Red Wine Versus White Wine

Here is an overview of how red wine stacks up against white wine in terms of how each one is made, health benefits, taste differences, food pairings, and adverse reactions.

Red Wine

Red wine is made from the darker red and black grapes, including popular varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Syrah/Shiraz, and Zinfandel. Red wine's color is due to the fermentation process in which crushed grapes - including the skins, seeds and stems - are used in addition to the juice. Using the entire grape enables the dispersion of both color and tannins, the latter lending red wine its distinctive "bite". The specific color hue of a given red wine is determined both by the type of grape and how long the grape skins are kept in contact with the juice.

Red wines are heavier and more complex than white wines. They are often described as having a rich, more full-bodied flavor. They are also drier to the taste than white wines.

White Wine

White wine is mostly made from light-colored grapes. Some classic varieties are Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gewurztraminer,Muscat, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Viognier. White wine fermentation is performed using only the juice rather than the entire grape, resulting in a wine that has a light, crisp, fruity flavor and smell.

White wines are generally sweeter and less full-bodied than red wines, making them a popular choice for novice and occasional wine drinkers. As the palette becomes more "refined" over time, some wine drinkers find the sweetness objectionable and will seek out red wines as their wine of choice.

Health Benefits

Both red and white wine contain beneficial antioxidants and other healthy natural compounds. One of these is resveratrol, an antioxidant which has been shown to have cardio vascular benefits. Since red wines are fermented longer and with the skins, red wine contains more resveratrol and other antioxidants than white wine. Does this mean red wines are healthier than white wines? The evidence is not conclusive - some studies have found increased health benefits for red wine over white wine while other studies have found no difference.

Food Pairings

Red wine goes best with red meat and red sauces. This includes meats such as beef, Buffalo, and even pork depending on how it is cooked. Fish and chicken are rarely served with red wine unless they are cooked in a red sauce.

White wine tends to go best with seafood and white meats such as chicken and pork. For example, a shrimp, lobster, or trout meal fits well with a Chardonnay or a Riesling. However, a Chardonnay may also go well with veal topped with a white creamy sauce.


White wine typically contains slightly fewer calories than red wine, though this is not an absolute. For a standard 5-ounce wine glass, figure on 120 to 130 calories for red wine and 115 to 122 calories for white wine.

Side Effects

Red wine, more than most any other alcoholic drink, is known to be a trigger for migraine headaches. This is likely due to the sulfites, tannins, histamines, and other compounds in the wine. Red wine reportedly has 200% more histamines than white wine which explains some of the headaches, nausea, and inflammation that some people experience. White wine is far less likely to trigger headaches. It also has fewer of the known medical interactions that red wine has.