Can Red Grapes Make White Wine?

Man wins female beauty contest!

This type of headline pops up from time to time in the tabloid press (both online and paper print) and so intrigues the general population that millions will click or buy to see this oddity.

So why doesn’t this headline “Red Grape Wins White Wine Contest” create the same level of intrigue and interest?

Well, quite simply, it is simply grape flesh that is in question here and not the human kind, so most of us are not interested.

white wine from red grape

Defies logic: looks, smells and tastes like a white wine, but not necessarily from a white grape. (Image


But as this is a wine blog, we are of course much more interested in the fruit we grow, ferment and drink than the fruit who may line up for a beauty contest.

Firstly though, can red grapes make white wine that looks, tastes and smells like white wine?

Absolutely, yes.

You may already know that red wine primarily gets its color from the red skins being retained in the grape juice for some period of time during the fermentation process.

If the red grape skins are kept entirely apart from the juice at all times then the result will be a white wine produced from the original red grapes.

But can such a red grape derived wine be good enough to win a white wine contest? Indeed yes, as one recently did at the Celebration of the Vine wine festival.

The winning white wine was produced from merlot grapes and beat off some stiff competition from the more traditional white wines made from white grapes.

Red Merlot Grapes Produce Winning White Wine

The white merlot has a slight citrus mouthfeel with good acidity. It also has 2.5 percent residual sugar, which means a touch of sweetness. This shouldn’t keep you from sampling this must-try wine.

“Most people feel they should shy from a sweet wine because it seems to be somehow burned in our brains to say we shouldn’t like sweet wines,” Payette said. “A misconception if you will. Truth told, most Americans, and others, like wines that have a delicately dialed-in balance of acid and sweetness. This is the key and what we do with this wine.

“If a wine has a good acidity, the sweetness can often seem much less than a ‘number’ may indicate. We work hard to test and taste many scenarios before we place the final blend into action in the cellar to make sure we have the exact balance we are striving for in each wine.”

The nonvintage white merlot is not pink or a blush. Read the full white merlot article here.

So in the end, this apparent anomaly is not as strange as it seems and red grapes making white wine is not nearly as interesting as men winning beauty contests, or for that matter, terriers being gold fish.

If you are a fan of Monty Python, the sketch called Pet Conversions takes the whole notion of contradictions and anomalies to new (and ridiculous) levels. Watch below if you dare.

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