A Guide to White, Red, Rosé, Orange, & Sparkling
While telling a white from a red is (we’d hope) pretty straightforward, what actually makes a wine white versus red (or rosé or orange) for that matter, is something we get asked about a lot. So, today’s article is a simple overview of the colourful spectrum of the wine world. So, today’s article is a simple overview of the colourful spectrum of the wine world. From crisp and clear whites to blushing rosés, vibrant reds, intriguing oranges, and vivacious sparklings, each hue on the wine colour wheel offers its unique characteristics.
White wines are typically made from green and gold-coloured grapes. After harvesting, the grape skins are removed quickly to avoid colour leaching into the wine, which results in a colour spectrum from straw-yellow to gold. In terms of flavours, white wines can range from light and zesty citrus notes to rich and creamy tropical fruits, largely depending on the grape variety and winemaking process.
Rosé wines derive their signature pink hue from the brief contact the grape juice has with the grape skins. After crushing red or black grapes, the juice is allowed to macerate with the skins for a short time, usually a few hours to a couple of days. This extracts some colour (and flavour), but not enough to qualify it as a red wine. The resulting wines can range from pale salmon to vibrant pink, and from delicate red fruits to spicy and savoury notes. You can think of Rosé as using red wine grapes but being made more like a white wine.
In contrast, orange wine, also known as amber wine, is a type of white wine that's made like a red. It involves fermenting white grapes with their skins on, a process which lends the wine an orange hue. The extended skin contact also results in a wine that is bolder and more robust than a typical white, with unique flavours ranging from dried fruit and honey to hazelnut and baking spices.
Red wine is made from black and red grapes. After the grapes are crushed, the juice is left to ferment with the skins, which imparts the deep red colour and tannic structure to the wine. The colour of red wines can vary from light ruby to inky purple, and the flavour profiles can be as diverse, from bright red berries to dark fruit and spice, depending on the grape variety and winemaking techniques. At a basic level, red wines and orange wines are made the same way, just using different colour grapes.
Sparkling wine adds a fizzy twist to the world of wine. This effervescent drink can be made from white, red, or both types of grapes, and its production involves a secondary fermentation process to create the signature bubbles. The flavours in sparkling wines can range from zesty citrus to creamy brioche, largely depending on the grape varieties used and the time the wine spends ageing on the yeast lees. While we tend to equate this style with Champagne, there is a much larger world of sparkling wines out there!
The term "Champagne" refers specifically to sparkling wine produced in the Champagne region of France using the traditional method, also known as "méthode champenoise", which is a technique where a secondary fermentation occurs in the bottle itself (producing the characteristic bubbles). A wine has to be both from the Champagne region and use the traditional method in order to be called Champagne
Other notable sparkling wines made using the traditional method include Cava from Spain, Franciacorta from Italy, and Crémant from various regions in France outside of Champagne (while Champagne gets much of the attention, Crémants from places like Burgundy and Alsace are often incredible in their own right).
Beyond the traditional method, other approaches to sparkling winemaking create distinctive styles that bring their unique charm to the bubbly wine scene. Perhaps the most well-known is Prosecco. Hailing from Italy, Prosecco is made using the “Charmat” or tank method, where the second fermentation happens in large pressurised tanks rather than in individual bottles. This method preserves the freshness and fruity character of the Glera grape, which is used to make Prosecco, resulting in a wine that's light, aromatic, and approachable. Its flavours often include green apple, honeydew melon, pear, and honeysuckle.
Lambrusco, another Italian gem, is a sparkling red wine made in Emilia-Romagna and Lombardy. While some Lambrusco is made via the Charmat method, others are produced using another method called the Ancestral method, where the wine is bottled before the first fermentation is complete, allowing it to finish fermenting in the bottle without any additional yeast or sugar. This method can give Lambrusco wines a rustic and unpredictable character. Lambrusco is generally known for its deep, fruity flavours of blueberry, cherry, and blackberry, coupled with high acidity and a light, frothy fizz, though many dry and light versions exist as well.
So there you have it, a rainbow of wine styles to brighten your palate and your table. Each colour in the wine world offers its unique allure, and understanding these styles can open up a world of flavour and pairing possibilities.
So the next time you reach for a bottle, remember, it's not just about red, white, and rosé - there's a whole spectrum out there waiting to be explored. And whether you're in the mood for something still or sparkling, there's a wine out there for every occasion (to help with that, you can always shop by vibe on our online shop!).
Until next time, stay nosey!