Technique

Making White Wines from Red Grapes

As I started working on this story, a surprising question occurred to me: “What makes wine white?” “The color” seems obvious when you look at a restaurant wine list or walk up to the bar at a wedding reception, but for a technical column like this, I needed to dig a bit deeper. In Knowing and Making Wine, French wine scientist Emile Peynaud says, “In the very first place the great distinction between vinifying red and vinifying white wine is the absence of any extraction.” The conclusion is that skins, seeds, stems, and pulp play no role in the making of white wine; it is purely the fermented white juice of grapes. Even Peynaud acknowledges, however, that things are not so simple. In my own winemaking I often follow a practice he considers among “rare exceptions” in which crushed white grapes are left in contact with skins, pulp, and sometimes enzymes, for a period of extraction prior to pressing. So it is not just lack of extraction that makes wine “white.” If skin contact is allowed with red or black