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Dear Dr. Vinny,

Why would someone make white wine from red grapes? If the juice isn't getting grape-skin contact in these wines, what is the difference?

—Apichaya, Thailand

Dear Apichaya,

You’re right that some winemakers make white (and pink) wines from red winegrapes. It’s simply a strategy for getting a different expression from the grapes. In traditional red winemaking, red wine grapes are utilized in a way that the flavors and colors are extracted from their inky dark skins. But if you take those same grapes and use white-winemaking methods, in which the exposure to skins is limited, then you end up with different flavors (and a different color).

The example I’m most familiar with is a white wine–styled Pinot Noir, which is a really interesting mix of rich, honeyed pear and apricot flavors, which is quite different from the red version of Pinot Noir, which has berry and herbal notes. Of course Pinot Noir can also be made into terrific sparkling wines and delicate rosé styles. Suddenly I’m thirsty.

Why would a winemaker do this? Why do winemakers do anything? Most winemakers I know aren’t interested in simply following recipes, they are more like artists or scientists, or both. There’s a lot of experimentation and tinkering, trying to find wines that are expressions of places, grapes, styles, innovations or other inspirations.

—Dr. Vinny

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