Whether you’re a new wine drinker or enjoy it regularly, there’s a good chance you’ve found yourself confused by all the different types of wine out there. It seems like everywhere you turn, there’s a new variety you haven’t heard of, a new vineyard to try. How do you know where to start?
Don’t worry; we’re here to break it down for you. There are hundreds of varieties of wine in the world, just as there are thousands of types of grapes. People devote their entire careers to learning every different type of wine, so don’t worry if you can’t remember them all. This article will break down the most popular types of wine from the three main categories: red, white, and rosé.
White wine isn’t exactly white but is usually a golden, straw-like color. White wine has existed for thousands of years, but little is known about the actual beginnings of its production. There are references to white wine as long ago as the third millennium B.C., and in Ancient Greece, Hippocrates was known to prescribe white wine to his patients as medicine.
Many people think white wine can only be made from white grapes, but this isn’t entirely true. White wine is typically made from “white” or green grapes, but some white wines are made from red or other colored grapes, provided that the pulp of the grape hasn’t been stained. For example, Pinot Noir grapes are often used to produce Champagne.
There are so many different types of white wine out there, from sweet to dry, aromatic to acidic. White wine pairs extremely well with all types of food. White wine is produced in countries worldwide, like France, Italy, Germany, Spain, the US, Canada, South Africa, and New Zealand. There are hundreds of white wines out there, but we’ve some of the most popular for you below.
Chardonnay is the most popular type of white wine globally and comes in a wide variety of flavor profiles. Some Chardonnay is aged in oak barrels, and some are not, which is why you see such a difference in flavors across the spectrum. You may notice some Chardonnays are labeled either “oaked” or “unoaked.” This refers to the use of oak barrels in the winemaking process or lack thereof.
Chardonnays are typically dry, with moderate acidity. The flavor notes can range from apple to lemon to papaya to pineapple, and you’ll often notice vanilla notes in an oaked Chardonnay. We’ve listed some popular, delicious Chardonnays below for your convenience.
Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris
You may be wondering what the difference between Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris is. Well, there really isn’t one. Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris are actually made from the same grape, but one is French use, and the other is Italian. The terms are largely interchangeable.
Pinot Grigio is the second most popular white wine variety in the US. It’s made from grapes, a cousin of Pinot Noir, and is a fuller-bodied wine than other whites like a Sauvignon Blanc. It has notes of mineral and pear on the nose and goes wonderfully with seafood and lighter fare. Some popular Pinot Grigios on the market today are:
Sauvignon Blanc is a very popular white that is light and refreshing, perfect for summer. It’s not as rich as something like a Chardonnay but still has the fruity flavor notes. Sauvignon Blanc grapes were commonly planted in the Bordeaux and eastern Loire regions of France but now are grown worldwide.
Sauvignon Blancs are affordable and usually have crisp acidity, herbal or grassy notes, and citrusy flavors. They’re extremely versatile and can pair with anything from seafood to dessert. It’s overall very aromatic, crisp, and refreshing.
Rieslings are reproduced primarily in cooler climates, where the grapes have a long time to hang on the vine. Rieslings come in a huge range and can be extremely dry or super sweet. Sweet rieslings age extremely well due to their increased sugar content. The world’s best Rieslings come from Germany and the Alsace region of France.
Since Rieslings come in such a variety of sweetnesses, the flavor notes vary greatly. Rieslings will often have intense aromatic notes of earthiness, petrol, and flowers. These wines usually have flavor notes of lime, lemon, orange, and pineapple.
Red wine has been produced since ancient times and was likely the first type of wine produced. Evidence of ancient wine production dates back between 6,000 and 4,000 BC. Evidence has been gathered from an ancient winery site in Armenia, grape residue found in Georgia clay jars, and grape domestication signs in Eastern Turkey.
Different types of red wines are produced all around the world. Red wine is made from dark-colored grape varieties, but the actual color of the wine can range from intense violet to brick red to brown. Red wines are made by macerating the grape’s juice with the skin, seeds, and sometimes even stems. The inclusion of all these elements from the grape imparts tannins into the wine, one of the main red wine characteristics.
There are many red wines, and the flavors can vary from fruity and floral to spicy and herbaceous.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the most planted grape in the world. It is grown in nearly every major mine production region, and this is one of the most popular red wines produced around the world.
Cabernet Sauvignons typically have high acidity, high tannins and are medium to full-bodied. Typical flavor notes include black fruit, vegetal notes, pepper, and vanilla. Cabs from California tend to be a bit fruitier, while French Cabernets tend to be more herbal.
Merlot is the second most-planted grape in the world, after Cabernet Sauvignon. Merlot is very easy to drink and is usually fruity and delicious, with not too many tannins. The most notable flavor you’ll find in Merlot is fruit, and it often carries notes of raspberry, blackberry, plum, blueberries, and jam. Other common Merlot notes are graphite, cedar, tobacco, clove, vanilla, and chocolate.
Pinot Noir is a light-bodied red that is extremely beloved and popular. It has fresh fruit, flower, and spice aromas accentuated by a long, smooth finish. The common flavor notes are cherry, raspberry, mushroom, clove, and hibiscus. It’s a drier red, with a light to medium body and low tannins.
Malbec originated in France, but most of the world’s Malbec is now produced in Argentina. Malbec is known for its rich, dark fruit flavor and smooth, chocolatey finish. Common flavor notes found in Malbecs are red plum, blackberry, vanilla, and cocoa. Malbec is a full-bodied wine that is typically on the drier side, with medium to high tannins.
Rosé is halfway between red and white on the color spectrum. It incorporates some of the colors from the grape’s skin, but not enough to be considered a true red wine. Rosé is known for its beautiful pink hue and is produced in regions all around the world.
Rosé comes in a wide variety of flavors and sweetness levels, from dry and crisp, to fruity and sweet, to sparkling. Typical Rosé flavor notes include strawberry, honeydew, rose petal, celery, and watermelon.
There are hundreds, maybe even thousands, of types of wine produced all over the world. We couldn’t possibly include them all on this list. But, hopefully, we’ve given you the basics on the most popular types of wine, so you know what to expect on your next trip to the liquor store.
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