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Types of Wine – A Complete Guide

types of wine
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Depending who you ask about wines, they could be referring to styles, different types, or even list off a few examples of grapes used for each. In my opinion, learning the types of wine isn’t complicated. What’s complicated is the difference in opinions when people describe the different “types”. So, I wanted to make this complete guide on the types of wine to get rid of any confusion!

We’ll go over the five main groups of wine, what separates them from each other, and some examples of wines in each group!

In this article

  1. Wine Lingo
  2. 5 Main Wine Types
  3. Types of Red Wine
  4. Types of White Wine
  5. Types of Rose Wine
  6. Types of Sparkling Wine
  7. Types of Dessert Wine

 

wine lingo

Wine Lingo To Know

Before we go over the types of wine and subcategories of each, there are a few key terms you should know. 

  1. Tannin – used to describe how dry the wine is, high tannin means it will feel like it’s drying out your mouth. 
  2. Round – used to describe how smooth or lush a wine is. 
  3. Spicy – used to describe how tart and acidic a wine tastes. 

Different Types of Wine

All wines can be grouped into five basic types. Each group is composed of several other wine types that can differ by grape, taste, and process used to make it. Below are the five main wine groups!

Red Wine

A wine made from the pulp of red or black grapes. The pulp is then fermented with the grape skin, giving the wine it’s darker color. 

White Wine

White wine is made in a similar way to red wine, but with white or red grapes that are fermented without the skins. The grapes are pressed and juiced and that is then fermented using yeast. 

Rosé 

A rosé is more closely related to red wine concerning it’s production. While a red wine is fermented for multiple weeks with the grape skins, a rosé only allows the skins to touch the wine for a few hours. 

Sparkling Wine

Sparkling wine takes more effort and has a more involved process to make it. What makes sparkling wine more tedious to make is the bubbles. Basically, sparkling wine is made by fermenting the wine twice, once to make the wine and another to make it bubbly! This process can be done in a few different methods that I’ll go over later, adding to the complexity of sparkling wine.

Dessert Wine

A dessert wine is usually known for it’s sweetness, which is due to it’s higher sugar content. This happens during the fermentation of the wine, which is stopped early so that the yeast doesn’t eat up all of the sugar! Also, grapes that have been on the vine longer can be used. The longer a grape is on the vine, the more it can raisinate, increasing the sugar in the grape. 

This group also includes fortified wines, which are combined with spirits. 

types of red wine

8 Different Types of Red Wine

The majority of red wines will fall into three sub-categories of being herbal dry, sweet, or fruity dry. These make up the general taste of most red wines and we’ll cover eight of the most common reds you’ll come across. 

These wines are made by fermenting red or black grapes with the grape skins still in the mix. Most commonly left to mature in large oak barrels or vats, a red wine can take months to years to mature. 

Cabernet Sauvignon 

Made from the most common grape in the world, Cabernet Sauvignon can range from a herbal to fruity taste depending on the vintner and vineyard where the grapes were grown.

A good pairing for cabernet is with most red meats including burgers and lamb. 

Zinfandel 

A light bodied red wine that packs a bold taste. Expect a fruity taste including blueberry, cranberry, cheery and others that are followed up by a spice.

Zinfandel also goes great with red meats and lamb, similar to cabernet. But, depending on the brand and other varieties zinfandel can have, quail and turkey are great secondary pairings. 

Merlot

The second most planted grape on Earth, Merlot is a great starting point for beginners looking to get into wine. I would be cautious of the first brand you drink though, as I’ve personally had some very bitter Merlot’s that temporarily ruined my cravings for red wine. 

Some great food pairings for a merlot are chicken, duck, or quail. 

Syrah/Shiraz

Known as Syrah mostly in Europe, Shiraz is described as peppery, spicy, and bold. It has a strong flavor that makes it a great wine to truly enjoy, even on it’s own. 

But, if you’re looking for some food to go along with it, this is a great wine for a charcuterie board full of cheeses and crackers!

Pinot Noir

One of my personal favorites, Pinot Noir is a much lighter red wine that goes down smooth. This is another great wine to start a beginner on if they aren’t a fan of a full hitting flavor. 

Even though it’s a red wine, it goes great with fish such as salmon or sushi!

Malbec

A deep purple wine originating in France, but more popularly produced in Argentina, Malbec is an alternative to Cabernet Sauvignon if you’re looking to save money. 

While a Malbec goes decent with some steaks, I highly recommend it for spicier food such as Mexican. 

Sangiovese

A giant grape native to Italy, Sangiovese has a wide variety of characteristics that depend a lot on where it was grown. It’s a very diverse grape and adapts depending on it’s environment. So if you don’t like it the first try, I still recommend tasting another from a different vineyard as it could be vastly different. 

Unsurprisingly, a prominently Italian wine goes great with pizza and pastas!

Nebbiolo 

A wine with strong tannins, Nebbiolo is a surprising wine that packs a punch despite it’s lighter color. Most notable wins made from this grape are the Barolo and Barbaresco.

Some great food pairings for Nebbiolo include fatty meats such as goose, boar, or pork.

types of white wine

7 Different Types of White Wine

Okay, we’ve covered the red wines, but what about the second most popular option, white wines. 

Unlike red wines, a white wine is made by pressing the grapes and juicing them. This juice is then mix with yeast to ferment it without adding in the grape skins. There are additional differences that could include using different tanks to ferment in (not always barrels), filtration, or other additives that could differ among other white wines. 

Chardonnay 

The first white wine on the list is incredibly popular (the most planted white grape) and one of my favorite. Originally from a small town in France, unsurprisingly named Chardonnay. This grape has the option to be used for a white wine or can be used for a sparkling wine and champagne. 

Personally, this is my go to white wine for chicken dinners. But, this wine also works well with salmon. 

Sauvignon Blanc 

A bright flavored white wine, sauvignon blanc can take on tastes ranging from a sour green apple to a sweet pear. This depends a fair amount on where the grape was grown, as grapes grown in Australia may lack the usual fruity flavor and be much flatter. 

As a food pairing, it goes well with seafood, white meat meals, or salads. 

Moscato

Remember how I said Chardonnay was “one of” my favorite white wines? Moscato is probably my favorite of all the wines. Your favorite might be something else, but I love the signature sweet and fruity flavor of a Moscato.

It goes great by itself, but a Moscato is a great sweet wine to accompany most desserts (another reason it’s my favorite).

Pinot Grigio

A very versatile white wine, Pinot Grigio is a much dryer wine and has a slight kick. It’s hard to describe what I mean by kick, but essentially you feel the flavor fill your taste buds the same way it’s aroma fills your nose. 

There isn’t a main food pairing for Pinot Grigio, it can go with almost anything. 

Riesling

Much lighter than a Chardonnay, a Riesling can vary depending on the vintner. I’ve had Riesling that was smooth and low in tannin. However, most of the brands I find are dryer and have a slight bitter bite. 

This wine goes great with most seafoods but can go well with chicken as well. 

Semillon

A full body similar to Chardonnay with a taste closer to Sauvignon Blanc. That of course depends on the ripeness of the grapes being harvested, which can range from a lemon taste to a papaya. 

While not my favorite wine, it is the third most planted grape and is common to eat with clams or salads. 

Gewürztraminer

A dry white wine that is as refreshing to drink as it is to pronounce. Not to say that this wine is bad, but it definitely lacks the excitement of other dry white wines. Some people will find these qualities to be a positive, which is why it’s still a solid choice. 

Another key quality that makes this wine something to keep in mind is its positive pairing with Asian cuisine! 

types of rose wine

10 Types of Rosé Wine

Rosé is a phenomenal wine choice and there are plenty of options depending on the meal/occasion. 

Similar to red wine, Rosé is made by fermenting the grape juice with the skins. But, where this wine differs from red wine is that the grape skins are taken out shortly after being added (a few hours to a day). This gives the wine a slight pink hue, but doesn’t give it the full dark red you would usually see in a red wine. 

Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé

Made using the Saignee Method (to bleed off), this Rosé comes from bleeding off some of the red wine used to make Cabernet Sauvignon before it continues to mature. Because of this, the wine will have red wine flavors, but much less acidity as it wasn’t allowed to ferment longer with the grape skins. 

Zinfandel Rosé

The Zinfandel Rosé, also known as the White Zinfandel is incredibly popular and there’s no doubt you’ve heard of it (even if you’re not a wine enthusiast). Usually served cold and coming in a variety of fruity and zesty flavors. It’s very versatile and can go with most sweet or even slightly spicy foods depending on your preference. 

Sangiovese Rosé

A medium-bodied Rosé that is often served cold, the Sangiovese has a unique cherry-like flavor with an acidity similar to a tomato. This is my preferred wine for hard cheeses but can also go well with roasted meats. 

Pinot Noir Rosé

Pinot Noir is already an amazing wine, but in Rosé, it delivers a gleaming acidity and soft, subtle aromas of crabapple, strawberries, and watermelon. This wine is almost refreshing to taste and goes well with seafood dishes, especially crab. 

Tavel Rosé

The Tavel has a savory and rich taste and a strangely dry feel for a Rosé. It has most of the trademarks of a normal full red wine, but without the accompanying darker color. 

While it may sound weird being a Rosé, it goes well with barbeque or other smoky and rough meals. 

Syrah Rosé

Another wine prepared using the Saignee method, the Syrah has a wide range of flavors that can be detected. It’s also a bolder Rosé than it’s counterparts but is amazing with pizza!

Provence Rosé

A wine that is comfortable in just about any situation, the Provence is great to drink alone or add to almost any dish. It has the notable tastes of strawberry and watermelon that most Rosés do, but with an added salty hint at the end. 

Mourvèdre Rosé

If there was a wine that encapsulated the feeling of vacationing in France, this is the closest you’d find. The Mourvèdre is a fruity and floral mix that will leave your nose as satisfied as your taste buds. Despite it’s feel being so French, the best food pairing for this wine is a Greek dish filled with lamb and pita bread. 

Grenache Rosé

Another great Greek pairing, the Grenache is best served cold and has a surprising hint of orange hidden beneath the many layers of flavor it has. 

Tempranillo Rosé

Not the most known Rosé, the Tempranillo shouldn’t be pushed aside. This wine has the recognizable Rosé trademarks of strawberry and watermelon, but with a strange meaty note. No, it’s not a wine that tastes like chicken, but it does have the feel of a light meat filled meal. 

types of sparkling wine

6 Different Types of Sparkling Wine

Sparkling wine can be made using quite a few methods, the Traditional, Tank, Transfer, Ancestral, Continuous, or Carbonation Method. While there are multiple ways to make sparkling wine, it mostly comes down to fermenting the wine twice. One fermentation is the initial start like most wine making, forming alcohol in the grape juice. The next fermentation is done under pressure to create the wine’s bubbly consistency.

So what are the types of Sparkling Wine?

Champagne

One of the most popular sparkling wines, anyone who’s reading this has undoubtedly heard of it. The go to drink for basically any of life’s celebrations, Champagne has a sweet and fruity taste but will go with any dish.

Prosecco

Originating from Italy, the grapes used to make Prosecco have a sweet and fuzzy taste when finished. Using the tank method for fermentation, Prosecco tends to have much larger bubbles. This particular sparkling wine is also common in cocktails such as Mimosa’s! 

Crémant

Produced using similar methods to Champagne, Crémant is made in France and can have different flavors depending on the grape used. Despite being created using the same methods, this wine tends to have a creamy and nutty taste instead of the sweet usually associated with Champagne. 

Cava

A sparkling wine from Spain, Cava is made using the traditional method. The general taste of Cava tends to be lemony with undertones of fruits. It’s not quite as sweet as Prosecco and is a more toned down sparkling wine, making it great for a relaxed celebration. 

Sekt

Made using multiple methods, Sekt comes from Germany but is becoming more popular in other areas. It has floral aromas and fruity flavors like most sparkling wines, but with significantly less alcohol percentage (usually 6%). 

Rosé

Yes this can be made still, but a sparkling rose puts a nice twist on an already fruity and delicious wine. 

 

All Types of Dessert Wine

A common rule of thumb when pairing wine with food, is that your food shouldn’t be sweeter than the wine you drink with it. That poses an interesting problem for dessert though! 

Thankfully, dessert wines exist to solve the previous problem and are extra sweet to go along with an already sweet dessert. 

So what are the options for dessert wine?

Sparkling Dessert Wine

Some normal sparkling wines can be used as a dessert wine depending on the dessert. There are options to have sweeter sparkling wines, but I usually stick with the normal champagne or cava. 

Noble Rot Wines

These are also known as the Botrytis-Affected wines, as it’s a mold that can grow on the grapes. The mold causes the grape to shrink and become dehydrated, giving the grape an increased sugar content. Some examples are the Hungarian Tokaji or Sauternes, these wines are usually paired best with creamy desserts.

Fortified Wines

Like the other wines, there are small differences in how a wine can be fortified. The gist is that a fortified wine is one with added alcohol that also wasn’t fully fermented, leaving more sugar in mix. Common examples of fortified wines are Sherry, Port, and Vermouth! These go great with those chocolatey desserts or cakes.

Ice Wine

Ice wine (or eiswein) comes from grapes that were left on the vine as they froze. Because of how they’re made, this makes the wine very viscous and sweet. During my time in Germany, this was one of my favorite wines to have with any dessert!

Late Harvest Wine

The name is fairly straight-forward, these wines come from grapes that were harvested after their best period of ripeness. This makes the sugar in the grapes very concentrated and sweet. Riesling is an example of a late harvest wine and can go great with the more citrusy desserts like key lime pie.

all kinds of wine

All Types of Wine!

There is so much to learn regarding the production, taste, and storage of wine! The above lists cover the major categories and give a great introduction into the world of wine. 

If there are any questions or maybe there are corrections to be made, please say so below!

 

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