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White wine is made using the juice and skin of grapes that are green, gold, or yellow in color. This is perhaps why wine enthusiasts like to emphasize that white wine is actually yellow, golden, or straw-colored and not completely white or transparent. Champagne, however, is made from the juice of a special variety of red grapes.
Red wine is made with grapes that are in hues of red, purple, and even blue. As you can tell, the skins of the grapes dictate the color of the resulting wine. While the grapes are fermenting, the skin is left intact to instill hues of maroon, dark purple, bright red, and every shade in between.
Some of the main varietals (types) of white wine you may be familiar with are Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio (or Pinot Gris), Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Semillon, Muscat, and Gewurztraminer.
There is a large amount of red wine varietals on the market, some have counted upwards of 50 types. The most common are Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Syrah, Shiraz, and Grenache.
The “body type” of a wine is determined by the tannins, alcohol content, and how it feels in the mouth. Lighter-bodied wines tend to feel like water while fuller bodied wines can feel thicker, like milk.
Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay tend to be full-bodied, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc medium-bodied, and Riesling light-bodied. Note that the ideal alcohol content for whites ranges between 8 percent and 14 percent.
In terms of wine and food pairings, most people like to pair light-bodied wines with light flavors and full-bodied wines with bold flavors. Going along with the old saying “white wine with white meat” , whites go well with poultry, pork and veal. They have also been traditionally paired with pastas. Wine pairings can be difficult to master for the beginner, but remember that if you think it tastes good, that’s what matters.
Both reds and whites can be either sweet or dry. During fermentation, sugars are converted into alcohol. Simply speaking, if a winemaker wants a dry wine, he or she will let the grapes ferment for a longer period of time. Remember not to confuse sweetness with fruitiness- sweetness is a taste on your tongue, while fruitiness has to do with the aroma of wine.
The health benefits of red wine have been largely researched and discussed both in scientific and wine aficionado communities for some time. Essentially, red wine contains a compound called resveratrol which has powerful antioxidant properties. The antioxidants neutralize things called free radicals within the body that can harm cellular structures and are blamed for the ageing process.
Emily Kaltman writes for Estancia Churrascaria in Ausitn, Texas. She enjoys writing about and drinking wine.