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White Wine Pros & Cons

by Tom Ryan, studioD

Light, crisp and more versatile than it sometimes gets credit for, white wine has many qualities that reds simply do not share. While some of the cons of drinking white wine are the same as they would be for any alcoholic beverage, it also has potential drawbacks that you won't find in a red varietal. More than anything else, it all comes down to taste.

Pros: Versatility

White wines complement simple, light and sometimes slight dishes, like cheese boards and oysters, extraordinarily well. Despite their sweetness, though, whites are sometimes are just as hearty and robust as reds and make a fine companion to dishes frequently accompanied by darker wines. Spicy foods, for example, pair well with whites -- reds can taste too bitter when paired with fiery fare. Whites go well with dishes ranging from a light summer afternoon fruit platter to a heaping plate of roasted pork.

Pros: Accessible Flavor Profile

The flavor profile of white wine is consistent across different types. White wines are generally lighter, sweeter and less tannic than reds -- in reds, tannins are what give your mouth a dried-out feeling. Because whites aren't typically as heavy, dry or full-bodied as reds, they may be more palatable to someone not accustomed to a flavor profile that bold. Conversely, some white wines -- particularly rieslings -- may be too sweet. A tangy alternative like sauvignon blanc or a buttery one like chardonnay works well as an introductory wine that is neither too sweet nor too dry.

Cons: Tricky Temperature

Generally, white wines are served chilled. All too often, even in some restaurants, this means that every bottle of white -- no matter the variety -- goes into a refrigerator and is served in a bucket of ice. This certainly keeps it cold, but it doesn't necessarily keep it at its best temperature. Different varieties of both reds and whites demand specific temperatures to accentuate their best flavors. Depending on the white wine you're serving, it may be suitable at a temperature as low as 48 degrees Fahrenheit or as high as 62 F. Keeping your white chilled in the best range can be tricky unless you have a miniature wine cooler that can be programmed just for your vino.

Cons: Inferior Health Benefits?

Red wine has a reputation for being healthier than white, particularly because of its higher concentration of resveratrol -- a cancer-fighting compound found in grape skins -- as well as antioxidants, tannins and compounds linked to better ocular, bone and cardiovascular health. As of publication, though, the research explicitly comparing the health benefits of reds and whites is limited. One 2006 case study conducted by researchers at Stony Brook University in New York suggests that benefits may be influenced by outside factors. White wine drinkers, for example, are statistically more likely to smoke, which can lead to the health problems not seen as frequently in red wine drinkers -- a classic case of correlation vs. causation. Ultimately, though, red wines unarguably pack a higher concentration of beneficial compounds, while whites have a higher sugar content.

About the Author

Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

Photo Credits

  • Jochen Sand/Photodisc/Getty Images