Wine information > The differences between red and white wines

The differences between red and white wines

It is common knowledge that wine comes from aged grapes. But how many people know what techniques are used to age the grapes and why white wine ages faster than red wines?

Let's start at the beginning of the wine making process. First the grapes are picked, then crushed and pressed. Aging sets in immediately after this. The grapes are stored in oak barrels or steel vats. Sometimes oak chips are added to the steel vats.

The interaction of tannin, acids and sugar play an important role in the aging process. Tannin is an excellent antioxidant and natural preservative, which helps increasing the aging period the wine can go through without going bad (oxidation). It also gives the wine an important flavor dimension.

Other factors are:

- temperature
- light conditions
- alchohol.

Stable and cool temperatures are beneficial to the aging process. Cooler temperatures slow down the aging process (enabling the wine to age gracefully and develop a more complex taste), which is what winemakers want. Instable temperatures and light conditions have a bad effect on the quality of the wine in the end.

Why can't white wine not be aged as long as red wine?

Basically the reason is that white wine contains less tannin.

Tannin can be found in the skin, seeds and stems of the grapes. In white wine less exterior skin is used than in red wines. In red wines it is needed for the coloring, as both red and white grapes are white on the inside. The more exterior skin is used, the more tannin the mixture will contain.

When making white wine much less exterior skin ends up in the mixture, resulting in less tannin in the wine.

So, this means that the aging process for white wines are generally shorter than red wines. Attempts to age white wines for many years usually fail.

So, make sure you drink your white wines within a few years after production, and save the tannin-rich red wines for that special occassion!