Red Wine vs. White Wine

Last Update: September 27, 2022

We hope the launch of Thrive Market Clean Wine has encouraged you to think about what you don’t want in your wine—but also that it’s given you an opportunity to learn about what makes our wines so remarkable. So here are some suggestions on the most important aspect of our wines—how to enjoy them. Whether you prefer red or white varietals, we’ve compiled your go-to rundown on what tasting notes to look for, pairing ideas for your favorite bottle, and why you shouldn’t feel guilty when enjoying a nice glass of vino with your meal.

How Is Wine Made?

The basics of winemaking can be condensed into five steps:

  1. Pick the grapes
  2. Crush the grapes
  3. Ferment the grapes into wine
  4. Age the wine
  5. Bottle the wine

However, time, tastes, and technology have altered how some of these steps occur. Grape-picking can be done by a person or machine, and sadly, grape-stomping is now typically done with a grape-crusher machine. As for fermentation, the process looks a little different depending on whether it’s white or red wine—but more on that later!

Benefits of Drinking Wine

Is drinking wine actually good for your health? Some studies suggest this may indeed be the case when consuming one to two four-ounce glasses a day. Here are some of the findings:

Wine drinkers may have a 34 percent lower mortality rate than beer or spirit drinkers according to a Finnish study of 2,468 men over a 29-year period, published in the Journals of Gerontology, 2007.
Red wine contains antioxidants, particularly resveratrol, which can have heart-healthy benefits and ward off free radicals.
Some research suggests that a glass of red wine a day may help support immunity.

Red Wine Characteristics

Traditionally made with red grapes, red wine gets its color during the fermentation process, which includes the grape skins and seeds. This type of wine:

  • Is typically aged in oak barrels
  • Contains beneficial compounds found in the grapes’ skins and seeds like resveratrol
  • Is more full-bodied than white wine, and often has fruity or peppery notes

Popular Red Wine Varietals

From complex to fruity, here are some reds you’ll want to cozy up to.

Thrive Market Clean Wine

Cabernet Sauvignon

A blend of two Bordeaux grape varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon is bold, dry, and high in acidity with notes of black currant and cherry. Try it with a juicy steak.


Like cab and merlot? Then you’ll love Malbec, which offers the best of both popular varietals. It boasts fruity notes and bold flavor that can stand up to any sweet and spicy food (like BBQ!).


Merlot sometimes gets an undeserving bad rap thanks to the film “Sideways” in which the lead character often rants about his distaste for the red varietal, but its luscious and soft, fruity finish should not be underestimated. Try it with a tomato-based dish like a spaghetti and meatballs.

Pinot Noir

Slightly lighter in body, this popular red has a silky, fruity finish and a little more complexity than merlot. Try it with glazed salmon.


Sometimes confused for Shiraz (which uses the same grapes, but is grown in Australia), Syrah is traditionally grown in France. It has a slightly lighter body than Shiraz with notes of blackberry and rosemary. Try it with everything from burgers to BBQ.


Not found in many places beyond the US, Zinfandel is both fruity and spicy with notes of strawberry or cherry. Try it with pizza, lasagna, or grilled cheese.

White Wine Characteristics

In most cases, white wines are typically made with green grapes and are fermented without the skins, giving them their color (or lack thereof). Here are a few more differentiators for white wine:

  • Typically aged in stainless steel vats to reduce oxygen exposure (though some, such as Chardonnay, use oak barrels)
  • Traditionally contain less calories than red wine
  • Lighter and more citrusy or crisp in flavor

Popular White Wine Varietals

Prefer a glass of white? These crisp selections are tried and true favorites.

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One of the most requested white wines, Chardonnay is a green-skinned grape that originated in the Burgundy region of France and is a favorite among California growers today. Traditionally aged in oak, Chardonnay is known for its full-body richness and buttery finish. Try it with creamy goat or cow’s milk cheeses, flaky halibut, or herbed chicken.

Chenin Blanc

This high-acidity wine comes from the Loire Valley of France and is often grown in South Africa, Argentina, and the US. With notes of citrus and passion fruit, Chenin Blanc also has a quintessential sharpness. Try it with a sweet and sour Southeast Asian dish or pork chops with apple sauce.

Pinot Grigio

Grown around the world, including Alsace, Australia, Italy, and California, Pinot Grigio (or Pinot Gris) is a medium-bodied wine with notes of melon, pear, and apples. It pairs well with stronger cheeses, pork, and chicken dishes.


The most well-known of German Mosel wines, Riesling is a light-bodied wine with citrus, peach, and floral notes that can be either sweet or dry, depending on the time of harvest. Most Rieslings pair well with Asian, Mexican, or Indian recipes. Those on the sweeter side are great with fruit- or cream-based desserts.

Sauvignon Blanc

Native to the Loire Valley of France, Sauvignon Blanc can be intensely aromatic with citrus overtones. New Zealand has also become a primary producer of this varietal with wines that often deliver even more expressive flavors of citrus and green herbs. Sauvignon Blanc pairs well with shellfish, pork, poultry, and cream-based dishes.


This full-bodied white wine originated in southern France and, like Chardonnay, is sometimes oak-aged for added richness. Viognier is known for its fragrant bouquet of tasting notes, including honeysuckle, peach, and tangerine. It pairs well with shellfish, Asian, and Indian cuisine.

Recipes With Wine

Go beyond the glass with these wonderful wine-infused recipes.

Drunken Pasta

Add bold flavor to brown rice spaghetti by adding an entire bottle of red (yes, the whole bottle) to your sauce along with garlic, EVOO, crushed red pepper, and grated Pecorino cheese.

Red Wine Hot Cacao

What might make a warm cup of cacao more soothing? Add a little red wine along with warming spices like cinnamon and cardamom to your dark chocolate elixir.

3 Ways to Cook With Leftover Wine

Don’t let that lovely bottle go to waste! From a red wine latte to brownies to white wine fromage fort, we’ve got three inventive recipes to enjoy those final sips.

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Jillian Gordon

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