What’s the difference between red, white and rosé wine?

Not really sure what the difference between red, white and rosé wine is? We've got you covered with our handy guide.

So many types of wine, so little time to decide which one to try first.

It can be easy to feel overwhelmed by wine – the labels, the varieties, the regions and the blends – and that’s before you get into all the wine jargon. There are a lot of misconceptions about wine, too – the cheap stuff can’t be good, white wine is made from green grapes, older wines are better than younger wines and rosé is made by mixing red and white wine.

It’s time to cut through the confusion.

Learn the difference between red, white and rosé wine

If you’re finding it hard to figure out the difference between red, white and rosé wine (other than the obvious) and what those differences mean, don’t worry – we’ve broken down the difference between red, white and rosé wine for you into an easy guide.

What is white wine

What is white wine?

Perhaps the lightest and most refreshing of the bunch, white wine is the go-to choice for a summer drink. 

White wine isn’t actually limited to white and ranges in colour from clear through yellow-green to golden.

White wine isn’t made with only white or green grapes, either – red or black grapes can get involved, too. For example, Zinfandel is a variety of red grape, but it can be made into a deliciously sweet white wine, while Pinor noir is commonly used to produce Champagne.

The important thing during the manufacturing process is that the grape skins do not come into contact with the grape juice – this “stains” the wine a darker colour. Unlike red or rosé wines, white wines are made by fermenting only the grape juice.

Popular white wine varieties include Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris, which all share citrus fruits, like lemon and grapefruit, and white florals as tasting notes. Barrel ageing can also affect a wine’s flavour, adding creamy, oak or vanilla notes and colour.

White wine pairs well with simple dishes, such as cheeses, salads, pasta and white meats – and even some desserts.

Best served chilled, keep your white wine stored in the fridge until needed. Take it out around 30 minutes before your guests arrive to let it develop all those delicious, buttery flavours.

Why not get a little fancy and serve a refreshing jug of Madame F white wine sangria?

What is red wine

What is red wine?

Considering its colour, it’s no surprise that red wine is made with red grapes. A favourite during the festive period and at dinner parties, the process of making red wine is a bit different from white and a key part of understanding the difference between red, white and rosé wine.

Red wines get their colour from grape skins, which are added to the grape juice during fermentation. Grape seeds can get in on the act, too, as the skins and seeds give red wine its mouth-drying, lip-puckering power. Grape skins are left to soak for the right amount of time before the skins and seeds are removed from the liquid, and the wine is aged in barrels until it’s ready to be bottled and sold.

Red wines can come in various shades depending on what grape variety was used. Grenache and Pinot Noir produce lighter reds, while Syrah/Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon produce darker, more robust ones.

With more of the grape involved, red wines are the most complex of the three types, with common tasting notes including dark berries like cherry and blackberry, herbs, spices like cinnamon and pepper, and woody notes from the barrel it’s aged in.

Paired perfectly with red meats such as lamb and beef, grilled vegetables and spicy dishes, the temperature you should serve your red wine at varies depending on the grape variety you’re drinking. However, the general rule is that it should be served just below room temperature so you can enjoy all its delicious tasting notes.

But some rules are meant to be broken, especially around Christmastime, so why not spice things up with a batch of Madame F mulled wine.

What is rose wine

What is rosé wine?

The darling of Instagram feeds and al fresco brunches everywhere, you could think of rosé as red wine’s prettier younger sister.

Some assume that rosé wine is made by mixing red and white wine, and although that is done by some wine manufacturers, it’s not the norm. Rosé wine manufacturing starts off in a very similar way to red wine, however the exact process depends on the region it’s being made in and what grape varieties are being used.

To create that signature rosé colour, the red grape skins are left to soak for a much shorter amount of time, the length of time dictating what colour the rosé will be – pink hues can range from a light peachy shade to candyfloss pink.

Popular rosé varieties include Grenache, Zinfandel, Syrah/Shiraz and Sangiovese – all fruity and light varieties with tasting notes such as strawberry, raspberry, light florals, tropical fruits and celery (trust us on this one).

Because rosé is the best of both worlds between white and red, and because there are so many varieties, it goes with almost every dish – seafood to sausages, risotto to rengdang. For a real breakdown of which varieties go best with which dishes, you can check out our complete rosé guide.

Like white wine, rosé is best served chilled – between 10-15 degrees celsius if you want to be precise – but a few hours in the fridge will do the trick, too. Rosé can be served and enjoyed when it’s even colder than that, when it’s practically frozen… Madame F frosé, anyone?