Types of Wine Chart (Sweetness, Body, and Flavor)


Drinking a glass of wine is one of life’s most refreshing pleasures. But picking up the right bottle of wine can be daunting. So here’s an easy-to-understand types of wine chart.

And we’ll learn about the major types of wine, how to know the different flavors and the best wine for a beginner.

In short, we’ll take a deep dive into riveting info that will help you demystify the “mysterious” world of wine, so you can be sure of what to serve guests at your next dinner party.

Let’s begin our exploration.

Key Types of Wine

RED WINES
Light Reds Sweetness Body Flavor(s)
Pinot Noir Dry Light Cherry, raspberry, strawberry, and spices
Gamay Dry Light Cranberry, red currant, raspberry
Lambrusco Dry, semi, sweet Light Citrus, violets, mandarin, watermelon
Nebbiolo Dry and sweet Light Cherry, raspberry, anise and rose
Medium Reds
Zinfandel semi-sweet Medium to full body Smoky, jam, spices, berries, earth
Primitivo Grenache sweet Full body Spicy pepper, plum, cherry, raspberry
Sangiovese Dry Light to medium Cherry, fruits, spices, tobacco
Heavy Reds
Cabernet Sauvignon Dry Full body Black currant, black cherry, blackberry, tobacco, pepper
Chianti Dry Medium to full-bodied Cherry, dried herbs, smoky
Rioja semi-sweet Full body Cherry, plum, dill, vanilla
Malbec Dry Full body Blackberry, black cherry, plum
WHITE WINES
Dry White Sweetness Body Flavor(s)
Vihno Vendes Dry Light Fruity, floral, plum, pepper
Torrentes Dry Medium to light Melon, honey, peach, apricot
Albarino Dry Full body Lemon, salt, honeydew
Sauvignon Blanc Dry or sweet Light to medium Herbs, grass, peach, grapefruit
Pinot Grigio Dry Light Salt, honey, citrus
Sweet White
Riesling Dry or sweet Light Honey, limes, apple, orange
Tokaji Sweet Full body Apricots, peaches, spices, apples
Moscato Sweet light Orange, lemon, flowers, pear
Sauternes sweet Full body Apricots, honey, peaches
Rich White
Chardonnay Dry Medium to full Papaya, oak, vanilla, apple
Viognier Dry or sweet Medium Flowers, vanilla, peach, apricot
Semillon Dry and sweet Full body Creamy, lemon, hints of oak
Chenin Blanc Dry Light Honey, spices, apple, pear
SPARKLING
Champagne Dry Full body Almon, cream, cherry, toast
Prosseco Dry Light body Peach, melon, pear, apple
Rose Sweet or dry Full body Violets, rose, herbs
Sekt Off-dry or semi-sweet Full body Melon, peach, pears, marmalade, creamy, citrus fruits

What are the 8 basic types of wine?

There are many major varieties of wine, with each type ideal for certain food pairings.

It’s understandable since there are thousands of grape varieties. But here, we’ll focus on eight basic types. They are sweet white, rich white, light red, medium red, bold red, dessert, sparkling, and dry white.

Let’s check them out.

Sweet White Wine

Sweet white wine is a product of late harvests — it is made from grapes that have been left for a long time on the vine. This is why the acids in the grapes morph into sugar.

Now, you know why it is called sweet wine. Leaving the grapes longer on the vine gives sweet white wine richer, opulent flavors. When a wine is stripped of residual sugars, it’s described as bone dry.

If you prefer a sweeter wine, the following are great examples of sweet white wine: Riesling, Tokaji, Moscato d’Asti, Sauternes, and Gewurztraminer.

Rich White Wine

Rich white wines tend to have a higher alcohol content (about 13.5% or more) than sweet white wines. It also has a more complex flavor. Examples include Chardonnay, Chenin blanc, Pinot Gris, Semillon, and Viognier.

Dry White Wine

Dry white wine has little to no residual sugar as it has been fermented to a low sugar level. So it is not sweet. It is crisp and refreshing and is one of the best summer wines, as it is ideal to be paired with a meal.

Examples include Albarino, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc (grown mainly in New Zealand), Torrontes (made in South America), and Vihno Vendes.

There is little to no residual sugar in white wines.

Light Red Wine

The aroma and flavor of light red wines tend to be more elegant and delicate. It’s enriched with spices. And it’s fresh and light (as the name suggests), and its fruity, flowery flavor comes through.

Examples include Pinot Noir, Gamay, Lambrusco, and Nebbiolo (a product of Northern Italy). Beaujolais Nouveau is made in France. It’s fun, fruity, and controversial.

Medium Red Wine

Medium red wines tend to have more tannins and alcohol than light red wines (between 12.5% and 13.5%). As its name suggests, it falls somewhere between light and bold red wines. Examples include Zinfandel, Primitivo Grenache, and Sangiovese.

Bold Red Wine

Bold red wines have high alcohol content and high tannins. They are often full-bodied wines (with an alcohol content of more than 13.5%). They have intense varietal character and are vibrant with complex flavors.

Examples include Chianti, Rioja, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon (ideally paired with red meat), and Malbec.

Dessert Wine

Dessert wine, as the name clearly shows, is a wine that is enjoyed during or after dessert. It is sweet with a pronounced flavor and a high alcohol content (could be as high as 15%). But there are some with lower alcohol content.

The sweetness is a product of the natural sugars in the grapes employed. The residual sugar is produced by the fermentation process. But there are some types that are not sweet, so there’s variety. Dessert wines are made with white grapes and red grapes.

Examples include Madeira, Port, Sherry, and Vinsanto.

Sparkling Wine

Sparkling wine contains a high level of carbon dioxide. This is what makes it fizzy. Some would say that all sparkling wine is champagne, but some purists would disagree and say only sparkling wine produced in the Champagne region of France qualifies.

Sparkling wine is fermented twice. After the first fermentation process, yeast, nutrients for the yeast, and sugar are added to it in a bottle, where it undergoes the second fermentation. Examples include Cava, Sekt, Champagne, Prosecco, Rose (blush wine), and Cremant.

What is the most famous type of wine?

Red wine is the most famous type of wine in the United States. It’s closely followed by white wine or rose. It is fermented with grape skins and seeds, while white wine is not. Its color ranges from deep opaque purple to pale ruby and everything in between.

There are different types of red wine.

Red wines have dark fruit flavors and are rich in tannins (polyphenols). The latter leaves a dry, rubbing sensation on the tongue and is found in bark, leaves, and plants. It is in grape seeds, skins, stems, and oak barrels. Inexpensive wines often have low tannins.

Ever wondered why Trader Joe’s wine is inexpensive? 

That’s what I explored in a recent article I published. In it, I looked at the cheapest wine they have, where they get their wine, and I even revealed the best wine they’ve got.

Just click the link to read the article on my site.

Some red wines, such as Merlot and Sauvignon, are made with red wine grapes or black grapes, such as Carbanet Franc.

Cabernet is also often employed as a blending grape to create a richer flavor profile. When wine is made from a single grape type, the variety is known as the wine varietal and is displayed on the wine label.

According to yougov.com, the most popular brands loved by Americans are:

  • Merlot
  • Cabernet
  • Sauvignon
  • Pinot Noir
  • Zinfandel

What is the best wine for beginners?

Do you start with dry wines, sweet white wines, dry red wines, or sweet red wines? Ideally, you want to experiment a little bit when you’re just getting started. That being said, the following are great for beginner wine drinkers. Vinho Verde, Pinot Grigio, and Vermentino.

Others are Sancerre, Grenache Blanc, and Prosecco.

The aforementioned are all white wines. The red wines I’ll recommend are Merlot, Gamay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Zinfandel. It’s not surprising that these popular red wines are among the most loved wines in America.

So if you’re wondering about the right wine for you, you could get started with these two. One is white, while the other is red.

Vinho Verde is a light-bodied wine made in Portugal. Its alcohol level is quite low, so you don’t need to pair it with food. It’s made from local grape varieties such as Arinto, Alvarinho, and Loureiro. It’s fruity, crisp, and refreshing.

Merlot is a medium-to-full-bodied red wine that was originally made in France. Now, it’s also made in California, Washington, and some other wine regions of the world.

It’s awesome for beginners because it has a very subtle flavor. It feels smooth on the palate and is rich because of its vanilla, chocolate, plum, and cherry flavor.

In addition to wine, you may want something stronger, such as liquor. But why is it that grocery stores don’t sell liquor? (or what states allow it?). 

This is what I explored in a recent article I published.

In it, I get into what states do not allow liquor to be sold in grocery stores and those that allow it. And I even got into states that do not sell alcohol on Sunday.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

What types of wine should be refrigerated?

Conventional wisdom suggests that only white wines and rose wines should be refrigerated, while red wine should be served at room temperature.

The truth is that, in some cases, it’s okay to refrigerate red wines. Served too warm, red wine can taste flabby and too alcoholic.

The vital thing to understand is that different types of wines should be refrigerated differently. We just need a few simple guidelines. Let’s find out more.

The truth is that you can refrigerate all types of wine, but they should not be chilled using the same temperature because of their chemical composition. Red wines’ power comes from their tannins.

Dessert wines are defined by their residual sugars, while sparkling have carbon dioxide. And all have varying amounts of alcohol. Naturally, the temperature can reduce or bring out a wine’s richness.

Chill your reds in the range of 55° Fahrenheit to 65° Fahrenheit. Ensure that lighter-bodies wines are kept at lower temperatures. Keep them in the fridge for ninety minutes.

Tannic, fuller-bodied wines taste better when they are a tad warmer, so keep them in the fridge for 45 minutes. Fortified wines, on the other hand, should be stored in the range of 60° Fahrenheit to 65° Fahrenheit.

White wine is great when chilled. The cold helps lift its delicate aromas and acidity. But, the taste is not so good if it is too cold.

Fuller-bodied wines and dessert wines are best between the 50°-60° Fahrenheit range. While lighter, fruitier wines are ideal when they are colder. Say between 45°Fahrenheit and 50°Fahrenheit, or two hours in the fridge.

Ideally, wine should not be colder than 45°Fahrenheit.

Sparklers are an exception, as they need to be between 40°Fahreheit and 50°Fahrenheit. This is because the carbon dioxide stays trapped the colder the drink.

Serve vintage and prestige sparklers at the top end, while light-bodied ones are better at the bottom end.

Ideally, you’ll want to chill wine in a dedicated wine chiller. But if you don’t have one, you can use your trusty kitchen refrigerator. Whites and reds can be chilled an hour or two before dinner.

Don’t keep them by the fridge door. You know the part of your fridge that’s apt to get chilled fast? That’s where they should be.

Don’t put wine in the freezer! You’re likely to forget and risk having the bottle crack since water in the wine expands as it freezes.

The key to understanding different wine flavors

Paying attention to the appearance, smell, and taste of wine is the best way to understand different wine flavors. And above all, you need patience. Even wine enthusiasts and connoisseurs needed time before they became attuned to the different wine flavors.

You’ve seen someone who knows wine gently picking up a bottle of wine, or glass, looking at the drink, swirling the content, carefully perceiving the aroma, and then taking a sip.

They’re paying attention to the appearance, smell, and taste — the pathway to discerning the wine’s flavor.

Let’s find out more.

Appearance

Color, opacity, and viscosity are the main things to pay attention to.

For example, how yellow is the white wine, or how deep of a red is the red wine? Is the wine opaque or transparent? This helps in determining whether the wine is full-bodied or light-bodied. And you want to pay attention to how thick or watery the wine is.

Smell

The smell or nose of wine comes down to three components: Primary, secondary, and tertiary. Primary smells are the easiest to pick up. Herb, spice, floral, and scents of citrus fruits readily come to mind.

Secondary smells are products of the wine-making process and practices. They are relatively easy to note in white wines. Think yeast, stale beer, nuts, and cheeses.

Tertiary aromas are products of the aging process, such as whether the wine was stored in a bottle or an oak. Most tertiary smells are savory.

Taste

Sweetness, bitterness, acidity, and sapidity are the factors to consider when it comes to taste. The first three are self-explanatory. Sapidity is a bit hard for beginner wine lovers to grasp. It refers to minerality and salinity occasioned by the mineral salts in the wine.

Conclusion

In the article, we explored the 8 basic types of wine and the most famous type of wine.

Then we looked at the best wine for beginners and the types of wine that should be refrigerated. Lastly, we wrapped things up by looking at the key to understanding different wine flavors.


Image by Anja from Pixabay

Jeff Campbell

Hi! I'm Jeff Campbell. I was a leader for Whole Foods Market for over 2 decades. I worked in 9 stores in 4 states, not counting the hundred-plus stores I've assisted in other ways. I was a Global All-Star, a Gold Pen Winner, and won Top-10 Store (company-wide) 3 times in addition to Best New Store (company-wide).

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