Differences between red and white wines include the kinds of grapes used, the fermentation and aging process, and the character and flavor of the finished product.
First, the grapes themselves are noticeably different, with a predominantly red or white color of skin, although the juice of both types is mostly clear.
When fermented, additional pressing of the red grapes releases many tannins and colors into the wine, contributing to the deep, velvety color and flavor of red wines. Following fermentation, the wine may be matured and conditioned in oak barrels for several months. This will add additional wood tannins and flavors. As this could overpower the subtler flavors of white wines, few (such as Chardonnay) are aged in oak. These same tannins, however, help intensify and add richness to a red wine, which is why most reds are aged in oak.
The result is that red wines exhibit a set of rich flavors with spicy, herby and even meaty characteristics. On the other hand, white wines are light in character, with crisp, fruit flavors and aromas.
The term “appellation” varies slightly from country to country, but in the more basic sense, it is the region in which a wine was produced. The term “AVA” (American Viticultural Area) is the North American equivalent of the word ‘appellation’ and refers to a specific growing region.
Oregon has 17 official AVAs and several new ones are currently under review for consideration.
Though some wineries and vineyards are located outside of these regions, the majority of Oregon wines can be classified under a regional AVA.
Wines produced with grapes originating from more than one of these AVAs may simply be labeled as an Oregon wine.
For more information on AVA guidelines, please visit the following Web address:
A varietal is simply a single type of grape used in wine production.
A “varietal wine” is made predominantly from one type (or varietal) of grape.
Examples of varietals include Pinot Noir, Riesling, and Syrah.
In Oregon, a varietal wine must contain at least 90% of its wine from a single variety of grape. The other 10% may come from blending in other varietals, a practice commonly employed by wineries to produce unique flavors in their wines. This other 10% may also result from a vineyard whose vines containing a few “stray” varietals, which, unless expressly detected, may go unknown for years.
The only exception to Oregon’s 90/10 law is with Cabernet Sauvignon, which may contain up to 25% of another varietal.
A dry wine has had most or all of its natural sugars converted to alcohol during the fermentation process, producing a wine relatively strong in alcohol, but with very little sweetness.
Examples of dry wines include Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, and Pinot Noir.
A sweet wine is just what it sounds like. Unlike a dry wine, a sweet wine still has considerable amounts of natural sugar following fermentation.
Because less sugars have been converted to alcohol, sweet wines may have less overall alcohol than their dry counterparts.
Examples of sweet wines include Riesling, Muller Thurgau, and Dolcetto.
A blush wine is made by removing grape skins early in the fermentation process, thereby preventing the introduction of most tannins, colors, and flavors from the skins into the wine. The result is a wine that appears light- to dark-pink in color, with a somewhat sweeter flavor, and in many cases, less alcohol, than a traditional red or white wine.
Typically made from red wine grapes. a blush can also be made from some white grapes, as well as a combination of the two. A blush is also known as ‘rosé’, ‘rose’, or even just ‘pink’ wine.
Examples of blush wines include Pinot Noir Blanc, White Grenache, and White Zinfandel.
A dessert wine is one that has retained much of its residual sugar, and may have been strengthened (fortified) with alcoholic additives. The result is a potent, sweet, and in some cases syrupy wine full of flavor and aroma, and with higher alcohol content than a typical wine.
For this reason, the wine complements a dessert. In some parts of Europe, dessert wines are also served as before-dinner apéritifs.
Examples of dessert wines include Muscat, and late harvest wines.
A late harvest wine is one whose grapes have been harvested after they have fully ripened. In some cases, the grapes have been affected by a particular type of mold known as Botrytis cinerea, which causes the grapes to lose water, increasing the concentration of their natural sugars.
Late harvest wines typically have higher alcohol and residual sugars, and hence stronger and sweeter flavors than other wines, and can be served as dessert wines.
Examples of late harvest wines include Late Harvest White Riesling and Late Harvest Pinot Gris.
Ice wine is made from freezing wine grapes, and then removing excess ice. This results in a much more potent solution from which to ferment intensely sweet, acidic wines.
The term “ice wine” comes from the German expression “Eiswein”.
Mainly produced outside the United States, several Oregon wineries do produce ice wine.
Grappa is made from distilling pomace (grape skins) left over from the winemaking process.