September 15, 2020

White or Red Wine?

It's an age-old question and the answer isn't getting any easier. I have heard that red wine has health benefits so that’s something to consider when making your choice. Some folks decide by looking at the weather. Others pick according to the menu and I have friends that choose by what's on the label. I know people that just start to combine beverages as well! It can be confusing! Let's take a quick look and try to find some answers.

 While all wine is made from grapes, white wine usually has their skins, seeds and stems removed before they are fermented. Reds spend more time in contact with the skins, and that is how red wine gets its color. There are a lot of other plant compounds that are imparted to red wines through the skins such as tannins and resveratrol. White wines have these compounds too but in much lower concentrations.

Red wine is the supposed secret behind the French paradox. That’s the idea that even though the French have a diet higher in saturated fats, as a population they have lower rates of heart disease than a similar population in the United States. (1) There is actual research that drinking red wine may produce a protective effect on your cardiovascular health (2) One study even says that there is a 30% lower risk of dying from heart disease in red wine drinkers and it could well be due to the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of the compounds that come from the grape skins. (3) There are indications it can slow down age-related mental impairments as well. I have included links to my sources in the NIH Database for this section as I am not a Doctor or an epidemiologist but there is a quote I like that covers this as well.

“God in his goodness sent the grapes, to cheer both great and small; little fools drink too much, and great fools not at all.”

– Anonymous              

What does the weather have to do with wine choice? 

I’ll admit that on a warm afternoon a chilled glass of crisp Albarino or Sauvignon Blanc is extremely refreshing. But again that might just be because of the serving temperature of the wine too. Reds are typically served at a warmer temperature than white. Also, the crisper, higher acid whites may seem more refreshing on a hot day. If you’re in an air-conditioned space all day – nothing wrong with a nice Pinot or Merlot with dinner!


Pairing wine with food used to make the choice easy – White for fish, Rose for pork, and red with meat. Life is not that simple anymore. Head to a winemaker dinner out on the Sunnyslope Wine Trail and you will find all sorts of amazing pairings with the local food options that abound here. Salmon and Cab Franc – sure! Chardonnay with a spicy Beef Carpaccio – wonderful! In general yes – the high acid whites can pop and clear your palate between spicy first courses and the tannic reds can pull the flavors out of a slow-roasted or grilled piece of red meat but don’t be afraid to experiment!

Speaking of experimentation, try to be open to some new and old combinations that involve wine. The results can be astonishingly good and refreshing! From the beaches of Northeast Spain and the Basque country comes the Kalimotxo. This summer refresher is equal parts red wine and Coca Cola (has to be made with CANE SUGAR – not beet sugar – read the label closely) - add ice and a twist of lemon and you have got the perfect pick me up for a summer afternoon. The origin story is a little muddled here but it was thought that there was a big party happening and the wine distributor messed up the order. They sent Coke and half the wine requested – Viola – a masterful combination was discovered. There are Idaho winemakers combining wine and beer too.

So the answer to the question we started with, White or Red, is YES. It’s all about your wine journey. What we picked after college is going to be different than the choice you make for a child’s wedding and still different from what you will serve at your retirement party. That’s completely normal. We all grow and change as we taste more and learn more about local wine and food.  

We are blessed to live in a region where Farm to Cork means something. Idaho wines made with Idaho grapes are pretty special. It’s time to get out and explore. Make your next trip out a wine holiday. Discover what great farmers and amazing winemakers can do with the bounty of our region. Most of all when you are faced with the choice of red or white – just say yes!

Cheers to Locally Grown Food and Wine! We are all in this together!

The Idaho Wine Ambassador

© 2020 Jim Thomssen

Sunnyslope Wine Trail


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