Understanding Different Types of Wines
There are many different types of wines. Wine is classified by the type of grape (or grapes) grown to produce that wine, where those grapes are grown, and the process the winemaker goes through to produce that wine.
Here are the different types of wines defined by grape type. A grape type is also called a varietal. Click on the links below to navigate to each page.
Wines may also be categorized not just by their grape type, but by their production style. Even though Sparkling Wine is listed above,
So you see, a wine’s final flavor and character will be determined by many complex factors, not just by the specific grape varietal grown, but by how those grapes are treated throughout the wine makingprocess.
The best way to learn the different types of wines is bytastingseveral types of wines. By doing this you will gradually learn to distinguish one from the other.
Shopping for wine and becoming familiar with wine labels will also help you learn about the different wine types.
And,joining a wine clubis an excellent way to experience many different types of wines in a most convenient and enjoyable fashion.
In the United States, wines are usually referred to by the type or variety of grape (varietal) grown to produce them.
For example, you’ll see the words “Pinot Noir” or “Chardonnay”, which are grape types, written on the label.
Many wines are a combination or “blend” of two or more grape varietals. Legally, in the Unites States, the label only has to reveal the name of a single grape varietal if at least 75% of the wine is made from that one grape type.
The other 25% of the wine can be made from one
or more other grape varietals and those do not
have to be listed.
However, many US wine makers voluntarily list all grape varietals used in a wine blend on their label. Sometimes you will even see the percentages included.
On US labels you may also see reference to a particular location where the grapes used to produce that wine were grown. If that location is a wide geographic region (for example “California” or “Santa Barbara”) this indicates the grapes grown to produce that wine are from vines growing anywhere in this region.
If the location is very specific, and quite possibly one you’ve not heard of, this wine is vineyard specific. This means all grapes grown to produce this wine are from one small plot of land where the growing conditions were ideal to produce this type of wine in this particular year (vintage). In theory, and generally in reality, vineyard specific wines are of higher quality.
Wines may also be classified as “Estate Grown”, meaning all the grapes grown to produce that wine are from this winemakers’ own vines.
Other wine producing countries, besides Europe, may also label their wines in the ways described above.
In Europe, wines are generally named for the region (appellation) that a wine’s grapes are grown in, not for the grape.
In Europe, where a wine is grown, by whom it is grown, and the type of soil it is grown in are just as (or more) important as the type of wine grapes grown. However, for the novice wine drinker, this makes it difficult to tell which wine grape(s) are used in the production of that wine.
As you begin to enjoy European wines, you will become familiar with the various wine growing regions and wine producers. You’ll not only learn about the quality of that region and producer, you’ll learn what type of grapes are grown in that area and which are used in the production of their wines.
Here are some basic European classifications you may already know. Bordeaux wine from the French region of the same name is typically from the Cabernet Sauvignon grape. Burgundy wine from the region of Burgundy (Bourgogne) in France is made with Pinot Noir grapes. And Chianti wine is made with Sangiovese grapes from the region of Chianti in Tuscany.
Types of White Wine
All types of white wine are made by growing and processing white grapes.
The wine that is the end result will vary greatly depending upon the type of grape grown and several other variables.
Those variables include where in the world the grapes are grown, how the climate, moisture levels and soil conditions affect the grapes during their growing season, and how each individual wine maker treats the grapes once they are harvested (picked).
This is the beauty of wine. The end result is a confluence of all these factors, for better or for worse.
White wine grapes are grown in several regions of the world. On the continent of Europe, white wine grapes can be found primarily in Austria, France, Germany and Italy.
In the continental United States, white wine grapes are primarily grown in California,New York, Oregon and Washington, although a surprising number of states are growing wine grapes today. White wine grapes are also grown in Australia, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa and more.
Most types of white wines are lighter (have less body) than red wines.
The most common types of white wine grapes are:
Considered the queen of white wine grapes, Chardonnay is grown widely in many of the regions mentioned above. It is a very versatile grape whose character reflects its growing region and production process. Of all the white wine types, Chardonnay produces the most complex wines in the world. Most chardonnays are full, golden and velvety with hints of fruit, nuts, butter, oak, spice or vanilla and have medium to high acidity.
Chenin Blanc (SHEN’N BLAHNK)
Chenin Blanc has been cultivated for thousands of years in the Loire Valley of France. It is grown widely in California where it is the grape used in many jug wines or inexpensive table wines. Chenin Blanc has higher than average acidity. The character of Chenin Blanc can be difficult to define, but it generally is light and fruity.
Literally translated as “spicy”, Gewurztraminer is grown primarily in Germany and in the Alsace region of France where the cooler climate allows it to ripen fully. It has a light, crisp acidity and a bold flavor.
Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio (PEE-no GREE or GREE-zho)
Known as Pinot Grigio in Italy and the Alsace region of France, and Pinot Gris in the United States, this grape’s character will vary depending upon its growing region. European Pinot Grigio tends to be more acidic with less body than its American counterpart. All Pinot Grigio/Gris possess a citrus aroma.
Riesling, the most notable white wine grape from Germany, is also grown in France’s Alcase region and in New York’s Finger Lakes District. It is grown in California and Washington, although with less frequency. Riesling has medium to high acidity and light to medium body with a distinct flowery, fruity aroma.
Sauvignon Blanc (SO-vin-yon BLAHNK)
Sauvignon Blanc, also known as Fumé Blanc, is grown in the Bordeaux and Loire regions of France, and in California, New Zealand and South Africa. It is characterized by a light, crisp acidity. It will often contain several fruit components and is frequently blended with Semillion from the Bordeaux region of France.
Semillon is one of the more unique types of white wine. It rarely stand alone and is frequently blended with Sauvignon Blanc. Semillon can also be very rich, making a favorable dessert wine.
Viognier is grown primarily in the
Rhone region of France and in California. It has low to moderate acidity with hints of peach and apricot, and without the flowery aromas of some other white wines.
Types of Red Wine
All types of red wine are made by growing and processing red (or black) grapes. The wine that is the end result will vary greatly, depending not only upon the type of grape grown, but several other factors.
These factors include in which country and region the grapes are grown, how the climate, temperature, rain amount, and soil conditions affect the grapes during their growing season, and how each individual wine maker treats the grapes once they are harvested (picked).
This is the true appeal of wine and wine making.
The best types of red wine are those in which all these factors come together perfectly to make a beautifully balanced, delicious wine.
Today, red wine grapes, like white wine grapes, are grown all over the world.
In the United States, types of red wine are primarily grown in California, and along the west coast. Although, in recent years you can find wine grapes grown in nearly every state in the country.
In Europe, most types of red wine grapes will be found in the Beaujolais, Bordeaux, Bourgognes, Loire and Rhone regions of France. Red wine grapes are also grown in Argentina, Australia, Chile, Italy, South Africa, and Spain.
Most red wine grapes produce a more complex wine than white wines grapes. This is because red wine grapes stay on the vine longer due to their longer growing seasons in warmer climates. It’s also because the skins of red wine grapes remain in contact with their juice, giving red wine its color, tannin and flavor.
The most common types of red wine grapes are:
Grown most successfully in Italy’s Piedmont region, Barbera is quite acidic with full body
and light tannins. It is commonly used as a
Brunello is an offshoot of the Sangiovese grape. It is notable because it is the only grape permitted for Brunello di Montalcino, a rare, expensive, fruity and bold Tuscan red wine.
Cabernet Franc (cab-er-NAY FRANK)
Cabernet Franc is more often blended with other grapes than bottled by itself. Cabernet Franc is light to medium bodied and sometimes made into a wine called Chinon. It is most impressively grown in France’s Loire (luWAR) Valley, although it is usually overshadowed by the more popular Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet Franc is also grown in California and New York, and is gaining popularity in other regions.
Cabernet Sauvignon (cab-er-NAY SO-vin-yon)
Cabernet Sauvignon can be found in many of the wine regions mentioned above. In the Bordeaux region of France, it is considered the king of grapes. It is, in fact, the primary grape that makes fine Bordeaux wines. Cabernet Sauvignon can age well for decades. It is dark purple or ruby in color, medium to full bodied, and has a beautiful array of intense aromas and flavors. Cabernet Sauvignon would be considered a dry red wine.
Dolcetto is another grape grown almost exclusively in the Piedmont region of Italy. It produces fruity wines with aromas and flavors of licorice and almonds. It does not age as long as the Barbera or Nebbiolo grape.
Gamay is what the wines from the Beaujolais region of France are made of. Even though two “Gamay” wines are produced in California, they are not true Gamay and their quality does not come close to their French cousins. With its lower alcohol content, Gamay is meant to be drunk soon after it is bottled. It is fresh, light and fruity.
Grenache (greh-NAHSH) (greh-NACH-a in Spain)
Grenache is grown in Spain and California, but most notably in the southern Rhone valley of France. It is a very drinkable wine and in the past was used in several red and rose jug wines in California. However, Grenache has gained popularity as a fine stand alone grape in many areas. It is commonly blended with Mourvedre and/or Sarah. Grenache is medium to full bodied with good structure and raspberry flavor.
Malbec has always been the grape of Argentina where it thrives in their hot, dry summers. It is now also an important grape in Bordeaux and the Loire Valley of France. Its acidity can vary and it is frequently blended with other Bordeaux varieties.
Merlot has become very popular and much more distinct in the past years. It is one of the more drinkable types of red wine with its low acidity and mellow softness. Merlot is grown widely in many of the regions mentioned above and can be blended, particularly with Cabernet, or stand alone. Merlot has rich flavors of blackberry, plum and cherry.
Mourvedre is a blending grape originally from the Rhone region of France. It is now also common and popular in California and other United States. It is typically used to blend with Syrah, or Syrah and Grenache in what may be termed a “GSM”. In Spain this grape is called Monastrell.
Nebbiolo is another of the types of red wine grape from Piedmont, Italy and is responsible for many of Italy’s finest red wines. Nebbiolo tends to be light and quite dry with high acidity, so it does well with considerable aging.
Pinot Noir (PEE-no NWA)
Pinot Noir is a difficult grape to grow, but yields an exceptional wine with great complexity when conditions are correct. It is grown in the Burgundy region of France, in Oregon and in the cooler regions of California. Many California and French grown Pinot Noir grapes are used for rose style champagnes. It has light to moderate body with delicate and deliciously varied aromas and flavors.
Sangiovese is the signature red wine grape of the Tuscany and Chianti regions, and is still produced primarily in Italy. A good Sangiovese can be beautiful and complex, with varied aromas and flavors. It is frequently blended with Cabernet.
Syrah or Shiraz (sih-RAH or shih-RAHZ)
Known as Shiraz in Australia and South Africa and as Syrah in California and France, this wine has low to moderate acidity making it very drinkable. Shiraz/Syrah exhibits wonderful flavors of spice and fruit. Many think the French version is more acidic, therefore better to accompany food than the Australian version. Shiraz/Syrah is often blended with Grenache.
It is thought that Petit Syrah, which thrives in sunny California, is not related to Syrah.
Grown originally in the Rioja region of Spain, Tempranillo is a full bodied red and is often blended with Grenache.
Zinfandel wine is most always grown in California, where unlike other red wine grapes, it thrives in the heat and sunshine. It has low to moderate acidity and medium to full body with jammy, spicy flavors.
Understanding Red Rose Wine
Red rose wine, although consistently produced through the years, has never been considered great. It has remained stuck between great red wines and great white wines, never able to break free. Although often referred to as Red Rose, it is more commonly called simply Rose’.
However, this may be changing. These delicate, light bodied wines have been gaining more popularity and respect in the past few years.
The color of a rosé will be determined by the grapes used to make it. All kinds of red wine grapes are used to make rosé.
Rosé is made one of three ways.
In the first method, crushed red-skinned grapes remain in contact with the juice for a short period of time.
The grape skins are discarded when the grapes are pressed, rather than left throughout fermentation as with red wine making. The longer the skins are left in contact with the juice, the more intense the color of the final wine.
The second method, known as bleeding the vats, is used to impart more tannin and color to a red wine by removing some pink juice from red wine vats at an early stage.
This removed juice is then fermented separately, producing the rosé as a by-product of the red wine.
Bleeding was the method used to produce the once very popular California White Zinfandel.
The third method is by blending, the simple mixing of red wine with white wine to impart color.
This method is discouraged in most wine growing regions and has even fallen out of vogue in Champagne, where it was once respected.
Worldwide, dry rose is preferable to sweet. Many consider the dry Spanish and French type to be some of the best in the world.
Over the years, rose wines produced in the United States have had a reputation as being too sweet. However, recently this is changing, as United States producers have begun to take another look at the true potential rosé has to be great.
Types Of Sparkling Wine
There are many types of sparkling wine produced in several different countries of the world. They are made from a variety of grapes and with different production processes.
The characteristic all sparkling wines have in common is the presence of bubbles, or that fizzy appearance and taste we associate with effervescent wine.
The bubbles come from carbon dioxide that forms in the bottle during fermentation.
There is more than one fermentation process that will create a sparkling wine.
Throughout the world, different wine makers will use their preferred production method and/or those required by the laws of their individual region.
The most well known type of sparkling wine is Champagne.Champagne (with a capital “c”) is produced only in the region of Champagne in France. By law, it can only be made with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes.
Much to France’s annoyance, United States producers can legally call their sparkling wines “champagne” even though they are not produced in France. On a label in the United States, champagne must begin with a small “c” and the sparkling wine’s geographic origin and production methods must be listed.
Some other regions of France also produce sparkling wines, most notable the Loire Valley where the sparkling wines are referred to as Cremant.
Italy’s sparkling wine is called Asti. Many of us remember Asti Spumante, as it was once called. Asti in the Italian wine region of Piedmont and is made with the Moscato grape.
The Spanish wine region of Catalonia produces their well respected Cava sparkling wine. At one time it was referred to as Spanish Champagne, but that is no longer legal.
Cava is made with several different grapes including the traditional Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, only legally allowed in the past 30 years.
United States produces several types of sparkling wine.
In addition to Domaine Chandon, several French champagne producers have set up shop in the US, including Domaine Chandon and Tattinger in Napa Valley, and Roederer in Mendocino.
Most now use the traditional champagne grapes of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, plus Pinot Blanc.
United States producers Andre, Cooks, and Totts make less expensive sparkling wines using a more cost effective production process.
Germany and Austria
Germany and Austria produce the little known Sekt. Sekt is made with Riesling, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Gris grapes in Germany and Welschriesling and Gruner Vetliner grapes in Austria.
Next time you have something to celebrate, we hope you’ll enjoy one of the types of sparkling wine you’ve learned about here.
Types Of Dessert Wine
There are many styles and types of dessert wine. All are sweeter than traditional wine. A bit of helpful information is below.
Dessert wine is meant to be enjoyed following the main course of a meal. Dessert wines are too sweet to drink with a main course, although some people may enjoy them before a meal as an aperitif.
Like other wine, a dessert wine’s final quality comes from the type of grape it’s made from and where those grapes are grown. However, unlike other wines, a more important factor in the production of dessert wine is how those grapes are treated and what is added to them during production.
However, all the best dessert wines will have the same characteristics that wine lovers look for – inviting aromas, complex flavors, velvety textures and flavorful, memorable finishes.
What makes dessert wine sweet?
The earliest dessert wines were often sweet because they had not completely fermented. The sweetness of today’s dessert wines is often a result of their naturally occurring sugars (glucose and fructose), which increase the longer a grape ripens on the vine.
The residual sugars in dessert wine can also be the result of a freeze late in the harvest (as is the case with ice wine), or a mold infection (“noble rot”).
Another method used in the creation of dessert wine is the addition of brandy which stops fermentation.
The most well known dessert wine from CanadaandGermanyis their ice wine.
Franceproduces many fine dessert wines, their most famous is Sauternes.
Italyalso produces a wide variety of fine dessert wines.
A final word on dessert wines – many have a high alcohol content, so it’s always preferable to serve your dessert wine in an appropriately sized glass, perhaps a port glass.
What Is Fortified Wine?
Fortified wine has a higher alcohol content than other table wines, the result of a varied and distinct distillation process.
Fortified wine became popular in Europe when it was discovered these wines were easily transported and not damaged by the jostle of sea travel as were other wines.
Those most well-known are:
Madeira Wine (from the Madeira Island)
Marsala Wine (from Sicily)
Port Wines (from Portugal)
Sherry Wine (from Spain)
Madeira wine comes from the Portuguese governed island of the same name off the northwest coast of Africa. Most Madeira wine is used for cooking, but the better ones are beverages. Madera is light brown in color and can be sweet or dry. The best Madera wines are aged for decades and are one of these: Sercial – dry and acidic, Verdelho – medium dry, Bual – rich and raisiny, or Malmsey – the sweetest.
Marsala wine is named for the town of Marsala, on the western tip of Sicily. It can be either dry or sweet, and is better used for cooking than drinking.
Port comes from the city of Oporto, in the Duoro Valley of Portugal. Port is always red wine and it’s sold in several different styles. Vintage Port – from a single year and best aged for at least a decade, Tawny Port – a blend of ports from several years and aged for as many as 30 years in the cask, and Ruby Port – a crimson colored blend of lesser, younger ports.
(Port wine photograph courtesy of Freefoto.)
Named for the port city in Spain from where it is shipped, Sherry is from the Palomino grape grown in Southern Spain. The blending and production processes used to make Sherry are quite unique.
Sherry can be light or dark, dry or sweet. The different types of Sherry include: Fino – pale and dry, Manzanilla – pale and dry with a salty flavor, Amontillado – dark and rich with a nutty flavor, Oloroso – medium brown with a dry, rich flavor, Amoroso – brown and sweet, best as an after dinner drink, and Cream – the sweetest sherry, best as an after dinner drink.
Canadian Ice Wine
Canadian ice wine IS THE Canadian dessert wine.
In recent years, Canada has surpassed Germany in ice wine production to become the world’s largest grower of ice wine grapes in the world.
Interestingly, Asia is the largest exporter.
In the freezing temperatures of the Niagara Peninsula in Ontario and the Okanagan Valley
in British Columbia, ice wine is produced from late harvest grapes that freeze on the vine after ripening. All harvesting is done by hand.
While the liquids freeze, the sugars do not,
resulting in a concentrated, very sweet wine.
Because there is so little liquid remaining, the juice from many more grapes are required to produce ice wine than traditional wine.
In Canada, as in Germany,the grapes must freeze naturally to be called ice wine and the temperature must be below −8 °C (17 °F).
Some other countries use mechanical freezing, sometimes called “icebox wines”. These ice wines are not considered genuine.
The Riesling and Vidal grapes are most typically used in the production of ice wine from Canada. Sometimes a Cabernet Franc may be used, resulting in a rose colored wine.
With its high acidity and sweetness, ice wine is crisp and refreshing. It has medium to full body and a long lingering finish.
Canadian dessert wine is typically more expensive than table wine due to its difficult processing requirements. Its alcohol content varies from between 8% and 13%.