Thursday, June 2, 2011

❏This vs That ❐: Red Wine vs White Wine

Welcome to Thursday's

Red wine vs White wine

I started drinking wine, lol, and was curious as to the differences between red and white -hence I created this post.  I did try wine back in my younger days but the only thing I remembered was that the few times I did drink red wine it gave me a headache... so eventually I never bothered with it.  Anyways, a close friend introduced me to a white wine from Germany - a riesling which was so tasty that I drank it like soda!  As you can all tell - I'm definitely no wine connoisseur!  I had to start from the beginning meaning the right glass to use, how to drink it (not chug it down like beer), how to sniff and taste a good wine etc.

One of the main reasons though why I started drinking wine again was for the fact that I kept reading and hearing how one or two glasses a day were good for you health wise!  (Not to mention relieving stress after a hard day's work!!)  So I decided to start right at the beginning starting with the type of glasses used to drink red and white wine.


Did you know... The effect of a glass shape on the taste of wine has not been demonstrated by any scientific study and remains controversial - yet there are 2 distinct types each for red and white wine?  It is however believed by some that the shape of the glass is important, as it concentrates the flavor and aroma (or bouquet) to emphasize the varietal's (wines made primarily from a single named grape variety),characteristic. One common belief is that the shape of the glass directs the wine itself into the best area of the mouth from the varietal.
Generally, the opening of the glass is not wider than the widest part of the bowl.

Red wine glasses
Glasses for red wine are characterized by their rounder, wider bowl, which increases the rate of oxidation. As oxygen from the air chemically interacts with the wine, flavor and aroma are subtly altered. This process of oxidation is generally more compatible with red wines, whose complex flavors are smoothed out after being exposed to air. Red wine glasses can have particular styles of their own, such as
- Bordeaux glass: tall with a broad bowl, and is designed for rich,full bodied red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlots as it directs wine to the back of the mouth. The broad bowl allows the wine to breathe and brings out the rich aromas. As this glass is tall the wine flows directly to the back of the mouth allowing the drinker to experience maximum flavour.
- Burgundy glass: broader than the Bordeaux glass, it has a bigger bowl to accumulate aromas of more delicate, full bodied red wines such as Pinot Noir. This style of glass directs wine to the tip of the tongue where the sweetness of the wine is best appreicated.

White wine glasses

White wine glasses vary enormously in size and shape, from the delicately tapered Champagne flute, to the wide and shallow glasses used to drink Chardonnay. Different shaped glasses are used to accentuate the unique characteristics of different styles of wine. Wide mouthed glasses function similarly to red wine glasses discussed above, promoting rapid oxidization which alters the flavor of the wine. White wines which are best served slightly oxidized are generally full flavored wines, such as oaked chardonnay. For lighter, fresher styles of white wine, oxidization is less desirable as it is seen to mask the delicate nuances of the wine. To preserve a crisp, clean flavor, many white wine glasses will have a smaller mouth, which reduces surface area and in turn, the rate of oxidization. In the case of sparkling wine, such as Champagne or Asti Spumante, an even smaller mouth is used to keep the wine sparkling longer in the glass making the bubbles last longer.   For more mature white wines you should have a taller, straighter glass. This type of glass will allow the wine to flow to the rear and sides of the tongue enabling you to better experience its bolder flavour.

Now for the real test...

Comparing the differences in terms of:

It’s in the Skin-
The skins of grapes contain high levels of antioxidants, compounds that provide beneficial health effects. The wine that provides the most health benefits is red because the skins are included in its processing. The grape skins are removed when white wine is processed, which decreases its medicinal benefits.  The reason red wine gets so much credit is that it’s full of a potent blend of some of the strongest antioxidant chemicals found in nature—even more potent than vitamins C and E, which are considered some of the most powerful. Besides polyphenols, flavonoids, phenolic acids, and other bioactive compounds, red wine contains resveratrol, a chemical that has shown remarkable promise in protecting the heart and brain from damage, reducing inflammation, and reversing harmful health conditions. These helpful compounds, found in the skins of grapes, appear more abundantly in red wine than in white, because red wine grapes stay in contact with their skins for much longer in the winemaking process, while white wine grapes are separated from their skins early on. So naturally, much of the published research shows that when it comes to preventing colon cancer, stroke, diabetes, and heart disease, red wine should be people’s beverage of choice.

White or Red … or Both?
Not all researchers believe in the power of cabernet over chardonnay, however. Some studies have found no discernible difference between the health benefits of drinking white wine versus red. Besides the chemicals that are unique to wine, alcohol itself can be a powerful and beneficial compound (in moderation, of course); it increases the absorption of other antioxidants, boosts the level of good (LDL) cholesterol, thins the blood to prevent heart clots, and promotes relaxation, which can help avert stress-induced illnesses. Since white and red wines contain similar levels of alcohol, in this respect, they have the same positive effects on the body.
In the end, the grape itself also contains nutrients and antioxidants, so white wine, while not as healthy as red, is still considered a healthy beverage.

A lot of you may not realize wine contains calories but since it is made from grapes, then it does since grapes are fruits.  The calories come from the alcohol and sugar content of the wine.  In general, red wine usually contains more calories than white.
Typically, four ounces of white wine have about five calories less than red wine. With that said, the number of calories in different varieties of wine differ far more; the higher the alcohol content, the higher the calorie count.  If you're really counting your calories, you can always check out these sites - Calories in Wine or

There is obviously a significant taste and flavour when comparing red wines to white.  But the 'art' of tasting was a whole other new experience all together.

Judging color is the first
step in tasting a wine

The results of the four recognized stages to wine tasting:

  • Appearance - Check out the color and clarity. An older red wine will often have more orange tinges on the edges of color than younger red wines. Older white wines are darker, than younger white wines when comparing the same varietal at different ages.
  • Aroma - To get a good impression of your wine's aroma, swirl your glass for a solid 10-12 seconds (this helps vaporize some of the wine's alcohol and release more of its natural aromas) and then take a quick whiff to gain a first impression.  Still Smelling. Now stick your nose down into the glass and take a deep inhale through your nose. What are your second impressions? Do you smell oak, berry, flowers, vanilla or citrus? A wine's aroma is an excellent indicator of its quality and unique characteristics. Swirl the wine and let the aromas mix and mingle, and sniff again. 
  • Taste - "in mouth" sensations.  Take a taste. Start with a small sip and let it roll around your mouth. You first want to get an impression of alcohol content, tannin levels, acidity and residual sugar.  These four pieces do not display a specific flavor per se, they meld together to offer impressions in intensity and complexity, soft or firm, light or heavy, crisp or creamy, sweet or dry, but not necessarily true flavors like fruit or spice.   Then you want to taste the wine’s actual taste on the palate.  If it’s a red wine you may start noting fruit – berry, plum, prune or fig; perhaps some spice – pepper, clove, cinnamon, or maybe a woody flavor like oak, cedar, or a detectable smokiness. If you are in the Evolution Phase of a white wine you may taste apple, pear, tropical or citrus fruits, or the taste may be more floral in nature or consist of honey, butter, herbs or a bit of earthiness.
  • Finish (aftertaste) - The wine's finish is how long the flavor impression lasts after it is swallowed. This is where the wine culminates, where the aftertaste comes into play. Did it last several seconds? Was it light-bodied (like the weight of water), medium-bodied (similar in weight to milk) or full-bodied (like the consistency of cream)? Can you taste the remnant of the wine on the back of your mouth and throat?
The temperature that a wine is served at can greatly affect the way it tastes and smells. Lower temperatures will emphasize acidity and tannins while muting the aromatics. Higher temperatures will minimize acidity and tannins while increasing the aromatics.

Wow!  I think all of the above is definitely for the professionals..  As for me, my taste test involves gulping a mouthful and if it doesn't create a weird expression on my face - i'll take it.

Red Wine -
Not only does soaking the skins give red wine its color,it also imparts a substance known as tannin. Tannin is what gives red wines a complexity that is beyond that of most white wines.
Tannin has a mouth drying quality that causes the wine to feel firm in your mouth. When a red wine is young, this firmness can be quite intense.
Over time, the qualities of the tannin will mellow and blend harmoniously with the other characteristics of the wine. This is one of the main reasons that red wines usually age better than whites.
Red wine is usually intended to be consumed with a meal instead of on its own. The bold flavors and characteristics (compared to most whites), will stand up to and sometimes complement flavorful foods.

White Wine -
Most white wine is produced from white grapes.  It is possible to make white wine out of black grapes by carefully extracting the juice and keeping the skins separated. Champagne is the most famous example. It is made from a blend of grapes which include Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier (black grapes).   Not allowing the skins and stems to soak in the juice like red wines, reduces the amount of tannin in white wines therefore making them taste less intense.  Sometimes though, a white wine will be allowed to ferment or age in oak barrels. The oak barrels will impart some tannin to the wine, but not as much as in a typical red wine.
White wines are typically less complicated than reds because of the effect tannin has on red wines. Therefore, white wine can be enjoyed whenever and whereever the mood strikes you.

Ok, so which wine - red or white - gives you the worst hangover?

Before I mention which, you should first understand something called congeners.  One of the biggest culprits in feeling awful the morning after binging is a category of substances called congeners, the particulates in spirits that give them their deep color. Congeners are a byproduct of some types of fermentation. Sometimes they're impurities in spirits, and other times they're trace elements added to stabilize or flavor them. These substances vary in different types of alcoholic beverages, but when they get into your system they cause or heighten some of the symptoms associated with hangovers.
One way to reduce your exposure to congeners is to stick with alcoholic beverages that are light in color, such as gin, light rum, vodka or white wine.  So there you have it!  White wine is the winner in terms of giving you a better hangover... wait a minute, that doesn't sound right... uh,  I mean the least worst hangover.

Drink what you like!
While most studies look at the composition of red wine versus white wine, some researchers have focused on studying the drinkers themselves. Although we tend to think that red wine is what protects the body, it may actually be that red-wine drinkers are already healthier and therefore less likely to develop those chronic diseases in the first place. Studies show that regular drinkers of red wine are less likely to smoke than white-wine drinkers, and more likely to eat a Mediterranean-style diet low in saturated fats.
At the end of the day, it’s a toss-up. Some research has demonstrated a sizable advantage for red wine, and a few studies suggest that both kinds of wine have about the same effects. Even if the jury’s still out on which is better for overall health, there are a few clear-cut advantages to choosing white over red:
  • White wine tends to have fewer calories, although it varies by varietal (sweet wines, like rieslings, contain more sugar and therefore more calories). In general, though, white wine is a better choice for people watching their weight.
  • Another benefit is that it is far less likely to trigger headaches, especially migraines. Red wine, more than any other alcoholic beverage, is a known trigger for many migraine sufferers, and even healthy people often avoid it and its side effects, which can sometimes occur after as little as one glass. While it’s unknown whether it’s the sulfites, tannins, or other compounds in the wine that cause the discomfort, red wine does have up to 200 percent more histamines than white wine, which explains some of the headaches, nausea, and inflammation many people experience after drinking it. White wine has no such side effects.
  • White wine also has none of the known medication interactions that red wine does.
However,  it's not all good news for drinking white wine.... 

An interesting article I read on a msnhealth site mentioned that scientists say white wine perishes your teeth more than red and brushing won't help:
A team of Johannes Gutenberg University wine maestros in Germany found that wines such as chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and pinot erode protective layers on your teeth, which causes them to rot and develop sensitivities to food.
The UK's Daily Mail reports that in a test of eight red and white European wines, the researchers soaked teeth which had been removed from men and women over 40. They found that the chompers soaked in white had perished more than the ones in red.
Having said all that, the evidence is mixed, drinking one glass of wine per day does seem to be a healthy habit, although for nondrinkers, eating a couple of cups of blueberries or raspberries per day would provide the same amount of antioxidants. But whether you prefer white wine or red, neither one can compensate for a poor diet, a lack of exercise, or an unhealthy lifestyle, and drinking more than the recommended one glass per day can actually make a person more susceptible to chronic diseases, totally outweighing any benefits. To complement an already healthy life, though, a glass of wine a night is a well-earned pleasure, and whether it’s red or white, it is a good source of antioxidants and other beneficial compounds. And the best part? It’s what the doctor ordered.... and I'll be ordering a few more bottles myself too right now!  Cheers!

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