A Bottle of Red, A Bottle of White...What's the Difference?

As you've already learned, wine is made from grapes and generally speaking, grapes can be separated into two categories: (1) white grapes, and (2) black grapes. White grapes are never actually white; that is, they are actually lighter-skinned grapes (green, yellow-green, gold, or light-orange in color). Similarly, black grapes are never actually black; rather they are grapes with a red or blue tint, and range from light ruby to deep indigo. White wines are almost always made from white grapes, but can be made from black grapes because the juice of both grape types is clear. Red wines are always made from black grapes, and additional pressing of the black grapes during the wine making process produces the red wine color (by releasing tannins).

Oh, if only the choice of wine was as simple as deciding between red and white. In actuality, there are several varieties of both 'reds' and 'whites' to choose from. Types of reds include merlot, cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, chianti, and zinfandel. Whites include pinot grigio, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, riesling, and gewürztraminer. Given the number of options, you may be wondering what makes one red wine different from the next (and one white wine different from the next). You may also be curious as to the proper pronunciations of these wines. Accordingly, essential characteristics and phonetic pronunciations of ten wine varieties (five red and five white) are provided below.

Red Wines


MERLOT (mer-'lO) - Merlot is a medium-bodied red wine that is rich and fruity, and higher in alcohol content. Aromas and flavors of merlot include black cherries and chocolate.

CABERNET SAUVIGNON (ka-b&r-'nA-sO-vE-'nyOn) - Cabernet sauvignon is a full-bodied, tannic red wine with a blackcurrant flavor and smell similar to pencil shavings.

PINOT NOIR (pE-'nO-'nwär) - Pinot noir is a medium-bodied wine with berry (cherry, strawberry, rasperry) fruitiness and earthiness.

CHIANTI (kE-'än-tE) - Chianti is a medium-bodied wine with a spicy aroma of wild berries, and a dry flavor.

ZINFANDEL ('zin-f&n-"del) - Zinfandel is a full-bodied, dark red wine with a very fruity aroma and flavor. The most common aroma and flavor descriptors used with zinfandel are raspberry, boysenberry, and cranberry (all of which can be associated with jams).

White Wines


PINOT GRIGIO (pE-'nO-'grE-j(E-)O) - Light-bodied wine with a crisp, light citrus flavor. Often pinot grigio will have a hint of honey.

CHARDONNAY (shär-d&n-'A) - The world's most popular white variety. Chardonnay is a medium-bodied, dry, rich wine with smoky, vanilla, and oak flavors.

SAUVIGNON BLANC (sO-vEn-'yOn-blän) - Light-bodied, dry wine with grassy citrus notes and slight oak character. Saugivnon blanc is meant to drink young, as this is the most tangy and pungent of the wine varieties.

RIESLING ('rEz-li[ng]) - Light-bodied, slightly sweet wine with fruit accents and striking acidity.

GEWÜRZTRAMINER (g&-'vurt-str&-'mE-n&r) - The most intensely aromatic of all wines. Gewürztraminer is medium-bodied, and its aromas are of florals and spice.