What’s the Difference Between Wine and Spirits?

Confused about the difference between wine and spirits? They are both alcoholic beverages, but there are significant differences in how they are made, and consumed.

Wine is an alcoholic drink made by fermenting fruit, most commonly grapes. Spirits (like vodka, gin, whiskey, rum, or tequila) are made by distilling a mixture of grains, fruits and vegetables.

Let's explore the nuances of these two drinks to find out the difference.

The Making Process

Wine is made by fermenting grapes. During this process, yeast converts the natural sugars in grapes into alcohol. The finished product is wine! It is typically around 10-14% alcohol by volume (ABV), though you can get low-alcohol wines as low as 5 or 6%. Fortified wines like sherry contain extra alcohol, so they are typically around 20% ABV.

Spirits (like vodka and bourbon) are made by distilling grains, fruits or vegetables. This involves distilling a fermented mash, forming alcohol vapor, and then cooling it down to form a liquid. The resulting liquid is often placed in wooden barrels for aging. Spirits are much higher in alcohol content, often at around 40% ABV on average.

How Are Spirits and Wine Consumed Differently?

Wine is typically categorized as either white or red based on the color of the grape skin. It can also be classified as sparkling or still.

There are significant differences in how these wines are consumed—white wine is served chilled, red is served near room temperature, and sparkling is almost always served cold.

Wine is usually consumed on its own, or paired with certain foods. However, there are some notable wine cocktails including the sangria, the spritzer, and the mimosa.

On the other hand, spirits are often consumed neat (either without ice or on the rocks). But they can also be mixed with water or other ingredients to create cocktails! Some common examples include the martini, gin and tonic, old fashioned, whiskey sour, and Tom Collins.

The serving temperature of most spirits depends on the type of spirit, or how it's being served. Whiskey might be served on its own at room temperature, while vodka or gin are more likely to be served cold in a mixed drink.

Who Prefers Wine?

Wine is more popular than spirits; in fact, it's the second most consumed alcoholic beverage in the world (after beer). It can be enjoyed on its own or paired with different dishes like meats, cheeses, and chocolate.

Wine lovers enjoy how varied this drink is, and love to experiment with different flavors and food pairings. The experience of serving, tasting, and learning about wine is an important part of the cultural identity for many wine drinkers.

It also has a sense of luxury—some extremely high-end wines can cost thousands of dollars, which is out of reach for most consumers. Then there's of course the famous Champagne, which is a sparkling wine known for its place in extravagant celebrations.

Who Prefers Spirits?

Spirits are popular among people who prefer a stronger taste in their drink. But there's really two categories of people who love spirits: those who are connoisseurs of a particular one (whiskey or gin, for example) and those who like to experiment with cocktails. But some people just appreciate how much cheaper it is to make drinks with sprits at home!

The Connoisseur

The first type of person is known for their extensive knowledge of the drink they enjoy. They might be able to provide detailed tasting notes about their preferred spirit, or talk about different ways it can be enjoyed. They typically like sipping it straight or on the rocks to really savor the flavors.

The Mixologist

The second type of spirit lover is more adventurous, and prefers to experiment by mixing different combinations together. Experimentation is the name of the game with spirits; theoretically there are thousands of flavors you can create by mixing different types of base spirit with fruits, mixers, or other spirits and liqueurs.

There's also endless possibilities for infusions, using exotic ingredients to bring out different flavors. Some popular cocktails that came out of this approach include the Long Island Ice Tea, margarita, mojito, rum punch, and screwdriver.

Which Is Better: Wine or Spirits?

As you can see, it really depends on what you're looking for in a drink. Wine is typically seen as a more luxurious drink, while spirits are considered more versatile and can be enjoyed in a variety of ways.

When Wine Is Best

If you like the idea of becoming an expert on one particular drink, wine is a great thing to get into. If you're a foodie and love to experiment with flavors, you might prefer wine too—the world of food and wine pairings is rich with possibilities.

When Spirits Are Best

If you're someone who prefers to get creative, or just enjoy exploring different things then spirits are the way to go! Cocktails are also great if you prefer a sweeter drink. Many don't even taste much like alcohol, making them popular among a lot of beginners.

In Conclusion

Wine and spirits are made differently, but they're both alcoholic beverages. Wine starts with fermentation of fruit, while spirits start with distilling fermented grains or other plants.

On the one hand, wine is great because it can be enjoyed both on its own and with food. It's also seen as a classy interest, and you can learn all about the intricacies of different grapes and regions, as well as its food pairings.

But spirits are more fun to experiment with at home or when you're out at a cocktail bar, thanks to how easy it is to mix them with other ingredients. There's so much room for creativity when it comes to mixing different ingredients and flavors—and if you have a couple friends over, there's nothing better than a night of fun drinks.