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Aug 26, 2005 08:16 PM

Can a serious wine drinker prefer white?

  • s

It's often said that "serious" wine connoisseurs prefer reds over whites. Can anyone shed some light on this? If a poll were taken among the world's 1000 top wine experts, what percentage would prefer reds over whites? Why? Is it even possible that someone with vast knowledge and experience of wine might like white more than red, as a general category?

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  1. I realize it might be said, but the most versatile wine (in terms of matching to food) is Riesling. There are large groups of Europeans for whom white wine is the primary reference point. Even in ancient Rome, white wine was more commonly drunk than red.

    The bias toward red in the English speaking world derives in part from historic English wine-trading relationships in Gascony (think Bordeaux) and Portugal. Nothing wrong with that. Great wines.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Karl S.

      As I've started looking into wines more, I've slowly found white wines that I really enjoy. However, that took awhile.

      I think it's easier to like reds because as a beginner, there are more drinkable reds under $10 and some very nice ones under $20. I've found that with whites, I have a hard time finding something really nice under $20.

      Of course, now I'm wondering about the chicken and the egg. Are there fewer quality low end producers of white wine because people in the U.S. prefer reds, or do fewer people like whites because they can't afford good ones? Or, perhaps it's easier to produce a decent red than a decent white. Any oenophiles know more?

      1. re: nooodles

        Sales of red wines overtook whites after coverage of the "French Paradox".

        1. re: Melanie Wong


          I've just been reading some statistics that show a breakdown of US wine consumption as about 41% red, 47% White, and 12+% blush. I was a bit surprised by that because I'd heard the same about the US rection to the "French Paradox" as well.

          I'm not trying to be nit-picky here, I'm just curious as to whether blush wines are considered red or white... or neither. Even at 41%, that's a lot of white wine.

          1. re: Midlife

            The "60 Minutes" broadcast was in November 1991. Looking at the time trend shows the shift more dramatically. Here are the figures from a presentation I attended in 2002 for the US market:

            1991 -
            Rosé 30%
            White 50%
            Red 20%

            2000 -
            Rose' 19%
            White 39%
            Red 42%

            Source: Impact Databank

            That's a huge market shift toward red wine in just nine years. I also have a note that the speaker said the US is unique in the world in drinking so much rose'. I haven't verified that claim, but I imagine that's due to the popularity of white zin, and prior to its introduction to the market, Mateus and Lancers rose'.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              And white zin is what single handedly made America a major wine-drinking nation in terms of corked bottles rather than screwcap jugs. Most of the subsequent growth and movement rests on that foundation.

      2. re: Karl S.

        The best single wine I've ever tasted--and I'm no stranger to the grape!--was not a red, but a Riesling at Lespinasse back in 2002. It was a 1983 Selbach-Oster Riesling Auslez/Mosel-Sarr-Ruwer. The wine changed character THREE times on the palate--going from super-dry to a flush of wet along the way. As startling as Pop Rocks!

        1. re: Tom Steele

          Indeed, I am also very partial to German Riesling (IMHO, no one has approached their best wines anywhere else in the world.) Do you know which vineyard that wine was from? One of the most startling German wines I've had was a young 1990 Bernkasteler Badstube Spaetlese from JJ Pruem. The only way I could describe it was that it was like pushing your face into a slate-bottomed stream in the middle of a field of wildflowers - just amazing. And the better ones age beautifully for decades. Unfortunately, they've become more expensive (comparatively speaking) but on the other hand, they're still bargains as "great wines of the world" go. You can practically buy a case of a great German Riesling for what you'd pay for some single bottles of the most sought after white burgs. Americans are apparently freaked out by the labels which is just fine AFAIC - more for me. :)

          1. re: MikeG

            Oops, that one was from Kerpen, not Pruem!

            1. re: MikeG

              My parents also preferred German whites and so do I. I'll only drink red if that is the only wine offered, and if I find it yucky, will stick with water. Yes one does tend to drink reds more slowly, but it is the only alcohol which gives me a hangover.

              A college professor was raised a Christian Scientist, but his futre FIL turned him on to alcohol. He would have a yearly wine tasting for his students. At that time, the whites I disliked were all from California.

              A friend got me to try French rose. I was dubious at first, but found it delicious.

              My favorite white is Champagne, but I don't like Rose Champagne.

              The first beer I ever had was an Austrian at 17. I then hardly ever drank during college because I couldn't take the domestic beer swill at parties.

        2. "It's often said that "serious" wine connoisseurs prefer reds over whites."

          I wonder where did you here this.

          4 Replies
          1. re: RicRios

            Sorry for the typo. I should have written:

            I wonder where did you hear this.

            1. re: RicRios
              torta basilica

              I hear it implied all the time, subtly & directly, but I still love my whites!! Enjoying that Martin Codax Albarino on this hot night right now!!

              I admit it, I love good rich buttery California Chards, Kiwi Sav Blancs, Borgogne Blancs, Spanish whites, blends like Conumdrum & Alluvium - it's all good. Only problem it that I know that I drink whites a whole lot faster than reds...

              BTW, I've found a nice Chard for under $10 on sale - Mia's Playground - cute bottle, I'm really starting to like screwtops - they fit back into the fridge & don't stress my wrist.

              1. re: torta basilica


                I believe there is a sexist issue behind this supposed color preference. As far as I'm concerned, I'm color blind, as long as behind it there's good body, solid flavors & round finish.

                1. re: RicRios

                  Actually, I find my opportunities to drink rose' and white wines with my friends who are the most knowledgeable about wines and have the deepest cellars. They're more interested in trying different styles of wine. I don't know that they (or I) prefer white, but we do enjoy it and make it a habit. With other friends, the wines are almost always red, and if I happen to insist on opening a bottle of white or a rose', I'm drinking it alone.



          2. serious people suck.

            1 Reply
            1. re: me

              No, no, no!

              Mean people suck. Serious people just don't have much fun. We should pity them.

              But, seriously, IMO, "serious" wine drinkers drink with an open mind.


            2. You must be insecure and have "issues".

              1. Yes. Preference is in the being. However, a total wine expert geekermonger seriouser must know many grapes, including white burgandys.

                Someone told me that the red grapes get their color from the skins and that they have more tannins. I'm not a wine expert.

                If your serious about your preferences and you like white, the answer to your question is yes.

                But, I've heard it also that one "graduates" from whites to reds. I guess there are enough whites to discover, one could spend a lifetime knowing them. However, I have not seen many white wines age for long. Maybe there is something in that that makes people say your not serious if you don't know reds. Is it because more reds age? Why else would they say that?

                Where do ports come into that theory? They are made from grapes, right? See,
                "White Port, is made from white grapes rather than the aforementioned red grapes — Viosinho, Malvasia Fina, Gouveio, Cédega, and Rabigato."

                And, is champagne included in your "white" category?

                Sure, a serious wine drinker can prefer white. Just like a serious doctor can specialize in cardiology or pediatrics or podiatry, not know everything about one or the other, and still be a doctor >> right?

                I think so.

                2 Replies
                1. re: kc girl

                  "I've heard it also that one "graduates" from whites to reds"

                  This was the pattern for the boomers in the US. But John Gillespie's market research on the leading edge of "millenials" 20-somethings preferences shows that they're starting out with red wine and the bigger the flavors, the better. One might assume that they're not drinking red wine as heart medicine, they're drinking for flavor. And, they're choosing wine over other beverages in much higher percentages than the X'ers.

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    You know, I have no hard research other than what I have observed. However, the millenials I see are starting out just like the boomers. Instead of Apple Hill it is Arbor Mist.