For a layman, the vast world of wines can seem quite baffling. The first time I went to a wine shop near me, I was confronted with more than six different types of wine. All their names were fancy, and they looked great. But I had no clue what made them different. I couldn’t tell a Merlot apart from a Riesling. If you’re sailing in the same boat, here is a quick guide that will help identify different wine types.
To be able to recognize the distinct characteristic of each wine type, you’ll need to pay attention to all your senses. Apart from taste, a wine’s color, smell and fizz will tell more about the specific wine variety that you’re looking at. Wine aficionados are able to pick on these fine nuances and enjoy their wines to the fullest. You’ll get there too, someday. For now, begin with this quick wine guide:
Before you begin with the different wine types, here are a few things you need to know:
The flavors of wine come from aromatic compounds present in it. When you smell wine, these aroma compounds that affect its flavor, compounds into your nose.
Each wine can contain more than a hundred different type of aroma compounds. So sometimes, a lychee flavor in certain kinds of wine may even smell more like roses.
Wine contains tannin, a naturally occurring polyphenol, that lends bitterness and astringency to the wine.
When you taste a sip of wine, tannin’s dryness and astringency hites the middle of your tongue.
Types of Red Wine
This red wine variety is easily one of the most popular types of wine across the world. That’s because the grape varieties used in this can be grown in different regions across the world. From Canada to Lebanon, the grape varieties used in it can be grown anywhere.
This full-bodied red wine has a savory taste that can be described ranging from black pepper to bell pepper. The grapes used in it have a thick, durable skin and a high level of tannins. When stored in oak, it brings out a bit of vanilla, cherry or green pepper in it.
This red wine is highly acidic and quite layered. Keeping in mind it’s savory taste and high tannin count, it is best paired with food that is high in fat. Mushroom pizza, marinated ribeye steak, and a burger are some of the foods that it goes well with.
For those who are new to the world of wine, Merlot is a good way to get your palette accustomed to the taste of wine. It is known to be soft, so it wouldn’t leave you with a bitter aftertaste.
This red wine is available across the world in two main varieties: International style and Bordeaux style. The International style red wine is full-bodied and is known to have velvety tannins. On the other hand, the Bordeaux style red wine has fruity flavors and is medium-bodied. Dishes that work well with Merlot include grilled or roast chicken, beef, blue cheese, and cheddar cheese.
If you find Pinot Noir near a wine shop near you, you’d be lucky. It’s a wine type that wine sommeliers across the globe pride in keeping because it’s not easily available. That’s’ because this red wine variety is made from Pinot grapes which are very hard to grow.
Typically, Pinot Noir is dry wine that is also dominated by fruity flavors. It leaves a hint of cherry, blackberry, strawberry on your palate. This light-bodied wine goes well with beef, bacon, mushrooms, fresh herbs, and pork.
Just like Pinot Noir, Zinfandel is light-bodied, but it has a moderate tannin amount and a high level of acidity. Because of this, it has a bold taste.
Red Zinfandel falls on the sweeter side of red wine. Its primary flavors include cranberry, plum, cherry, blueberry, and raspberry.
Zinfandel is sweet, so it’s a great pairing with anything is tangy or spicy. Barbecued dishes and spicy curries are great food pairing options with Red Zinfandel.
Types of White Wine
In the world of wine, this white wine variety’s merits continue to be a bone of contention among wine lovers. Those who can’t get enough of its vanilla-laden flavor say it’s one of the best wine varieties out there. However, its critics think it’s just a generic white wine that doesn’t deserve much attention.
If you ever see a Chardonnay, it’s characteristic smell will give it away. A mix of butter, vanilla, dil, and coconut is filled in an aging oak barrel. The aging of oak lends it the distinct smell. It is then made through a special fermentation method called the Malolactic Fermentation (MLF).
The result of this is a wine variety that is extremely smooth and creamy. It can be best enjoyed with grilled fish, pasta, prawns, and crab.
Most Rieslings are crisp and fruity. But that’s a very generalized statement. This white wine variety can range anywhere between sweet to dry, or simple to complex. It’s taste profile also heavily depends upon how ripe the fruit used in it was. Similarly, its flavor is dependent upon the type of soil it was grown in.
It’s a highly acidic drink, so it goes well with seafood and tangy dishes. Their flavors are well in sync and balance out the high acidity of Riesling.
This white wine variety gets its name from the variety of grapes that it’s made from. Muscat Blanc are one of the oldest grape varieties in the world and are known for its small berries. The wine made from these are sweet, light-bodied and have a low alcohol content.
Just like its flavor, it also has a distinct sweet smell. This is because Moscato has the presence of an aromatic compound, linalool. This compound is also found in citrus flowers and cinnamon.
As a general rule of thumb, pair Moscato with food that has similar flavor profiles. A light dessert that has peaches, nectarine or warm berries is a great match for the sweet and sparkly Moscato.
Sauvignon Blanc stands out among all the other white wine types. This dry wine’s green and herbaceous flavors make it different from the others.
The ripeness of the grapes dictates the final flavor of the wine. It can be anywhere between zesty lime and flowery peach. It is available in fruity flavors like lime, kiwi, green apple, nectarine, passionfruit and guava. Other unique flavors also include gooseberry, bell pepper and jalapeno.
Out of these wine varieties, which ones do you like the most? Please share your views in the comments section.
Image Credits: Two Figs Winery, Domaine Py, Vine Pair, Fairview, Drizly, Ocado, The Spruce Eats, Wollersheim Winery