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What is the difference between White  and Red Wine?

(and bonus Rosé and Orange wine)

Red and white wine at Main Ridge Estate

Shock announcement: All grape juice is white  (well pretty much anyway)

That’s why white wine can be made from red grapes. Ever had a white Pinot Noir or Zinfandel and wondered how?

Red wines are red because they are fermented on skins, white wines aren’t read because they are just the fermented juice

Below is a plain English rundown of the difference between wine types

White wine


Fermenting white wine tasting

Tasting fermenting white wine (Chenin Blanc) at Pimpernel Vineyards

White wine is fermented grape juice and can be made from red or white grapes

RemoveSkins  ✖Stems ✖Pips  Keep: ✔ Juice only Made with: ✔Red grapes White grapes

Juice only ferment = white wine

Because all juice is clear, white wine can be made from red or white grapes. Red grapes just have the skins removed for white wines (that’s why you can have a “Pinot Noir Champagne” which is white)

Here are the basics:

  • Red or white grapes are crushed and the juice separated from the rest of the grape
  • The juice is then left to ferment and turn into alcohol (using wild or packet yeasts)
  • Wine is then aged in steel tanks or oak barrels

Red wine

Learning about red wine ferment

Learning about red wine ferments at Giant Steps



Red wine is fermented red grapes

Keep: ✔Skins   ✔Pips   ✔Juice ✔Stems (occasionally) Made with: ✔Red grapes ✖White grapes

Full red grape ferment = red wine

Here are the basics

  • Red grapes are lightly crushed and left with juice, skins, seeds and sometimes stems
  • The whole grapes are left to ferment (using wild or packet yeasts)
  • The skins form a “cap” (thick layer over the top of the juice) which needs to be kept moist by pushing it down or hosing over with wine from the bottom of the tank
  • Once ferment is done wine is separated from skins, stems, seeds
  • Wine is then aged in steel tanks or more commonly oak barrels

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Rosé is made from red grapes that have had some skin contact, but then is made like white wine

Keep (for a very short time): ✔Skins (short time)   ✔Pips (short time)   ✔Juice  Made with: ✔Red grapes  ✖White grapes

Juice taken from red wine ferment after a short time  =Rosé wine

Here are the basics using the most common method:

  • Red grapes for red wine are normally left with skins and other product for a couple of weeks. With Rosé it can be for just a couple of hours
  • Juice for Rosé is removed
  • The juice will have a pinkish tinge from the small amount of skin contact (more detail in our article What is Rosé?)

Orange wine

Orange wine

Notice the orange tinge to white wines made on skins

Orange wine is white wine made like red wine

Keep: ✔Skins   ✔Pips   ✔Juice ✔Stems (occasionally) Made with: ✖Red grapes ✔White grapes

Full white grape ferment = Orange wine

Often also a “natural wine” with no additives, the basics are;

  • White grapes are fermented on skins and made like red wines normally would be
  • The result is a wine with an orange tinge, more information here What is Natural Wine?

Examples of red and white grapes

Some examples of red (black) grapes:

  • Shiraz
  • Pinot Noir
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Gamay
  • Merlot

Some examples of white (green) skinned grapes:

  • Chardonnay
  • Riesling
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Pinot Gris/Grigio (although this can have a pink tinge)

There you have it, a bit of a beginner guide to the difference between wines, to explore red, white, Rosé, orange, sparkling and more check out Mornington Peninsula wine tours or Yarra Valley wine tours

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Galib H
Galib H
5 years ago

This is a great article! I loved it!

5 years ago

This is article was really interesting as I have never known that. Can’t wait to visit

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