Types of Wine
When you’re new to the world of wine, there’s a tendency to think that when it comes to the “types of wine,” there are just two primary categories: red wine and white wine. This assumption certainly isn’t wrong; however, it is way too general!
The truth is, there are many different wine styles (Dessert wine, aromatized wine, fruit wine), many different types of red wines and white wines - and a few other colors in between (Rosé, Orange). The wine industry classifies wines by what is known as “varietals.”
So, What Is a Varietal?
A varietal is a wine made primarily from a single named grape variety. Typically, the variety is displayed on the wine label. Examples of grape varieties commonly used in varietal wines are Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Merlot.- Wikipedia
That’s a pretty basic way to say it. However, things get more interesting as you begin to recognize and differentiate the categories of wine the way a winemaker does. For the wine type, all of the varietal names are designated right on the label. However, you might also notice wine types such as "Red Table Wine," or "Napa Blend."
Grape Varieties and Appellation
These wine types are wines that may incorporate multiple “varietals” in the blend. But the key thing to note is that if a wine type is using a varietal name, the wine must derive at least 75% of their volume from the grape varieties designated; and, the varietal name must appear along with the growing region (or appellation). So, what does appellation mean? Appellation is an identifier for where the grapes for the wine are grown. So for example:
- Cabernet Sauvignon is the varietal
- St. Helena, Napa Valley is the appellation
As you start experiencing more wines, you’ll start to discover how categorizing wine types this way is very useful because every single variety of wine has unique attributes and distinctive character traits that make a huge difference in how the finished wine tastes. So when you taste a varietal wine, you can start to note consistent features of the varietal grapes, although each wine has inherent and unique characteristics derived from the winemaking process - even within the varietal category.
This creative process includes: Where the grapes are grown, how the grapes are grown, when they were picked, how the grapes were crushed, barreled, aged and processed. All these play a significant role in the aroma, color, and taste in the wine!
And as if all this isn’t enough, to understand the ratios of varietals used, you have to identify what role the winemaker plays in creating the wines that you pour into your glass. In the hands of a skilled winemaker, varietal grapes can be transformed into something exquisite. By understanding the complexities and layers of every varietal, and then studying the growing regions and specific vineyards where the grapes are grown, the winemaker has the ability to express a very unique story inside of every bottle.
I think by now, you’re beginning to see how much there is to discover about wine. It’s a fascinating journey, especially when you take your time to pull back each layer...one component at a time.
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