9 Styles of Wine
The problem with wine is that it's a) personal, b) diverse. And if you're just getting into wine, it's normal or expected to feel lost & be unsure of what to try next at some point.
Most of us started by taking or stealing a sip from daddy's glass, or being forced into it at a college party. Whether you liked it or hated it, that's your good/bad journey beginning, and your first exposure to the vast world of wine. Quite quickly you learn there's very few wines that taste the same, and you probably might not like a lot of them, even those that your friends recommend.
That's where we're here to help.
9 Styles of Wine
Despite the the nuances & subtle variation in wine with all the "a note of .... with a hint of ..." In general, there's 9 styles of wine that you should try to get a good understanding of wine in general. Once you've consciously explored these 9 styles, you should have a good understanding of the spectrum of wines, and figure out which style you prefer and can dive into deeper.
All styles will have a range of dry to sweet wines, and slightly different notes or aromas depending on the grape. There will always be something in some wine within some category that you don't like, such as a pepper note or herbasceous note, but that's normal, you can't like everything. Many of us also evolve in terms of which would be our go-to or favorites, as it's dependent on mood and preferences.
A style synonymous with Champagne, it first came about in France. Technically challenging & time intensive to make, sparkling wines are created by inducing or designing a second fermentation in bottle to create carbonation.
While Champagne is the creme de la creme of sparkling, it's quite price intensive, and there are other options out there. Brut level is always a good place to start, and you can explore extra brut & off dry variants later.
Cava, Prosecco, or Cremant could be a good place to start. If you like it, there's a whole range of vintage or non vintage styles to diversify your palate, as well as different wine styles like Pet Nat, or a red sparkling like a Lambrusco.
Cava, Prosecco, Cremant
Vintage Champagnes & other stles, Lambrusco, Pet Nat (Pétillant Naturel)
Light Bodied White Wine
Think of light white wines as the "beer of wine"; it's good on it's own, and kind of goes well in most occassions. Perfect to drink with most light foods like fish, chicken, or light bites, or on it's own. Most of these wines come from cool climate regions. They usually sit more on the citrus spectrum, and carry a decent level of acidity. This is in part due to the cool climate that these wines come from, causing the grape to be less ripe when picked.
Pinot Grigio is a good place to start here. If you like the overall feel of it, you can explore some more savory styles like Sauvignon Blanc or Gruner Veltliner, or something more tropical & floral, like an Albarino or Chenin Blanc. From there, there are some more regional grapes like Garganega, Assyrtiko, Rkatsiteli, Verdejo, Grasevina, that you could deep dive into.
|Explore||Albarino, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc|
|Dive In||Assyrtiko, Rkatsiteli, Verdejo, Grasevina, Soave|
Full Bodied White Wine
A "red wine drinker's white", full bodied whites are usually less a result of the grape, and with a big influence from the winemaking techniques. More often than not, it's due to oak-ageing, which gives it a creamy smoothness, or on-less ageing, which gives it a more textured, layered profile.
Without the influence of these winemaking techniques, there are some grapes that create oily or waxy textures in wines, making them feel heavier on the palatte.
A classic choice here would be a warm climate or oaked Chardonnay, or a Viognier. If you enjoy these, there is a wide array of wines that you can try, including Semillon, Rousanne & Malagousia
|Explore Creamy||Semillon, Godello, Rousanne, Malagousia|
|Explore Oily/Waxy||Vermentino, Marsanne, Fiano|
Aromatic / Sweet White Wine
Explosive, perfume-y whites are set apart as they tend to have a touch of sweetness. While they can be made either dry or sweet, a lot of the sweetness comes from the strong aromas, often which are tropical fruit or apple driven. Most of these are some of the oldest wine varietals across the world, and even Cleopatra is known for her love of Muscat of Alexandria - a lovely rich aromatic white wine.
A classic to start with would be a Moscato or a Riesling. From there, explore varietals like Gewurztraminer, followed by Torrontes & Viorica. A lot of Georgian white varietals come in here too, but are often done in a dry style.
|Explore||Gewurztraminer, Torrontes, Viorica|
|Dive In||Ancient world whites from Georgia, Slovenia, Croatia, etc|
Rosé is basically made like a while wine, but with a short period of grape skin contact during maceration to "dye" the wine pink. As it's more about the winemaking rather than grapes, Rosés can be found from all over the worls. Essentially anywhere with red skinned grapes can make rose, it just depends what profile you prefer.
Popular being light, elegant & refreshing, a good place to start is a classic dry style French Rosé from Provence. From there, you could explore other Rosé varietals, or sweeter styles like a White Zinfandel.
Light Bodied Red Wine
The great thing about light reds is that they typically have light tannins, as it's a result of think skinned grapes, like Pinot Noir. This makes Pinots some of the most coveted in the world, for their drinkability. We like to call them "conversation wines" as they are easy enough to drink without food, or with light snacks, allowing you to focus on you & your companions.
Everyone knows of Pinot Noir as the go-to light red, but Gamay is another popular red, made famous by the French Beaujolais region. Should this been an interesting style for you, you can also explore other light red varietals like Schiava, Frappato, and some cool climate medium reds, especially those that are not heavily barrel aged. Cinsault, Valdigue, and Counoise.
|Explore||Gamay, Schiava, Cinsault|
|Dive In||Frappato, Valdigue, Counoise|
Medium Bodied Red Wine
Often called "food wines", they offer a good balance of fresh aromas & zesty acidity, allowing them to match with a variety of light salads to hearty pastas. These are the wines that blend well & complement the food, giving you that satisfaction of a great meal. There's a wide variety of wines here, with different profiles, so it's good to find something that pairs well with the food, and your taste. Food pairing itself is a whoooole topic of it's own.
To kick of, Grenache, Merlot or Sangiovese wines are a great place to start. Most would have some level of acidity, which you can use to your benefit to cut the fattiness of the food, or some level of sweetness to balance out spicy foods. For those with herbasceous or spiced notes, try looking for food with similar notes, as by pairing the foods that way, you actually bring out the fruitiness of the wine.
If you have a liking to these, you can explore other grapes like Primitivo, Cabernet Franc, Barbera. Following which, Carignan, Montepulciano, Carmenere, Zwegelt would be some more exotic grapes in this realm. Watch out for the green notes!
|Try||Grenache, Sangiovese, Merlot|
|Explore||Primitivo, Cabernet Franc, Barbera|
|Dive In||Carignan, Montepulciano, Carmenere, Zwegelt|
Full Bodied Red Wine
Deep, dark & tannic. While tannin doesn't usually sound nice, it's actually something awesome as it has a palate-cleansing effect. This is due to the fact that they bind to proteins in our saliva, making them pair amazingly with heavy, fatty foods like a steak, or many dishes in Peranakan cuisine. They also are beautiful as a cocktail wine, usually best enjoyed after a meal.
Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon & Malbec are very much the mainstream wines in this category, creating beautiful wines that wine lovers enjoy. Beyond these, Pinotage, Nebbiolo, Corvina, Tempranillo, Nero d'Avola are good grapes to expand your palate, and if you're feeling particularly adventurous, there's always grapes like Tannat, Touriga Nacional, Monastrell, Saperavi, Refosco, Negroamaro
|Try||Syrah, Cab Sauv, Malbec|
|Explore||Pinotage, Nebbiolo, Corvina, Tempranillo, Nero d'Avola|
|Dive In||Touriga Nacional, Monastrell, Saperavi, Refosco, Negroamaro|
A lot of these wines used to be the in thing, especially in the 1800s. This was because they can be kept long even if the bottle is opened. These "alcoholic nectars" is a good way to describe dessert wines. Usually having a think syrupy texture, these wines are some of the most intensely flavored wines across the world, and are usually sweet, but can also be dry.
Fortified wines like Port belong here, as well as late harvest style wines like French Sauternes. Beyond that, Tokaji & Ice Wine are beautiful whites, while something like a Recioto, Brachetto d'Acqui, Spumante Dolce would spice up the red spectrum of dessert wines.
|Try||Sauternes, Port Wine|
|Dive In||Ice Wine, Brachetto d'Acqui, Spumante Dolce|
Wine is a Journey
It really is, and the beautiful thing is that it's a journey that never ends. Even for professionals like Masters of Wine, it's a never ending journey as trends in wine continue to change. As a grown product, it's highly dependent on factors outside of the winemaker's control, such as changing climate patterns, as well as those within the winemaker's control, such as their individual style. A wine made exactly the same way will change year on year, decade on decade, and wines from a region will continue to evolve. Luckily enough, it doesn't change that fast to make it impossible to keep up with.
Enjoy the journey, and we hope this writeup has helped you with at least finding your ground within this shifting landscape!