Question from Ericka: Someone told me that they make white wine out of red grapes. Is that true?
Reply: Hi, Ericka. Thanks for writing! Yup – it’s true. However, the vast majority of white wine is made from “white” (they look green or yellow-green when they’re ripe, like the grapes you get at the grocery) varieties.
Unfortunately, this is the wrong time of the year for me to show you that the juice of dark wine grapes is clear. All of the grapes are tiny and green right now. They’ll start changing color mid to late July. But, anyway, if you squeeze a dark grape you’ll see that the juice is just as clear as a tear drop almost every time (there’s a handful of dark grapes with red juice – they’re called teinturier varieties – best known is Alicante Bouschet).
The most famous example of white wine made from red grapes is sparkling wine. Of the three traditional grapes, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, two are dark. The grapes are harvested at a low sugar, compared to grapes for table wine, so there’s little chance that the color will begin to bleed from the skins to the juice. Then, the grape clusters are pressed (squeezed) extremely gently, to separate liquid from solid. Et voilà – very pale white juice ready to be converted to wine! Blanc de Blancs is all Chardonnay. Blanc de Noirs and Rosé are Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier.
White Zinfandel comes to mind, even though it’s pink. Zinfandel is a black grape. It’s harvested at full maturity (and then some, some would say) and crushed into a fermentation tank. When the color is right, the juice is drained away from the grape skins into another tank. From there, the cellar treatment is like that of a white wine.
I hope that makes sense! Have any of you ever had the opportunity to taste the grapes at a winery? By the time they’re ready for harvest they’re way sweeter than the grapes you get at the grocery – very delicious – and very sticky! Cheers!
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