Types of Wine

What are all the different types of wine, and what are their main characteristics? What food can you pair them with? What are the types of red wine, white wine, sparkling wine, and what other wine types are there? Keep reading to find out more.

If you are new to wine, you may find this summary of wine basics useful.

A visit to any wine or liquor store will show that there are literally thousands of different types of wine. It can be quite confusing to figure out the differences, and how to select the right wine.

To help in your understanding of the various wine types available, here is an overview:

Wine Labeling

One of the sources of confusion about different wine types is due to the different labeling of wine from different parts of the world.

In America and other parts of the "New World" (for example in California wines ) wine is typically labeled according to the variety of grape (eg, "Chardonnay"). However, in Europe wine is labeled by the region where the wine was produced (eg, "Chablis" which is a French wine from the Chardonnay grape, or "Rioja" which is a Spanish wine made primarily from the Tempranillo grape).

In addition, many types of wine are actually blends of grape varieties, with brand names invented by the winery. Often the label will indicate the types of grapes in the blend, but not always.


Types of Red Wine

Red wines are made from "black" (red-colored) grapes fermented with the skin included. The skin is what imparts the red color to the wine.

Red wines typically have a more robust flavor, and pair well with food that is similarly robust, such as red meats (beef, lamb), hearty pasta dishes, etc. They are usually drunk at or just below room temperature.

Types of red wine include:

  • Beaujolais – this is a fruity French wine made with Gamay grapes
  • Bordeaux - a French red wine including Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grapes
  • Burgundy - a French wine made from Pinot Noir grapes
  • Cabernet Franc – an elegant purplish red wine that is most often seen blended with other reds.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon – this is a robust, big red wine with a strong character and tannins
  • Carignan
  • Chianti - an Italian wine excellent with pasta and pizza
  • Grenache
  • Malbec - Argentina's flagship red wine which is rapidly increasing in popularity
  • Merlot – a popular red wine with fruitiness and softer tannins than Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Petite Sirah
  • Pinot Noir – this is a lighter, dry red wine with berry overtones
  • Syrah or Shiraz
  • Zinfandel


Types of White Wine

White wines are from either "black" (red-colored) or "white" (green-colored) grapes, fermented without the skin.

White wines are usually drunk cold, with lighter foods such as poultry and fish.

White wines include:

  • Chardonnay – one of the world’s most popular types of wine, Chardonnay is a fruity, often oaky, and usually dry white wine
  • Chenin Blanc
  • Muscadet – a very dry white from the Loire Valley in France which is an excellent combination with oysters and other shellfish
  • Muscat Blanc
  • Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris
  • Riesling – often considered by wine lovers as a truly top tier wine, Riesling is made in many different styles from light, dry whites to sweet dessert wines. Some of the best examples come from Germany
  • Sauvignon Blanc or Fumé Blanc – a clean, crisp, usually quite dry white wine. Sweet versions are also available
  • Semillon – a white wine typically seen from Australia or France (white Bordeaux wines ) in either dry or sweet versions
  • Viognier
  • White Burgundy – a French wine made from Chardonnay grapes
  • White Bordeaux – a French wine made from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon grapes


Rosé Wines

Rosé wines are pink or blush-colored. The pink color comes from the fact that the grape skin is included for just the first few hours of the fermentation process, or sometimes due to the wine being a mixture of red and white wines. Most rosé wines are medium-sweet, especially in the US. But some of the best European rosés can be very dry.

The sweeter rosés tend to be favorites of people who are new to wine, because they are often light and somewhat sweet. For this reason, they are a good choice if you are new to wine.


Sparkling Wine

Champagne is probably the best known sparkling wine. Although many dry sparkling wines are referred to as champagne, technically Champagne is sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France.

Other types of sparkling wine are Prosecco, a dry Italian sparkling wine, and Asti, a sweet Italian sparkling wine. Cava is a sparkling Spanish wine. The "sparkles" in sparkling wine are bubbles of carbon dioxide, which is a natural byproduct of the fermentation process.


Dessert and Fortified Wines

Dessert wines are very sweet, and intended to be drunk with or as a dessert course.

Fortified wines, as their name implies, are types of wine with brandy or other spirits added during fermentation. Many are quite sweet, depending on when the spirits are added, since that ends the fermentation process.

Dessert and fortified wines include:

  • Port
  • Sherry (dry, medium, or sweet)
  • Madeira
  • Late-harvest Rieslings
  • Ice wines
  • Orange Muscat and other Muscat varieties

International Wine of the Month Club

A great way to explore the different types of wine can be to sign up for a wine club, like the International Wine of the Month Club or the Gold Medal Wine Club, when you can get a selection of bottles of wine delivered to you to try each month.



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