
While the majority of white wines are matured in cast iron vessels, red wine is aged in oak barrels. These porous vessels allow oxygen into the wine, smoothing out the acidity. This may not sound like much, but it alters the texture of the wine — and the drinking experience.
Red and white wine also pair better with different foods, are stored differently, and can even have contrasting effects on your health.
In this article, we break down each type of wine to help you make the best choice for your taste.
Red vs. White Wine: Health Benefits
Whether you’re looking for a low-sugar wine for medical or lifestyle reasons, white wine is the best choice.
Because dry white whites are naturally lower in sugar than their red counterparts, they’re ideal if you have diabetes, follow the keto diet, or simply want to reduce your sugar intake.
And among white wines, Brut is an excellent choice. This sparkling, bone-dry white wine tastes crisp and refreshing in the mouth. Take Usual Wines Brut, for example. This brut is made with white grapes from award-winning sites in Napa and Sonoma, offering hints of fresh citrus and elderflower.
Still, it’s not all bad news for red wine lovers. While red wine may have naturally higher sugar content, it has its own set of health benefits. Research has shown that red wine — which contains the polyphenol (aka antioxidant) resveratrol — can potentially increase levels of “good” cholesterol” and reduce levels of “bad” cholesterol. It’s also linked to improving blood vessel function.
So, when it comes to the battle between red vs. white wine, the winner depends on your personal health situation.
Red vs. White Wine: Food Pairings
Food pairings can make or break your opinion of a bottle of wine. It may seem inconsequential, but badly paired wine can actually ruin the flavor of your wine.
For example, spicy food is especially difficult to pair — the intense spice can mask the wine’s subtle flavors and make it taste flat and flabby. However, fatty meats such as hamburgers, ribs, pork chops, and lamb pair easily with red wine. This goes for a range of different red wine styles.
Here are some red wine food pairing ideas:
Pinot Noir is a low-tannin red wine that pairs beautifully with roast pork and duck.
Barolo is a rich, full-bodied red wine that perfectly cuts through fatty meats, such as rump roast.
Cabernet Sauvignon is another full-bodied, high-tannin wine. You can’t go wrong pairing it with steak dinners.
However, if you’re not a big red meat eater, white wine may be a better option for you.
Great white wine food pairings include:
Chardonnay is one white wine that can be oak-aged like red wine, thus imbuing it with nutty and savory notes. It pairs wonderfully with white meat, such as chicken, turkey, and salmon.
Sauvignon Blanc is a crisp and refreshing white wine. Because of its sharp flavors, it pairs perfectly with a range of cheeses, oysters, and green vegetables.
Riesling differs greatly depending on where the grapes are grown. For instance, some rieslings are tooth-achingly sweet, while others are super dry. For a dry riesling, pair with light poultry or sushi. For the sweeter end of the scale, try it with blue cheese or apple pie.
Red vs. White Wine: Tannins
Because red wine is fermented with the grape skins intact, a glass of red wine has a far higher tannin level than a glass of white wine. Tannins are naturally occurring compounds that are found in plants — especially fruit skins, leaves, and seeds.
You can tell if a glass of wine is high in tannins as it will leave a drying sensation on the back of your tongue after sipping. While white wines can have this effect too, it occurs most often with red wines. Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Malbec are especially tannic.
Some people enjoy this intense drinking experience, but it’s not for everyone. If you prefer a lighter mouth sensation, consider a low-tannin red wine, such as Pinot Noir, or stick to white wine.
Although it’s rare, some people are sensitive to tannins. Tannin sensitivity can cause headaches, migraines, and stomach pains. If you have any of these symptoms after a night on the red, try switching to white and see if there is any difference.
Choose Red Wine If … You Absolutely Love Berries
It’s hard to generalize what wine tastes like — flavors can range from pineapple to grass to gasoline (seriously!). But for those who love anything berry flavored, red wine is probably the best bet.
While it’s common to detect notes of citrus, elderflower, and passionfruit in a glass of white wine, berries are a common red wine flavor.
Light-bodied reds often invoke flavors of strawberries, raspberries, and cherries. With richer, fuller-bodied reds, you’re likely to taste blackberries, blueberries, and blackcurrants.
Of course, this isn’t true for all red wines. Certain heavy wines take on more savory flavors, such as tobacco, leather, and black pepper. However, if you love strong, berry-heavy flavors and aromas, chances are you’ll find a red wine you love.
Choose White Wine If … You Love Citrus Flavors
White wine flavors are often crisper than those of red wines. Think citrus, freshly cut grass, stone fruits, and aromatic hints of floral. If you gravitate towards sharper flavors, white wine might be the one for you.
Furthermore, if you prefer your drinks a little colder — a refreshing summer glass, perhaps? — white wines are an ideal choice. To discover more about proper wine storage and serving, check out our guide on wine temperature.
Who Wins the Red vs. White Wine Battle?
As you can see, there are plenty of factors to consider when making a choice between white and red wine.
While red wine has its own health benefits, such as links to lowering cholesterol, dry white wine is an excellent choice for those looking to lower their sugar intake.
White wine is also lower in tannins, meaning those who don’t enjoy the drying effect of highly tannic drinks, or those with tannin sensitivity should choose white wine over red.
By contrast, red meat lovers would be wise to fill their wine cellar with a good selection of red wine, due to its wonderful food pairing qualities. On the other hand, vegetarians and vegans may find it easier to pair white wine with their meal choices.
If you gravitate towards sharp, fresh, citrusy flavors, you’ll likely find many white wines to enjoy. If you can’t resist raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries, there are plenty of red wines that will satisfy your berry-lust.
All that said, take this advice with a pinch of salt. There are so many wonderful wine options on the market, there’s no reason to limit yourself. Treat yourself to a range of different wines (including rosé). You may be surprised by what takes your fancy.