Red vs. White: Is It The Color Or The Flavor?
Wednesday - August 05, 2009
Is wine judged by its color or by its flavor?
For me, the latter is always most important. I don’t care that Pinot Noir is lightly colored or that some Rieslings look like water.
But does red wine have it over white? Are white wines looked upon as being less important than reds? Is there a hidden prejudice against white wines that most people aren’t aware of?
I have noticed that nearly all wine dinners include a red wine. Yes, the entrée is most often a meat dish. But why couldn’t the entrée be fish or anything else that could feature a white wine?
Even when I put together wine pairings for dinners, I always think to myself that I have to have at least one red wine in there. I can’t remember the last time I had an all-white wine dinner. I’ve certainly had Champagne-only dinners, but I’m not sure that counts since two of the three grapes that make Champagne are red grapes (Pinot Noir and Meunier).
I know many of you only drink white wine. And, if you know me at all, you know that I can love white wines just as much as red. So how do you feel when you hear people say things like, “The first order of business for a white wine is to precede a red,” or “White wines are just to warm up your palate before a red.” One reader e-mailed me and said his friends think that white wines are for wimps! That’s a bit much, don’t you think?
So, if there is some favoritism being played toward red wines, where does it stem from? It can’t be just the color, although the vivid colors of red ranging from the inky purple/blue spectrum to the crimson and brick shades are quite lovely.
Or can it? Colors are associated with emotions. The colors of a piece of art are critical to its expression and its impact on our senses. So I’m sure color does have a part in its favor. I think the widely known health benefits of red wine is another factor. People believe that red wine is better for them, so they drink more of it.
But perhaps the most important factor red wines enjoy over white wines is that they are generally more impactful and “louder.” Where white wines are generally more finesseful and nuanced (there are many exceptions), red wines have no shortcomings when it comes to bombastic and robust flavors that any wine drinker can appreciate. One does not have to appreciate delicacy when drinking most red wines. They have a broader appeal because they are easier to appreciate.
My own consumption does lean towards red wines. I probably drink 70 percent red wines and 29 percent whites (including Champagne) with a tiny bit of rose filling in the balance. The thing I find lacking in white wines is the same thing I find lacking in other red wines. And that is they are not Pinot Noir.
Recommendations: 2007 Ognissole Primitivo ($17) Zinfandel is known as Primitivo in Puglia and this version that has plenty of sweet, jammy fruit melded together with the rustic complexities of the “old world;” an excellent value. 2005 Cedar Knoll Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($32) This second label wine to Palmaz is made by superstar winemaker Mia Kline (of Araujo and Dalle Valle fame) and boasts excellent intensity of black and red fruit flavors rounded off with fine grain tannin and sweet flavors of vanilla and toast.
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