White wine is wine made from grapes of varied colors, including green, yellow, gold, pink or even dark purple to black. The reason for this is that wine derives its color from the skins. Wine grapes are relatively colorless inside. Some Champagne, for example, which is often made from dark purple to black Pinot Noir grapes, is made from the juice squeezed and the skin removed. Classic, or still (not bubbly) Pinot Noir, is colored by letting the skins remain in the juice during fermentation, coloring the colorless liquid.
While red wine is made from grapes and their skins, white wines, regardless of grape color, are made with little skin contact. White wines range in hue from golden honey, to greenish, to straw, to almost clear. Grape skins also account for most of the tannins in wine. Consequently, white wines are less tannic, lighter, brighter and generally fruitier than red wines. Tannins contribute earthy notes to red wines that are often experienced as grittiness on the tongue and palate. This is rarely evident in white wines.
Rose wines are made from grapes typically used in red wine, but allowed contact with the skin for a shorter duration of time than their red counterparts from the same grape varietal.
Histamines are also found in grape skins. They give some people headaches if they are sensitive to histamines. Red wine will affect a histamine sensitive wine drinker more than white wine because red wine has spent more time in contact with grape skins.
White wines are generally considered well-paired with white meat, fish and lighter foods, and red wines are thought to best pair with red meat and heavier foods. While this rule of thumb serves as suggestive, it is certainly not instructive. One’s palate should always be the guide. There are many exceptions to this rule and the fun comes from finding them.