Divine Dinner Party

Definitions of Wine Types:
What are the Different Kinds of Wine?

When you're shopping for wine, not knowing the different definitions of wine types can make choosing wine a stressful experience! When you aren't sure about the differences between different kinds of wine, reading the labels won't mean a whole lot to you.

Different Wine TypesSo, what are the different kinds of wine? Generally speaking, a wine "type" will be defined either by the grapes used to create it, or by the region from which it comes. Or sometimes both! This generally depends on the traditions in the place that wine was produced.

Want to learn more? Let's start off talking about some basic wine types that are defined by their grapes. If you want to learn about the definitions of wine types by region (like Bordello or Chianti), you'll have to go country by country. To do that, check out (coming soon!):

  • French Wine Types by Region
  • Spanish Wine Types by Region
  • Italian Wine Types by Region
  • California Wine Types by Region

Or check this page to learn a ton about pairing wine with food in this Food-Wine Guide!

Definitions of Wine Types by Grape:
The White Wines

White Wines definitions and types"White" and "red" are, of course, the simplest definitions of wine types. But past the color/main type, there are so many options!

White wine generally comes from white grapes, though it can be made from red grapes, as well, allowing for no contact with the red skin. Regions that are famous for growing white grapes include Spain, France, Germany, Austria, Chile, New Zealand and South Africa. In the US, you'll find lots of white wine grapes grown in New York, California, Washington, and Oregon.

Each wine produced in each white wine region has slightly different characteristics depending on the soil, growing season etc. In terms of body, a white wine will always be lighter than a red wine-- both in color and flavor/intensity. It's one of the clearest definitions of wine types to make.

Common types of white wine include:

  • Chardonnay: one of the most popular white wines as these grapes offer complex flavors and versatility.
  • Chenin Blanc: This comes from France and California. A very affordable fruity wine
  • Pino Gris or Pinot Grigio: Produced in both Europe and the US this wine has citrus notes
  • Riesling: These grapes grow in France and Germany as well as New York and California. The body is considered to be medium with a hint of floral aroma.
  • Sauvignon Blanc: This wine originates in France, New Zealand, California and South Africa. It has a fruity flavor.

Visit this page to learn in more detail about types of white wines.

Definitions of Wine Types by Grape:
The Red Wines

Party Wine Types- Good Red WinesRed wine comes from processing black or red grapes, and allowing the juice to come into contact with the skin (how much contact the wine has with the grape skin is an important definition of wine types, as if affects color and flavor). The overall body of a red wine is heavier than a white wine.

Areas famous for growing red wine grapes include France, Argentina, Chile, Italy, Australia, Spain, and the US (especially California). And no matter where it comes from, a little bit of red wine is considered good for you, as it contains high amounts of antioxidants that support the immune system. Woo-hoo, right?

Various types of red wine grapes include:

  • Barbera: Typically from Italy this often becomes a blending wine
  • Cabernet Franc: Lighter than it's more popular brother, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc is usually mixed with other grapes.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon: From France, this contributes to Bordeaux wines and it ages incredibly well. Rich flavor and aromatic notes
  • Dolcetto: from the Piedmont region of Italy. Nutty with licorice notes.
  • Frenache: Southern France. Medium body and berry notes
  • Merlot: A very popular wine grown in many regions and valued for its mellowness. Very fruity.
  • Pinot Noir: The most popular varieties are from France and California. This is a complex wine with medium body.
  • Shiraz: From Australia, France, and South Africa the moderate acidity and fruitiness makes for a lovely wine.
  • Tempranillo: The most common red wine grapes used in Spanish wine.
  • Zinfandel: Another very popular wine, mostly grown in CA. Full body with both fruity and spicy notes.

You'll find lots more detail on the different types of red wines right here. (Coming Soon!)

Definitions of Wine Types:
Rose Wines

Pretty Rose Wine Grape Type
Think rose grapes are a different kind of wine? Nope. The different color of a rose wine results from either a mixture of red and white wines, or letting a red wine grape spend less time sitting with the skins. Flavor and intensity-wise, rose is a mix between a white and red wine that's intended to play off the strengths of both.

Until recently there haven't been a lot of rose wines that got rave reviews from wine experts. However, more people seem to be favoring rose wines, in part because brewers are constantly endeavoring to improve their techniques and finished flavors.

Generally speaking dry rose sells far better than sweet. The rose wines from France and Spain are currently the highest regarded for their quality.

Definitions of Wine Types:
Sparkling Wines

Champagne French Sparkling Wine
The best known type of sparkling wine is Champagne, named after the region in France. France has very strict laws regarding what can be called Champagne --which include exactly how and where that wine is made. If it's not made in France, it's not allowed to be called Champagne. While many people believe that the very best sparkling wine is Champagne, others are more flexible.

Sparkling wine labeling requirements are as strict or as "well branded" as French Champagne, but that doesn't necessarily mean the quality isn't as good. Some great sparkling wines are made in other parts in the world, including:

  • California, USA: usually called "sparkling wine," made from pinot noir and chardonnay, and produced in the cooler California regions.
  • Spain: called "cava" after the caves where the wine is stored. Produced in the region of Catalunya in Spain. Many say it's the closest rival to the French stuff!
  • Italy: called "asti," it comes from the Piedmont region and made from Moscato grapes.

Definitions of Wine Types:
Dessert and Fortified Wines

Sweet Dessert Wine Type- Glass of Wine
As the name implies, dessert wines are generally quite sweet. That sweetness occurs because the wine isn't allowed to ferment for a very long time (which would eat up the natural sugars). Alternatively dessert wine may be contrived by adding brandy to the wine to stop fermentation, or by freezing as seen in Canadian and German ice wines.

Last but not least, we come to fortified wine. Basically these wines have a high alcohol content thanks to distillation. Good examples include port wine (the best comes from Spain and Portugal) and sherry. Port may be aged for upward of 30 years, and can be very potent!

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Learn more specific definitions of wine types at Choosing Wine Central!


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Want to learn what are the different kinds of wine? Find out more about the defitions of wine types at:

Types of White Wine


A Fabulous Food & Wine Guide

Different Types of WInes


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