May 1, 2024

4 Types of Wine Chart

Unraveling the Mystery: A Guide to the 4 Main Wine Styles (and Beyond!)

Wine - a complex tapestry woven from countless grape varieties, diverse regions, and centuries of tradition. Even seasoned connoisseurs discover new nuances with each sip. But for the curious explorer, navigating this vast world can feel daunting. Fear not! This guide is your compass, unveiling the 4 main wine styles - red, white, rosé, and sparkling - each bursting with unique characteristics and flavor profiles. We'll delve into their distinctive personalities, from the bold tannins of a Cabernet Sauvignon to the crisp citrus notes of a Sauvignon Blanc. But wait, there's more! We'll also explore the enchanting world of dessert wines, where sweetness reigns supreme.

This isn't just a pit stop; it's a deep dive into the very essence of wine. We'll unlock the secrets of food pairing, crafting the perfect harmony between plate and glass. We'll journey through history , tracing the fascinating evolution of winemaking. And we'll peek into the soul of iconic wine regions, each terroir adding its unique brushstroke to the canvas.

So, prepare to elevate your wine knowledge and impress your friends at your next gathering. This guide is your passport to a world of sensory delights, waiting to be discovered. Uncork your curiosity, and let the adventure begin!


red wine

Red Wine: Characterized by bold flavors, red wines range from light and fruity to full-bodied and complex. The tannin content in red wine provides structure and a dry, astringent sensation on the palate. Some common flavors found in red wines include black cherry, plum, and blackberry.

Red wine gets its color from a compound known as anthocyanin, which is contained within the various grape skins, of red/blue/purple grapes. As you may already know, red wine is fermented along with the skins, seeds, and stems of the grapes. Hence, it gets its signature red color.

Fun Fact: It is possible to make white wine from red grapes – they must be pressed before the fermentation process. This way, the skins, and stems are discarded and only the red grape juice ferments.

As red wines age, they become paler in color. Very old red wines are pale and have a translucent appearance.

Drinking a little bit of wine is better than not drinking at all. Red wine is healthier than white wine on account of a compound known as resveratrol.

Red wine can help to reduce the risk of heart disease, it also slows down aging and age-related brain decline.

You might have heard about the French Paradox: People of France eat a lot of fat and drink red wine regularly.

Still, the French have a surprisingly low rate of heart-related ailments and an outstanding average life expectancy of 82+ years. Researchers believe that the French Paradox is a result of eating lots of butter and drinking red wine.

Red wines with higher tannins are better for you than those with lesser tannins (astringency). Younger red wines and those with less than 13% alcohol are ‘healthier'.

Almost all red wines in the world are made from a single species of grapes, namely Vitis Vinifera. It's interesting to note that this species of black grapes did not originate in France or Italy but in the Eastern regions of Europe.

Hundreds of flavors such as cherry, herbs stone, dark fruit flavors, berries, etc. are associated with red wine. However, all these flavors and aromas are a result of chemical reactions occurring during the fermentation and aging process (Oak barrels are used for aging). No additives are used to enhance flavor.

To enhance your understanding of red wine, let's explore some common misconceptions. A widely believed myth is that red wines should always be served at room temperature.

However, the optimal serving temperature for red wine is actually between 60-65°F (15-18°C). This temperature range allows the wine's flavors and aromas to be better appreciated.

To achieve this temperature, you can place the wine bottle in the refrigerator for about 20-30 minutes before serving.

Wine cannot be enjoyed to its full potential unless it's preserved well.

A full-fledged cellar is not an option for everybody but anybody who is even mildly serious about wine should get a dedicated wine cooler or refrigerator to ensure that the wine is stored at the ideal temperature, humidity, and lighting conditions.

For our recommended Coolers, check out our post: The Best Wine Coolers & Refrigerators

Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, and Syrah(Shiraz) are some popular varieties of red wine.

For those looking to dive deeper into the whole wine world of red wines, we recommend exploring resources such as:

These books provide comprehensive insights into the many facets of wine, including history, production, tasting, and pairing.

Grape Varieties:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon: The king of red grapes, known for its powerful structure, intense tannins, and dark fruit flavors. Think blackberry, cassis, and cedar.
  • Merlot: A softer, more approachable option, with velvety tannins and notes of plum, raspberry, and chocolate.
  • Pinot Noir: The light-bodied charmer, delivering delicate flavors of cherry, strawberry, and earth. Think elegant and nuanced.
  • Syrah/Shiraz: Spiced and peppery, with bold black fruit notes like blackberry, prune, and licorice. A truly adventurous choice.

Winemaking Techniques:

  • Oak Aging: Red wines are often aged in oak barrels, which add complexity, tannins, and notes of vanilla, spice, and toast.

Popular Red Wine and Food Pairings:

  1. Cabernet Sauvignon – Pairs well with grilled or roasted red meats, such as steak or lamb.
  2. Pinot Noir – Complements dishes with earthy flavors, like mushrooms or truffles, as well as poultry dishes like roasted duck or chicken.
  3. Zinfandel – Goes well with barbecue, pork ribs, or spicy dishes.
  4. Syrah (Shiraz) – Pairs nicely with hearty meat dishes, such as stews, braised meats, or game.



White Wine: Generally lighter and more delicate than red wines, white wines can be crisp and refreshing or rich and creamy. Common flavors found in white wines include citrus fruits, other tropical fruit flavors, fruits, and green apple.

White wine originated at least 2500 years ago. It is made from green grapes, which, according to Science, are most probably a genetic mutation of the original blue/purple or white wine grapes themselves. (Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio have the same DNA)

Among the various types of white wine, dry white wine is the most common. It is derived from the complete fermentation of the naturally occurring sugars in the grapes. In the case of sweeter white wines, the fermentation is interrupted to achieve the desired level of sweetness, acidity, and flavor.

White wines are usually consumed as an aperitif (appetizer). The dryness of white wine is perfect for cleansing the palate. They are paired with lighter meats such as chicken, fish, etc. However, as you may already know, the high acidity cuts through fat (lemon and butter is a classic combination). Hence, white wine can also be a great accompaniment to fattier cuts of meat.

When it comes to white wine, a common mistake is to serve it too cold. Extremely low temperatures can mute the flavors and aromas, diminishing the overall wine tasting and experience. The ideal serving temperature for white wine is between 49-55°F (9-13°C). To achieve this, store the wine in the refrigerator and take it out 15-20 minutes before serving to allow it to warm slightly.

White wine accounts for 60% of total consumption in Australia and the Czech Republic, with New Zealand, Finland, and the UK not trailing far behind.

It takes about 1.27 Kg/2.8 lbs or 600 average-sized grape berries to produce 1 bottle of wine. Interestingly, wine made from grapes grown in poor-quality soil is considered to be better!

Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris (Grigio), and Sauvignon Blanc are some of the most popular varieties of white wine in the world. The State of California produces more Chardonnay than any other place on Earth.

Did You Know? The smell of young wine is known as an ‘aroma' while that of an older wine is called a ‘bouquet'

Grape Varieties:

  • Chardonnay: The versatile queen, showcasing a range of flavors depending on the region and style. Think creamy oak-aged notes or crisp unoaked expressions, with flavors like apple, pear, and citrus.
  • Sauvignon Blanc: The crisp and vibrant one, bursting with citrus, green apple, and grassy notes. Think refreshing and invigorating.
  • Riesling: The aromatic charmer, known for its floral and honeyed notes. Think delicate and complex, with hints of peach, apricot, and petrol.
  • Pinot Grigio: The light-bodied charmer, offering refreshing citrus and pear flavors. Think easy-drinking and versatile.

Winemaking Styles:

  • Dry vs. Sweet: White wines can be dry (low in residual sugar) or sweet (higher sugar content). Dry wines are generally considered more versatile for food pairing.

Popular White Wine and Food Pairings:

  • Chardonnay – Pairs well with creamy dishes, such as pasta with Alfredo sauce, as well as seafood, like lobster or scallops.
  • Riesling – Complements spicy dishes, like Thai or Indian cuisine, and can also pair with lighter fare, such as salads or sushi.
  • Pinot Grigio – This goes well with light seafood dishes, like grilled fish, shrimp, or calamari.
  • Sauvignon Blanc – Pairs well with tangy or citrus-based dishes, such as ceviche, as well as goat cheese and green vegetables.



Rosé Wine: Rosé wines offer a balance between red and white wine characteristics. They have red fruit flavors that can range from light-bodied and crisp to fruity and full-bodied. Some common flavors found in rosé wines include strawberry, raspberry, and watermelon.

While Whites, Reds, and sparkling wines steal the show more often than not, Rosé is probably the oldest type of wine among all. It is neither white wine grape nor red grape varietal but has a pink color.

As you've read above, the skins of the grapes impart color to red wine. In the case of rosé wine, the skins are allowed to remain in contact with the juice for only a very short while – typically between two and twenty hours. The grapes are then pressed, which means that all the skins, seeds, etc are filtered out and the remaining grape juice is allowed to ferment.

This way, as the skin is in contact with the juice for only a small amount of time, it imparts a pink tinge instead of a full red color.

In some cases, manufacturers may mix red and white wine to create a Rosé. This practice is illegal in world wine regions of France except in the case of Champagne, and even then it's frowned upon.

Rosé is known as Rosado in Portuguese and Spanish and Rosato in Italian.

Grape Varieties:

  • Made from both red and white grapes, often using techniques like skin contact or blending.

Winemaking Techniques:

  • Skin Contact: Red grape skins are left in contact with the juice for a short time, imparting the pink color and some fruit flavors.
  • Blending: Red and white grapes are blended to create a specific rosé style.

Popular Rosé Wine and Food Pairings:

  1. Dry Rosé – Pairs well with salads, light pasta dishes, and seafood, like grilled shrimp or fish.
  2. Semi-sweet Rosé – Complements spicy dishes, such as Mexican or Thai cuisine, and can also pair with fruit-based desserts.
  3. Sparkling Rosé – Goes well with sushi, shellfish, or charcuterie.



Sparkling Wine: Known for their effervescence, sparkling wines can vary from dry to sweet. Sparkling wine is made from a wide range of red and white grapes. They often feature flavors of citrus, green apple, and stone fruits, with yeasty or brioche notes.

Sparkling wine is often a dry wine known colloquially as Champagne; although that term is specifically reserved for sparkling wines manufactured in the Champagne region of France. A popular Italian sparkling wine is Prosecco (Some Proseccos can be non-sparkling too).

Simply put, sparkling wines are usually white or rosé wines with a substantial amount of carbonation. There are various theories regarding how sparkling wines were discovered:

According to some sources, sparkling wines were known to be the work of the Devil. It was considered to be an undesirable anomaly and was detested among many contemporary, wine drinkers and aficionados.

Some sources state that people believed the bubbles in sparkling wine to be caused by tides, the movement of the stars, and so on.

Here is probably the most interesting story regarding the origin of sparkling wines:

In the 1600s in the French region of Champagne, a Benedictine monk named Dom Perignon noted that some wine bottles in the cellar were bursting open or being uncorked automatically.

Actually, the wine had been bottled early and the yeast had become inactive due to low temperature. As winter turned to spring, temperatures warmed and the yeast became active again. It began converting sugar into alcohol and released carbon dioxide. This led to increased pressure within the bottles, causing the corks to pop.

Dom's curiosity was piqued and he tried the bubbly wine. Upon tasting, he famously said, “Come, I am drinking stars”.

Today, Dom Perignon is a vintage Champagne brand produced by Moet & Chandon.

Most sparkling wines are white or rosé but different types of wine can also be red, such as the Spanish Cava, Pearl Of Azerbaijan, Italian Barchetta, Lambrusco, etc.

To serve sparkling wine properly, chill it to a temperature between 38-45°F (3-7°C) and open the bottle carefully to avoid any accidents. When pouring, tilt the glass at a 45-degree angle and let the wine flow down the side of the glass to preserve the bubbles.

Grape Varieties:

  • Sparkling wines can be made from a wide range of red and white grapes, including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and even red grapes like Gamay in some regions.

Production Methods:

  • Traditional Method: The classic Champagne method, involving secondary fermentation in the bottle.
  • Charmat Method: A more widely used method, where secondary fermentation occurs in large tanks.

Regions and Styles:

  • Champagne (France): Renowned for its elegance and complexity, made primarily from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier.
  • Prosecco (Italy): A light-hearted and fruity option, often made with the Glera grape.
  • Cava (Spain): A dry and crisp style, traditionally made with the Xarel-lo grape.

Popular Sparkling Wine and Food Pairings:

  1. Champagne – Pairs well with shellfish, sushi, or fried appetizers.
  2. Prosecco – Complements lighter dishes, like seafood, salads, or fruit-based desserts.
  3. Cava – Goes well with tapas, salty snacks, or cured meats.



Dessert Wine: Typically sweet and rich, dessert wines are often characterized by flavors of dried fruits, honey, and caramel. They can be made from a variety of wine grapes and techniques, such as late harvest or fortified wines.

Dessert Wines are made using extra-sweet grapes. The fermentation is stopped before all the sugar in the sweet wine, is converted into alcohol. There are ways to do this – such as adding brandy or lowering the temperature drastically. This makes it impossible for the yeast to survive and the fermenting of sugars is halted midway.

Dessert wine production is actually very interesting. In some cases, frozen wine grapes are used to create a concentrated flavor. In Hungary and Austria, wine grapes with mold growing on them are harvested to create the NOBLE ROT – the mold imparts various fruit flavors, of honey and apricot.

Types of Dessert Wines:

  • Fortified: These wines have added brandy or neutral spirits, boosting their alcohol content and sweetness. Think Port, Sherry, and Madeira, each with its own unique character.
  • Naturally Sweet: These wines owe their sweetness to factors like noble rot (a beneficial fungus), late harvest, or botrytis. Examples include Sauternes, Tokaji Aszu, and Ice Wine, all bursting with honeyed fruit and complex aromas.

Popular Varieties:

  • Port: Rich and ruby-red, with notes of plum, chocolate, and spice. Perfect with cheese or dark chocolate desserts.
  • Sauternes: Golden and luscious, bursting with apricot, honey, and candied fruit. Ideal with foie gras or fruit tarts.
  • Ice Wine: Intensely sweet and concentrated, with flavors of peach, mango, and citrus peel. A perfect match for blue cheese or fruit crumble.

Popular Dessert Wine and Food Pairings:

  1. Port – Pairs well with blue cheese, dark chocolate desserts, or dried fruits and nuts.
  2. Sauternes – Complements foie gras, rich creamy desserts, or fruit-based desserts, like tarte tatin or apple pie.
  3. Ice Wine – Goes well with fruity desserts, like sorbet or fruit salad, and can also pair with strong cheeses, such as Roquefort or Stilton.

Wine Regions

Wine Regions

Each wine region possesses distinct characteristics that contribute to the unique qualities of its wines. These characteristics include climate, soil, topography, and grape varieties. Here are some famous wine regions and their unique attributes:

  • Bordeaux, France: Known for its red blends made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc, Bordeaux is characterized by its maritime climate, gravelly soil, and diverse terroir.
  • Tuscany, Italy: Renowned for its Chianti wines made from Sangiovese grapes, Tuscany features a Mediterranean climate, diverse soil types, and hilly terrain that creates a variety of microclimates.
  • Napa Valley, California: Famous for its Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Merlot wines, Napa Valley has a Mediterranean climate and a variety of soil types that contribute to the complex flavors and structures of its wines.
  • Rioja, Spain: Known for its Tempranillo-based red wines, Rioja is characterized by its continental climate, varied terroir, and diverse soil types, which range from chalky clay to iron-rich clay.

By understanding the unique characteristics of each wine region, you can further appreciate the diversity and complexity of wines from around the world.

This knowledge will also help you make more informed decisions when selecting wines to enjoy or pair with your favorite dishes.

Uncorking a World of Flavors: Your Wine Journey Starts Now!

Mastering the four main styles - red, white, rosé, and sparkling - is just the beginning of your wine adventure. Beyond these pillars lies a universe of diverse grape varieties, terroir-driven regions, and innovative winemaking techniques, each ready to paint your palate with unique sensations.

So, delve deeper! Explore the crisp minerality of a Riesling from Germany, the vibrant fruitiness of a Malbec from Argentina, or the rich complexity of a Barolo from Italy. Experiment with food pairings, crafting symphonies of flavor that dance on your tongue. Discover the magic of proper storage and serving, ensuring every sip is a revelation.

This is more than just a guide; it's an invitation to unleash your inner wine connoisseur. Gather your friends, uncork a bottle, and embark on a journey of shared experiences and sensory delights.

Remember, the most treasured wines aren't just on the shelf, they're the memories you create with every sip. So, raise a glass and toast to the endless possibilities that await!

Glossary of Wine Terms:

  • Acidity: The tartness or brightness of a wine, caused by natural acids present in grapes. (Place near descriptions of different wine styles or after "Taste and Aroma")
  • Astringency: A drying sensation in the mouth caused by tannins, often found in red wines. (Place near descriptions of red wines or after "Taste and Aroma")
  • Barrique: A small oak barrel used for aging wine, adding complexity and notes of vanilla, spice, and toast. (Place near "Winemaking Techniques" or "Red Wine" section)
  • Botrytis: A beneficial fungus that can concentrate sugars in grapes, leading to sweet dessert wines like Sauternes and Ice Wine. (Place near "Dessert Wines" section)
  • Bouquet: The aroma of a mature wine, developed over time in the bottle. (Place near "Taste and Aroma" or after "Wine Styles")
  • Cuvée: A blend of different grapes or wines from different vineyards. (Place near "Winemaking Techniques" or specific wine descriptions)
  • Décanter: To pour a wine from its bottle into another container, usually to remove sediment or aerate the wine. (Place near "Serving Tips" or "Wine Appreciation")
  • Full-bodied: A wine with substantial weight and mouthfeel, often associated with red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon. (Place near descriptions of different wine styles)
  • Malolactic fermentation: A secondary fermentation that can soften acidity and add buttery notes to wine. (Place near "Winemaking Techniques")
  • Minerality: A taste sensation reminiscent of wet stones, often found in wines grown in limestone or chalk-rich soils. (Place near descriptions of specific wine regions or after "Taste and Aroma")
  • Oak-aged: A wine that has been aged in oak barrels, adding complexity and notes of vanilla, spice, and toast. (Place near specific wine descriptions or after "Winemaking Techniques")
  • Terroir: The unique combination of climate, soil, and topography that influences the character of a wine. (Place near "Wine Regions" section)
  • Tannin: A natural compound found in grape skins, seeds, and stems, which can contribute to astringency in red wines. (Place near "Taste and Aroma" or after "Red Wines" section)
  • Vintage: The year in which the grapes were harvested. (Place near specific wine descriptions)

About the author 

Karina Kahale

I was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. After years of travel, exploration, and education, I founded Underground Wine Merchants in 2019.

Currently, I work as a sommelier at a fine dining restaurant here in Hawaii. I pursued my education at the prestigious ICE Sommelier Institute in Los Angeles, which has equipped me with the knowledge and skills to excel in my profession.

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