4 Reasons White Wines Are Usually Cheaper Than Red Wines

If you’ve ever perused wine on the racks or tend to stick to store-brand wines for regular consumption, you already know that white wines are typically cheaper than red wines. In fact, a premium white wine is much more accessible and affordable than a good bottle of premium red wine. Red wine is typically made from grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Pinot Noir, which are often more expensive to cultivate due to their sensitivity to climate and soil conditions.

White wine grapes, such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling, generally have a higher yield and can be grown in a wider range of climates, making them less costly to produce. The harvesting process for red wine grapes can also be more labour-intensive. For instance, some high-quality red wine grapes are handpicked to ensure only the best grapes are used which increases labour costs. On the other hand, white wine grapes are often machine-harvested, which is more cost-effective and less labour-intensive. Here are some other reasons white wine is more affordable than most red wines.

Vinification Process

Red wine requires an additional step called maceration, where the grape skins remain in contact with the juice during fermentation. This process extracts colour, tannins, and flavours from the skins, seeds, and stems, adding complexity to the wine.

White wine is typically fermented without skins, which simplifies the process and reduces production time and costs. The fermentation temperature for red wines is usually higher, requiring more energy to maintain. White wines are often fermented at cooler temperatures, which can be more energy-efficient and less expensive.

Ageing Requirements

Many red wines are aged in oak barrels, which are costly. Oak barrels can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars each, and they need to be replaced periodically. The ageing process in oak also ties up capital, as the wine cannot be sold until it has matured. White wines are often aged in stainless steel tanks, which are cheaper than oak barrels and do not need to be replaced as frequently. Some white wines do not require ageing at all, allowing for a quicker turnaround from production to sale.

Moreover, red wines often require longer ageing periods to develop their full flavour profile. This means they occupy storage space for a longer time, incurring additional costs for the winery.

White wines usually have a shorter ageing period, if they are aged at all. This allows wineries to produce and sell them more quickly, reducing storage costs and increasing cash flow.

The market demand also differs

Historically, there has been a higher demand for red wines, particularly for premium and aged varieties. This increased demand can drive up prices. While white wines are also popular, they are often perceived as less prestigious or complex than red wines, which can influence their market price.

The perception that red wines are more complex and better suited for ageing can lead to a willingness to pay higher prices. Marketing and historical trends contribute to the belief that red wines, especially from renowned regions, are superior. White wines, often seen as lighter and more straightforward, are generally marketed at a lower price point.

Wine regulations

In traditional wine regions like Bordeaux or Burgundy, red wines have a long-standing reputation and command higher prices due to their history and quality. In contrast, white wines from these regions, although high quality, do not usually reach the same price levels as their red counterparts.

Wine-producing regions have specific regulations that can impact production costs. For example, appellation rules in France may dictate lower yields for red wines to ensure quality, which can increase costs. Regulations for white wines are often less stringent, allowing for higher yields and more flexibility in production, which can lower costs.

Production Scale and Efficiency

Wineries that produce large quantities of white wine can benefit from economies of scale, reducing per-unit costs. Red wine production, particularly for premium wines, is often smaller scale with more attention to detail, leading to higher costs.

Advances in winemaking technology have made the production of white wines more efficient. Techniques like controlled fermentation and mechanical harvesting help reduce costs. Red wine production still relies heavily on traditional methods, especially for high-end wines, which can be more costly.