How is Red Wine Made?

Wine barrel representing one of the stages of how to make red wine

Updated July 19th 2023

Wineries today make red wine almost the same way it was made thousands of years ago. Red wine is different from white wine and rosé. The color is obviously different, but also the wine making process. In this guide you will learn about how to make red wine and how the wine making process differs depending on the color of the wine.

Red, white and rosé are the main styles of wine. The wine's color is the most obvious difference between these styles, but the level of tannins, body, alcohol and flavors are also different. Red wine is the most popular wine style and it is also the most common style for wine making at home. Here you can read more about how red wine is made and how it differs from white and rosé wine.

Fermentation with the skins

Wine is made from grape juice. Grapes are the main ingredient in wine and the grape variety used will give the finished product its main characteristics. Wineries follow many steps to make wine and most of the steps are the same, regardless of wine style. Fermenting the grape juice is an essential step in the wine making process. The main difference between making red wine compared to the other styles is during this step: the grape skins and juice are fermented together to make red wine.

By not removing the grape skins before the fermentation of the grape juice, the wine gets its red color, flavor, tannins and texture. The technical term for this skin contact is maceration. Most red grapes' pulp is light green and unless the fermentation happens with the skins, the color of the wine will not be red.

How to make Red wine vs White wine 

When making white wine, the grapes are crushed before fermentation. By crushing the grapes first, the grape pulp and juice is separated from the skins. With no skin contact during the fermentation, white wines are generally much lighter than red wine. Also, green grapes are used to make white wine, and these have little or no color.

Less commonly, there are some skin-fermented white wines wines available. These wines are called orange wine or skin-contact white wines. Their profile is different from traditional white wine because the skin contact during fermentation gives the wine additional tannins, flavor and color.

How to make Red wine vs Rosé wine

Rosé wine is usually made from red grapes, but the grape juice only stays with the grape skins for a very short time. By doing this, the wine only gets a hint of color from the grape skins, which gives its characteristic pink color. Neither white or rosé wines extract a lot of tannins from the grape skins.

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