Welcome to Wine 101; in this class, we're discussing the four main types of wine. Knowing the main categories of wine will give you a head start understanding more about the somewhat complicated wine world. Soon, you'll be sipping wine and describing the wine's notes to friends as a true wine connoisseur, and we love that look for you!
The most exciting thing you'll read all day: red wine is called red wine because it is red. If your mind isn't blown, we don't know what to tell you. Compared to white wine, red wines are typically bolder and have a more distinct berry flavor.
But how is red wine red? Many people incorrectly believe that red wine is created from red grape varieties, and white wine is created from white grapes. The reality is, the color in red wine comes from grape skins because the juice from almost all wine grapes is clear! This process is called maceration. To macerate means to soften, and it is the process where the grape skins are softened during the maceration process.
There are tons of different types of red wines. But these are the eight significant red wines you should be aware of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Syrah, Malbec, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, and Nebbiolo.
Cabernet Sauvignon: the most planted grape in the world, Cabernet Sauvignon, is a safe and sophisticated red to order at any meal. Cab is full-bodied and filled with dark fruit flavors like black currant and savory tastes like bell pepper and black pepper. It generally comes from France, and Bordeaux in particular.
Merlot: Another French wine, coming in second to Cabernet Sauvignon, it is the second most planted grape in the world. It's fruity, yummy, and doesn't make your mouth pucker up with tannins.
Zinfandels: Taste varies considerably based on what wine region produces this wine, but in general, it is nice, juicy, and high in alcohol content. A notable region is California.
Syrah: Also known as Shiraz. Known for its peppery, spicy flavors, this is a wine made for sipping on. An incredibly popular varietal is grown in Australia.
Malbec: An easy-drinking wine from Argentina that has a hint of smoke and plum and cherry flavors.
Pinot Noir: Light and delicate, this wine is best for those intimidated by red wine's punch-you-in-the-face flavor.
Sangiovese: Associated with Tuscany and Italy, you might taste soil and pepper when you give this wine a sip.
Nebbiolo: With strong tannins and tons of acid, this Italian wine's flavors get more and more complex as it ages. That's why this wine is one wine lovers will often splurge on!
Other notable red wines that we simply don't have the time to mention include Cabernet Franc, Chianti, and Tempranillo from Spain.
Certain foods help bring out the flavor in different types of wine and visa versa. The best food and wine pairings create a balance between the dish's tastes and the wine's characteristics. While you can go in-depth in this arena if you plan on being a pro or are plotting to out cook Gordan Ramsay or Guy Fieri, the basic 101 for pairing reds with food is red wines pair well with bold flavors, like meats.
Like red wine, aptly named due to its color, white wine is also called white wine because it is white. In comparison to red wine, white wine is much lighter. Instead of the berry flavor in reds, whites have a more defined citrus flavor.
Here are the main types of white wine you should know: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Moscato, Pinot Grigio, Gewürztraminer, and Riesling.
Chardonnay: Since the 1990s, this wine has been the most popular type of wine. Bold and dry, Chardonnay has an intense flavor that is intensified further when aged with oak. While it originated in France, well-known varieties are grown in Napa Valley.
Sauvignon Blanc: a herbaceous wine, Sauvignon Blanc is light-bodied with herbal aromas like grass and bell pepper.
Semillon: Like Chardonnay, this wine is bold and dry and is filled with intense flavors. You can expect fruit flavors like lemon, pear, green papaya, and apple in this wine.
Moscato: Light and sweet with only a few residual sugars, this wine from the Muscat grape is very aromatic. Moscato often has a fizz and filled with flavors of peach, nectarine, and orange that are very delicious.
Pinot Grigio: Also known as Pinot Gris. Light and zesty, Pinot Grigio is light-bodied and dry. You can expect fruity flavors like lime, pear, lemon, apple, and white nectarine.
Gewürztraminer: Another light and sweet wine with just a touch of residual sugar, Gewürztraminer is full-bodied with low acidity. Occasionally, this wine can be spritzy and have a bitter finish and is frequently produced in Germany.
Riesling: With a touch of residual sugar from the winemaking process, Riesling is slightly sweet but very aromatic. With primary fruit aromas of orchard fruits like apricot, apple, pear, and nectarine.
Unlike red wine that pairs deliciously with bold flavors, white wine pairs well with fish and chicken, or lighter meals.
If you don't have a friend obsessed with rosé, you might not have any friends… kidding! Rosé had the glow-up of the century, and for valid reasons: it's beautiful, it's delicious, and it's light and fun. Because rosé is made from the same grapes that make red wine, there aren't many varieties. However, you can be sure to find rosé(s) that range from a light pink to a darker, more prominent pink.
Because rosé and summer are practically synonymous, you can pair your beverage with pretty much any summer invoking meal, from veggie skewers on the barbeque to a trendy charcuterie board. But, be careful, because we've gotten to a place in our office, where we can't even say charcuterie board without our team running for a Bev Rosé and searching for the meats and cheeses. As we noted, rosé is very, very popular.
If you're into sugar, then you'll enjoy dessert wines. To make this sweet, delicious drink, winemakers stop the fermentation process before yeast converts all of the grape sugars into alcohol. This leaves a rich wine that is sweetened with natural grape sugars.
There are hundreds of dessert wine variations, but the main ones are sparkling dessert wine, lightly-sweet dessert wine, richly sweet dessert wine, sweet red wine, and fortified wine.
Sparkling dessert wine: The most technical wine globally, this wine goes through two fermentations to create the bubbles. Zippy and light, sparkling dessert wines are known to have higher acidity than other dessert wines and are filled with flavors of fresh apple, lime, and lemon zest.
Lightly-sweet dessert wine: Refreshing and sweet, these white wine explode with fruit flavors. Riesling is a type of lightly-sweet dessert wine and has intense fruity aromas of orchard fruits, like apple and pear.
Richly sweet dessert wine: Made with the highest quality grapes, richly sweet dessert wine is highly concentrated and have intense aromas of dried pear, vanilla, and orange.
Sweet red wine: A wine that stands out because red wine is often not sweet; this wine is usually chilled for better enjoyment and is known to have a familiar fruit taste.
Fortified wines: These usually have a higher alcohol content because they've been mixed with grape brandy. Popular versions are Sherry and Madeira.
While some wines pair better with certain foods than others, in general, dessert wines pair well with…well, dessert.
Wild Card: Sparkling Wine
Unlike red, white, and rosé wines, sparkling wines go through two different fermentation processes. Like the other types of wine, sparkling wine goes through the original fermentation to make the alcohol. The second fermentation is to make the bubbles! The most famous sparkling wine types are champagne, Prosecco, Cava Brut, Cremant, Sekt, and sparkling rosé. Instead of food pairings, sparkling wine is best paired with a celebration! From ringing in the new year to a wedding, sparkling wines are a delicious celebration treat.