What Is Wine?
Wine is made from fermented grape juice. It follows, then, that red wine is derived from red grapes and white wine comes from white grapes, right?
Not necessarily. Whether red or white, virtually all grapes (For more information on grapes, please click here. Thank you so much.) produce clear juice. The secret to a wine’s color lies not in the pulp, but in the skins. When making white wine, the grape skins are removed before fermentation, resulting in a clear juice that ultimately yields a transparent white wine.
Usually, those skins are white, but many white wines (including a large percentage of Champagne) are actually made from red grapes—a style is known as “blanc de noir.”
Fermentation can occur naturally, but sometimes winemakers add yeast to help control the process. Grapes are picked, crushed, and placed in buckets or vats to ferment. The process of fermentation turns the natural sugars (For more information on sugar, please click here. Thank you so much.) in the grape juice into alcohol.
The crushed grapes are put through a press, which removes the skins and another sediment. Whether this step is done before or after fermentation, along with grape color, determines whether the wine becomes red or white.
During the production of red wine, on the other hand, the skins remain in contact with the juice as it ferments. This process, known as “maceration,” is responsible for extracting a red wine’s color and flavor
This is why light-skinned grapes like Pinot Noir produce a fresher, brighter style of red, whereas thick-skinned grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon yield more power and concentration.
Simply put, to make white wine, grapes are pressed before fermentation. Red wine is usually pressed after fermentation. After this step, the wine is aged in stainless steel or oak barrels until it’s ready to be bottled.
By virtue of these distinct methods of production, it’s only natural that reds and whites exhibit unique stylistic profiles, which can be broken down into two main aspects: fruit flavor and “structure.”
The first should be self-explanatory. Simply put, red and white wines tend to conjure different sets of tastes.
Although it’s hard to generalize, reds typically invoke fruits in the berry family, progressing from strawberries and cherries (in lighter reds), through cassis, blackberries, and plumbs in richer ones.
Sometimes we might note “secondary,” (i.e., non-fruit) flavors like herbs, tobacco leaves, or leather, which add yet another dimension.
For whites, the gamut runs from citrus fruits (for lighter, brighter expressions) to orchard fruits (think: pears, apples) and, moving up in intensity, even exotic “tropical” fruits like guava, mango, and pineapple.
Some white wines exhibit a briny or chalky quality, often described as “minerality,” whereas richer whites might acquire oily or nutty secondary flavors and aromas.
The Structure of Wine
The concept of structure is harder to define. Essentially, it refers to the relationship between all the elements that determine how a wine actually feels in your mouth. Is it crisp and fresh or broad and plush? Smooth or sharp? Heavy or light?
In addition to supplying that beautiful pigment, the skins of red grapes are also responsible for imparting red wine’s main structural component: tannins. Tannins are the astringent phenolic compounds found in many plants, including grapes skins.
If you’ve ever bitten into an apple peel and felt your mouth pucker up, you’re already familiar with their effects. Tannins function like a red wine’s skeleton, providing the underlying backbone around which its complex flavors can be built.
They also help preserve red wines, allowing them to age longer than most whites.
Since white wine is fermented without skin contact, tannins don’t really factor into the equation. Acidity, however, plays a heightened role in the structure of white wine.
There are three main acids found in wine—malic, tartaric, and citric— and they’re largely more pronounced in whites than reds.
This spine of acidity accounts for white wine’s tart, crisp profile; it also accentuates the wine’s underlying flavors and helps it pair with food, a bit like a squeeze of lemon.
The main difference between white and red wine has to do with the color of the grapes used. It also has to do with whether the grape juice is fermented with or without the grape skin.
To make white wine, grapes are pressed and skins, seeds, and stems are removed before fermentation.
However, to make red wine, the crushed red grapes are transferred to vats directly and they ferment with the skin, seeds, and stems. The grape skins lend the wine its pigment, as well as many of the distinctive health compounds found in red wine.
As a result of steeping with the grape skins, red wine is particularly rich in plant compounds that are present in those skins, such as tannins and resveratrol.
White wine also has some of these healthy plant compounds, but generally in much lower amounts.
Many different grape varietals are used to produce wine, including Pinot Gris, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
While red varietals are used to make red wine, white wine can actually be made from red or white grapes. For instance, traditional French champagne is made with the red Pinot Noir grape.
Many countries produce wine. Some of the main wine-growing regions are in France, Italy, Spain, Chile, South Africa, Australia, and California in the US.
While most regions grow several types of grape varietals, some places are particularly known for one or two, such as Napa Valley Chardonnay, Spanish Tempranillo, and South African Chenin Blanc.
Red and white wine have very similar nutrition profiles.
|Red wine||White wine|
|Carbs||4 grams||4 grams|
|Sugars||1 gram||1 gram|
|Manganese||10% of the RDI||9% of the RDI|
|Potassium||5% of the RDI||3% of the RDI|
|Magnesium||4% of the RDI||4% of the RDI|
|Vitamin B6||4% of the RDI||4% of the RDI|
|Iron||4% of the RDI||2% of the RDI|
|Riboflavin||3% of the RDI||1% of the RDI|
|Phosphorus||3% of the RDI||3% of the RDI|
|Niacin||2% of the RDI||1% of the RDI|
|Calcium, vitamin K, zinc||1% of the RDI||1% of the RDI|
Overall, red wine has a slight edge over white because it has higher amounts of some vitamins and minerals. Nevertheless, white wine contains fewer calories.
3 Benefits of Red Wine
Because it ferments with grape skins and seeds, red wine is very high in plant compounds that deliver a variety of health benefits.
1. It May Help Reduce Heart Disease Risk
Red wine is the supposed secret behind the French paradox.
That’s the notion that there’s relatively little heart disease in France, despite a tradition of eating a diet high in saturated fat.
Research has found that drinking red wine may have a protective effect on the cardiovascular system.
In fact, it’s been linked to a 30% lower risk of dying from heart disease.
In part, that may be because wine contains compounds that have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. These help reduce heart disease risk.
2. It May Help Increase “Good” HDL Cholesterol
Red wine has also been shown to increase levels of “good” HDL cholesterol, which is linked to lower rates of heart disease.
A small study found that adults who were told to drink 1–2 glasses of red wine daily for four weeks saw an 11–16% increase in their HDL levels, compared to those who simply drank water, or water and a grape extract.
3. It May Slow Down Brain Decline
Several studies have suggested that drinking red wine can help slow down an age-related mental decline.
Resveratrol seems to prevent protein particles called beta-amyloid from forming. These beta-amyloids play a key role in forming the plaques in the brain that are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.
Resveratrol has been much studied for its potential benefits as a supplement. In these concentrated doses, resveratrol seems to have the following benefits:
- Eases joint pain: It prevents cartilage from getting damaged.
- Helps with diabetes: It increases insulin sensitivity. In animal studies, resveratrol has prevented complications from diabetes.
- Extends the lifespan of various organisms: It does this by activating genes that ward off the diseases of aging
- May help with cancer: Resveratrol’s potential to prevent and treat cancer has been widely studied, but results have been mixed
7 Other Possible Health Benefits of Wine
A lot of research has specifically highlighted red wine, but white wine and other types of alcohol are also linked to health benefits.
Here are some of the main ones:
- Reduced risk of heart disease: More than 100 studies have shown that moderate alcohol consumption is linked with a 25–40% reduction in the risk of heart disease.
- Lowered risk of death from heart disease or stroke: In a Danish study, people who drank low-to-moderate amounts of wine were less likely to die from heart disease or stroke, compared to people who drank beer or other spirits.
- Better cholesterol levels: Moderate amounts of alcohol also seem to improve cholesterol levels.
- Lowered risk of death: Many population studies have shown wine drinkers to have lower risks of death from all causes, including from heart disease.
- Reduced risk of neurodegenerative diseases: Light-to-moderate drinkers of wine or other alcohols also have lower risks of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, compared to non-drinkers.
- Lowered risk of osteoarthritis: At least one study found that wine drinkers had a lower risk of the disease, compared to beer drinkers.
- Lower risk of some cancers: Observational studies suggest that wine drinkers may have lower rates of lung cancer
That being said, it’s important to keep in mind that these studies are observational in nature. They can not prove cause and effect and should be taken with a grain of salt.
If you are going to drink wine, it seems clear that red wine is significantly healthier — or less bad — than white wine.
In other words, red wine is the clear winner when it comes to health effects.
That being said, consuming alcohol should never be promoted as a way to improve health, given that the harmful effects can be massive if you drink too much of it.
Additionally, most of the studies showing benefits are observational in nature, meaning they can’t prove cause and effect.
If you do enjoy drinking wine, red wine is the better choice, but limiting your alcohol consumption (or avoiding it altogether) is always the safest choice.
The Downside Of Drinking Wine
The biggest drawbacks of drinking wine come from drinking too much of it.
How much is too much depends on who you ask, since guidelines for low-risk alcohol consumption vary between countries.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends no more than two standard drinks a day, five days a week.
Many individual countries, including the US, recommend limiting alcohol to less than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women. Some countries’ upper limits are even less than that.
A Standard Drink
A standard drink is defined as a 5-ounce (148-ml) glass of 12% alcohol wine.
Note that a lot of “big” reds, such as those from California, are often higher in alcohol, in the range of 13–15% by volume.
The health benefits of red wine can easily be negated by drinking too much. In excess amounts, it can cause organ damage, dependency, and brain damage.
Drinking too much may also increase your risk of contracting infectious diseases, because it may weaken your immune system.
Furthermore, drinking alcohol seems to raise the risk of developing multiple types of cancer.
These serious risks are the main reasons health experts urge people not to start drinking for the sake of health.
You can purchase your wine online by clicking here. Thank you so much.
As with other things, I highly recommend using common sense.
My final statement is this quote:
“God in his goodness sent the grapes, to cheer both great and small; little fools drink too much, and great fools not at all.”
– Anonymous –
Please let us know in the comments below:
- Do you drink wine? If so, which one do you prefer to drink?
- Have you or anybody you know had a beneficial effect on the wine?
- What is the main health effect have you experienced if you were a wine drinker?
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