Fundamentally speaking, red wines are made with red grapes (Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, etc.) and white wines are made with white grapes (Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, etc). What’s interesting, though, is that nearly all wines we find in the marketplace were originally made from one species of grape called Vitis vinifera. Ampelographers believe that the first Vitis vinifera grapes were black grapes (e.g. red wine grapes) and that a natural mutation created the first white grapes.
For example, Pinot Noir (a black grape), Pinot Gris (a pinkish-gray grape), and Pinot Blanc (a white grape) all share the same DNA!
Red wines are loved for their soft, rich, and velvety flavors, whereas white wines are loved for their zesty acidity, floral aromas, and pure fruit notes. To achieve these results, winemakers enlist two very different methods of winemaking.
The largest difference between red winemaking and white winemaking is the oxidation that causes the wines to lose their floral and fruit notes in exchange for rich, nutty flavors and more smoothness. To increase oxygen, winemakers use oak barrels because they breathe and allow the wine to ingress oxygen. To reduce the exposure to oxygen, winemakers use stainless steel tanks, which ensures that wines retain their fruitiness and flower flavors.
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