What Makes Wine Red, White or Rose

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red-white-rose-wine_cThe pulp and juice of almost all of the thousands of different grape varieties is white, no matter what the colour of the skin. White wines, therefore, can be made as easily from black or red grapes as from white. Indeed, most champagnes contain the juice of both colour grapes, although in still white wines it is more usual for white grapes to predominate.


White wines made from only white grapes sometimes say so on the label, and the term used to describe such a wine is 'blanc de blancs'. literally translated, 'white of whites': white wine from white grapes. In more exceptional circumstances, a white wine may be made from black or red grapes only, and this is called a 'blanc de noirs' (white of black).

To make a red wine, the skins of red grapes must be left in contact with the crushed grapes and juice during fermentation to give sufficient colour to the wine. In hotter areas, the pigment in the skin becomes more intense under the sun's hot rays, and quickly dyes the wine to a rich, dark purple colour. In cooler climates, the colour is less intense, both in the skins of the grapes and eventually in the wine itself. Red wines are generally made exclusively from red grapes, although there are exceptions to this rule, too. Chianti, for instance, generally contains some white grape juice, or 'must', in the blend.

Rose or pink wines may be made in one of two ways. In most cases the skins of red grapes are left in contact with the 'must' for long enough to give the wine an attractive rose-coloured blush. Alternatively, a little red wine may be blended in with white to make it pink, although this only happens with the cheapest roses and some rose champagnes. Rose wines are not different from whites in colour alone. The inclusion of some of the properties of the red grape adds more body and guts to the overall blend.

The object - apart from simply creating a pretty colour - is to 'beef up' the wine slightly, but as you can imagine, this additional body and flavour can act as a smokescreen as well, covering up all sorts of faults in the wine and disguising less perfect components in the blend. Cheap rose wines, therefore, must be viewed with a little caution.

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