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Why is red wine red? Why is white wine different? And what does that make rosé?
Simple answer: how long the skins of the grapes are left in the grape juice as it ferments changes the taste and colour of wine.
More detailed answer: the skins of grapes contain a natural substance called tannins. The bitter taste in your wine that causes a dry feeling in your mouth? That’s tannins. The taste is comparable to putting a soaked tea-bag in your mouth. The longer that the grape skins sit in the wine, the more tannins it will have, and the more tannin-like and dry it will taste. They also effect the colour of the wine: wines that ferment with the grape skins for longer will become a deeper red colour.
You probably guessed that the more bitter a wine is, the more tannins it will have and the more red it will be. Needless to say then that tannin provides the backbone of red wine, and so you may describe a red wine as firm (strong tannins), leathery or bitter.
So how are white wines made? Wines that have little or no contact with the skins of the grapes have far fewer tannins and become white. Instead of tasting tannin-like, their backbone is acidity, making them refreshing or crisp in taste rather than dry and leathery.
So what does that make rosé? Rosé is pink in colour as it stays in contact with the grape skins for a relatively short time: not as little as white but for a much shorter duration than red. This means that rosé has more tannins than white wine but far less than red. It is more similar to white in its low tannin content, which is apparent in the taste being more refreshing than dry.
You may have previously thought it was all about the type of grapes which differentiated red wine from white, but you can still get a white wine from a red grape by removing the skins from the juice straight away.
So now you know the basic reason for why these three types of wine are different: the differing amount of tannins. Go forth and impress your friends with this knowledge!
Featured in these photos are our Adina Prestige glasses.