Being a beginner at drinking wine can be overwhelming. Where are the sweetness scales? Are certain types of wine always dry, or heavy? If I like one Merlot, will I like all Merlots? Choosing between wine types like Cabernet, Pinot noir, Shiraz, and Zinfandel can be a challenge without the right tips and tricks.
Understanding the different types of wine grapes can be tough. Let us help you lock down your favorite taste—and make you a master at ordering your next bottle with friends. This introductory knowledge can help in finding corporate wine bottles to serve as the perfect gift for clients.
There are endless varietals of wine, but this beginner’s guide discusses the 8 most popular types of wine you’ll encounter. Listed from lightest to fullest bodied styles, these wines are a great place to start in your wine adventures:
1. Riesling Wine
Riesling is often sought out as a dessert wine, but that doesn’t mean that it is always sweet! This high acid wine is dominated by crisp tones of apple, pear, and citrus. The best Rieslings offer mineral qualities which mingle with the citrus notes, and help represent the growing climate and soil type. Rieslings with sweetness features oily aromas and the taste of honey, as residual sugar is left in the finished wine.
2. Sauvignon Blanc Wine
This tart white grape variety originated in France. However, it’s now one of the most popular wine types produced in New Zealand due to the hot growing climate. This dry, acidic wine offers succulent tartness and citrus forward scents for a bright, acid pronounced flavor. Grapefruit, kiwi, and tart citrus tones dominate the flavor palette.
3. Pinot Grigio Wine
You’ve likely heard of Pinot Grigio; this wine type is the Italian version of the popular California Pinot Gris. Most Pinot Grigios are light-bodied and generally neutral, offering delightful citrus, pear, apple, honeysuckle, and mineral flavors. Pinot Grigio can feature some sweetness, but tend to balance the acidity structure of the wine to drink as an off dry, fruit dominant wine.
4. Chardonnay Wine
This green-skinned variety is grown in a variety of climates across the globe, but it originated in Burgundy, France. By far the most popular and classic style of white wine, Chardonnay is the choice grape for white wine advocates. Chardonnay comes in a wide array of styles, from the popular buttery Chardonnay created with oak aging to fruity chardonnays that offer a crisp, refreshing taste. It is one of the only white wines that is matured in oak barrels, a process that is a part of nearly every red wine created! Fun fact, Chardonnay is one of the most gifted birthday wines.
5. Pinot Noir Wine
Pinot Noir is one of the most popular wine types in the world. This delicious red is soft and lightly dry, making it the perfect introductory red wine varietal. Most Pinot Noirs come with a complex palate, incorporating crisp acid accentuated red berry fruit tones with spicy, warm earth notes. Pinot Noir grapes can be difficult to grow, requiring specific oil, climate, and tender loving care, which means this wine comes with a higher average price tag than other varieties.
6. Merlot Wine
This is the most planted grape in the Bordeaux region of France. Merlot grapes tend to do best in cooler climates, and are especially delicious when sourced from the Bordeaux region or Washington State. Merlots are usually medium to full-bodied, and many people prefer merlot because it has smoother tannins than other red wines. Remember, tannin is the structural component in wine that adds weight! This rich red wine is very easy to drink, and tends to be popular amongst new red wine drinkers for its raspberry and blackberry tones. If you don’t love tannin, try Merlot! The dry tannin tones can hide behind the blackberry fruit.
7. Syrah Wine
This full-bodied red wine is most often produced in France’s Rhone Valley or Australia. You may also hear Syrah referred to as Surah or Shiraz. It’s the same grape in both cases, but goes by a different name depending on its growing location. This grape originated in France, but is now the signature grape of Australia. Generally, Syrah is a single varietal wine, but is sometimes blended with other grapes from different regions. Syrah offers intense, inky tastes of blackcurrant and pepper spice, usually medium to full-bodied.
8. Cabernet Sauvignon Wine
This red grape makes for a full-bodied wine that was first planted in the Bordeaux region. Cabernet Sauvignon is now the most popular wine variety in the world, and can be paired with a variety of foods including beef, lamb, and firm cheeses. It can feature fruit tones ranging from red berries to richer dark fruits like currant and blackberry. With an attuned palette, you can pick up notes of anise, fennel, and tobacco as well!