Types Of Wine: A Quick Crash-Course On The 4 Main Types Of Wine
Wine is a massive subject; even seasoned wine connoisseurs learn finer nuances with each new sip.
There are more than 1000 varieties of wine in the world. Today, we will learn about the 4 basic types of wine, which are
1) Red Wine
2) White Wine
4) Sparkling wine.
A 5th classification is sometimes used and is labeled as Dessert or Sweet Wine.
Red wine gets its color from a compound known as anthocyanin, which is contained within the 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 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 did not originate in France or Italy, but in the Eastern regions of Europe.
Hundreds of flavors such as cherry, herbs, 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.
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.
Related: How to Store Red Wine
Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, and Syrah(Shiraz) are some popular varieties of red wine.
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 grapes. (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. 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 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.
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’
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 nor red but has a pink color.
As you’ve read above, the skins of the grapes impart color to red wine. In the case of rose 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 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 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.
Sparkling wine is often 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 Prosseco (Some Prossecos can be non-sparkling too).
Simply put, sparkling wine is usually a white or rose wine with a substantial amount of carbonation. There are various theories regarding how sparkling wine was discovered:
According to some sources, sparkling wine was known to be the work of the Devil. It was considered to be an undesirable anomaly and was detested among many contemporary wine aficionados.
Some sources state that people believed the bubbles 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 wine:
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 lead to increased pressure within the bottles, causing the corks to pop.
Dom’s curiosity 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.
Sparkling wine is mostly white or rose but can also be red, such as the Spanish Cava, Pearl Of Azerbaijan, Italian Barchetta, Lambrusco, etc.
Dessert Wine is made using extra sweet grapes. The fermentation is stopped before all the sugar in wine is converted into alcohol. There are ways to do this – such as adding branding 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 grapes are used to create a concentrated flavor. In Hungary and Austria, grapes with mold growing on them are harvested to create the NOBLE ROT – the mold imparts flavors of honey and apricot.
Wine Fun Fact: The act of clinking glasses is considered to be a gesture of goodwill. However, it originated from the fear of being poisoned. When glassed were clinked, the liquids spilled from one glass to another – people did this to ensure that the host was not about to poison them!