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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.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|