Wine is bottled poetry." ~Robert Louis Stevenson

There are 10 different types of wine you should know, though to a beginner, the world of wine can seem completely overwhelming.

Wine is one of the most diverse, complex and nuanced drinks in the world.

When you hear it talked about, with wine terms like "Riesling", "tannin" and "full bodied" being thrown around, it often feels like understanding wine, and all the different types of wine, requires a viticulture degree.

Contrary to how it seems, understanding wine takes some basic, foundational knowledge and a lot of taste testing (check out our recommended wine of the month clubs (or, if you prefer beer, one of these) for help here).

If you're interested in learning about the different types of wine, this is the most complete guide available. It will teach you everything you need to know about a wine type including:

  • A general overview of the wine type - like its country of origin and worldwide popularity.
  • What it commonly tastes like. (We provide a standard taste profile for each type of wine. Based on a number of factors, these can vary greatly. Read this note for more info.)
  • What types of food it pairs well with.
  • Popular bottles of that specific style of wine.

So keep reading and find a wine (or two) that sounds interesting to you.

A Complete Guide to the Different Types of Wine

Like I mentioned above, the world of wine is complex and nuanced.

If you want to understand the different wine types, this is the best guide available. If you're just looking for something specific, like which types of red wine will go well with dinner tonight, use the table of contents below.


Common Wine Terms

When I read wine terms like:

  • Balthazar (a huge wine bottle)
  • Bung (literally just a cork)
  • Lightstruck (a very specific tasting term)
  • Pip (grape seeds)

I assume that one day, a bunch of wine snobs got together and decided, "Let's make our terminology so ridiculous that no one will know what we're talking about."

While there are tens of different wine terms out there, you really only need a few to get by.

Below, I'm going to go over the essential terms, but if you want to learn them all, E & J Gallo has a great list with 264 total wine terms you can check out here.


Acidity is the backbone of white wines.

While some red wines, like Sangiovese, can be acidic, white wine grapes, like Riesling, are naturally highly acidic.

Acidity provides that crisp, refreshing quality that white wine drinkers love.

A wine with too much acidity will taste tart, whereas a wine with too little acid will seem flat and bland.

What does acidity taste like?

Imagine drinking a cold glass of lemonade.

That tart flavor, that makes your tongue tingle and salivate, but that's also refreshing and leaves you wanting to take another sip, is acidity.


Wines are often described as being light bodied, medium bodied or full bodied.

The term "body" or "bodied" refers to how thick or thin the wine feels in your mouth.

A light bodied wine will feel thin in your mouth, whereas a full bodied wine will feel robust and rich in your mouth.

Red wines tend to be medium to full bodied while white wines tend to be light to medium bodied.


Tannins are the backbone of red wines.

These organic substances are found in the skin and seeds of wine grapes and give wine a bitter and astringent taste.

Overly tannic wines (which are usually lower quality dry red wines) make your cheeks pucker and leave your mouth feeling dry.

Tannins are most commonly found in red wines for two reasons:

  1. Red grape varieties are naturally higher in tannins
  2. Red wines are usually fermented with the grape skins

White wines can also have some tannins, but these usually come from the oak barrels used to age the wine.

What do tannins taste like?

Imagine drinking a cup of notably strong black tea.

That bitter taste you get in the middle of your tongue, and the dryness you feel in your mouth, are tannins.


Varietal and variety are wine terms misused by wine rookies and seasoned wine veterans alike.

Variety is a noun used to describe the GRAPE that's used to make a wine. For example: Chardonnay variety, Cabernet Sauvignon variety, Pinot Noir variety, etc.


Varietal is an adjective used to describe a WINE. For example: Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, etc.

For a wine to be labeled as a specific varietal, such as Chardonnay, it must be made with at least 75% of that same grape variety (Chardonnay variety grapes in this example).

Make sense?

In short, variety is the grape used to make the labeled wine varietal.

5 Popular Types of Red Wine

Most red wines tend to be dry.


Red grape varieties are naturally high in tannins and, as you learned above, tannins are bitter and astringent. This bitterness makes red wine dry, not sweet.

While the five most popular types of red wine are dry, sweet red wines do exist.

Here are the 5 different types of red wine:

5. Types of Wine : Sangiovese


Country of Origin:
Italy (Tuscan region)

Type of Red Wine (Dry or Sweet):

Sangiovese Variety Market Share:

About Sangiovese

Literally translated from Italian, Sangiovese means "Blood of Jove".

Sangiovese are the primary grape used to make two of Italy's most popular types of wine: Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino.

Sangiovese isn't heavily planted outside of Italy, but can be found in both Washington and California.

Common Sangiovese Flavor Profile

Sangiovese is a medium bodied wine with substantial tannins and high acidity.

The heavy tannin structure allows acidfor deep red fruit flavors, like red cherry and strawberry.

Sangiovese Food Pairings

Sangiovese's fruit forward flavor and high acidity lead it to pair particularly well with tomato based dishes of Italian origin, such as pasta and pizza.

Outside of Italian food, it goes well with rich, roasted meats and hard, aged cheeses.

Popular Bottles of Sangiovese


Antinori Tignanello 2011 ($105 @


Caparzo Brunello di Montalcino 2010 ($56 @


Borgo Scopeto Chianti Classico 2012 ($20 @

types of wine: sangiovese

Sangiovese vineyard in Toscany

4. Pinot Noir

PEE-noh nwahr

Country of Origin:
France (Burgundy region)

Type of Red Wine (Dry or Sweet):

Pinot Noir Variety Market Share:

About Pinot Noir

Nicknamed "Red Burgundy" after its region of origin, Pinot Noir is one of the most sought after wines in the world.

The Pinot Noir grape is very finicky.  It grape requires a specific soil, a specific climate and very specific care. This leads to less Pinot Noir grapes being produced worldwide (compared to other grape varieties) and a higher average price tag on Pinot Noir bottles.

Stringent growing requirements aside, Pinot Noir is grown in the majority of the world's wine producing countries.

Common Pinot Noir Flavor Profile

Pinot Noir is a dry red wine that's light to medium bodied.

Crisp, fruity flavors, like red cherry and strawberry, lead and are tempered by herbal and warm spice notes.

Pinot Noir is flavorful, complex and a favorite of wine lovers all over the world.

Pinot Noir Food Pairings

Pinot Noir's versatility pairs it well with a wide range of foods from ethnic cuisine to classic dishes.

It goes notably well with creamy sauces and grilled chicken or fish.

Popular Bottles of Pinot Noir


Chapter 24 Last Chapter Pinot Noir 2012  ($89 @


Goldeneye Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 2011 ($55 @


King Estate Acrobat Pinot Noir 2013 ($20 @

types of wine: pinot noir

Workers harvesting Pinot Noir grapes

3. Types of Wine : Syrah/Shiraz


Type of Red Wine (Dry or Sweet):

Country of Origin:
France (Rhone region)

Syrah/Shiraz Variety Market Share:

About Syrah/Shiraz

One grape, two names.

In Europe and California, the varietal is known as Syrah, whereas, in Australia and South Africa, it's known as Shiraz.

While the grape variety originated in France, it has quickly become Australia's signature grape. In 2010, around 23% of the world's Shiraz/Syrah grapes came from Australia.

Common Syrah/Shiraz Flavor Profile

Syrah is deep purple in color and are medium to full bodied.

Their strong tannins are complemented by deep, jammy flavors of wild black fruits like boysenberry and blackberry.

Syrah often finishes with a spicy pepper note.

Syrah/Shiraz Food Pairings

Syrah goes great with roasted and grilled meats like game and beef.

Similar to Merlots, they pair well with strong cheeses like Roquefort or sharp cheddar.

Popular Bottles of Syrah/Shiraz


Glaetzer Amon Ra Shiraz 2012 ($110 @


John Duval Entity Shiraz ($40 @


Yalumba The Guardian Shiraz Viognier 2010 ($19 @

types of wine: syrah

Vintner tasting a Syrah from the barrel

2. Merlot


Country of Origin:
France (Bordeaux region)

Type of Red Wine (Dry or Sweet):

Merlot Variety Market Share:

About Merlot

Despite the blow the move "Sideways" dealt to Merlot, it remains one of the world's top grape varieties and the most widely planted grape in the iconic Bordeaux wine region of France.

Merlot grapes thrive in cooler climates and, while it is grown all over the world, it shines in France's Bordeaux region and in Washington State.

While Merlot grapes undeniably produce a great standalone varietal, part of the reason they hold such a high percentage of the worldwide market share (5.81%), is the grape's application in blending. It has a mild tannin structure and is often used to soften heavily tannic wines like Cabs.

Merlot often has a higher alcohol percentage than other reds, typically around 13% ABV.

Common Merlot Flavor Profile

Merlots are medium to heavy bodied and lack the tannin bite that other types of red wine, like Cabs, have.

They're mild tannin profile is complemented by softer fruit flavors like plum and black cherry.

Merlots are typically smooth, velvety and exceptionally easy to drink, making them a great introduction into the world of red wines.

Merlot Food Pairings

Merlot's mild, balanced nature pairs it well with a wide range of foods.

It shines next to grilled or baked poultry, beef or game, and next to any dishes that features the use of a strong cheese, like sharp cheddar.

Popular Bottles of Merlot


Duckhorn Three Palms Merlot 2011 ($89 @


St. Supery Rutherford Merlot 2010 ($48 @


Cannonball Merlot 2012 ($16 @

types of wine: merlot

Merlot vines in Chile

1. Types of Wine : Cabernet Sauvignon

cab-uhr-NAY sow-veeh-yawn

Country of Origin:
France (Bordeaux region)

Type of Red Wine (Dry or Sweet):

Cabernet Sauvignon Variety Market Share:

About Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is often called the "King of Red Grapes".

While the grape originated in the Bordeaux region of France, it's able to grow worldwide in a variety of climates. It grows notably well in the Napa Valley region of California as well as parts of South America, Italy, Australia and Washington State.

Cabs are aged in American and French oaks for between 15-30 months.

Common Cabernet Sauvignon Flavor Profile

Cabs are usually full-bodied with heavy tannins.

The tannins provide the structure that lets rich dark fruit flavors, like black cherry, blackberry and black currant, to shine. Subtle herbal, leafy notes are weaved into the rich dark fruit flavors.

Cabernet Sauvignon Food Pairings

Cab's heavy tannins, pair it exceptionally well with the fat and protein found in red meats.

The traditional food pairing for a cab is lamb, but it goes well with almost any red meat like beef, pork, etc.

Popular Bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon


Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($110 @


Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($56 @


Avalon Napa Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($20 @

types of wine: cabernet sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon clusters

From the ubiquitous Chardonnay, to the up and coming Riesling, white wines come in many different forms.

They're typically produced from gold, green or white grapes, but can also made from red grapes.

While most types of red wine tend to be dry, and depending on the winemaker's technique you could have a bone dry white wine to a lusciously sweet one.

Here are the five different types of white wine.

5. Chenin Blanc

SHEN-uhn Blahnk

Type of White Wine (Dry or Sweet):
Dry and Sweet Styles Exist

Country of Origin:
France (Loire Valley)

Chenin Blanc Variety Market Share:

About Chenin Blanc

Chenin Blanc isn't as popular as it once was, but still holds a strong foothold in the world's wine market.

While it originated in France's Loire Valley, South Africa has quickly become the largest producer Chenin Blanc producer in the world. In 2010, South Africa produced almost 50% of the world's Chenin Blanc (known as Steen in the country).

Chenin Blanc is also produced in Washington State and select parts of California.

Common Chenin Blanc Flavor Profile

If you enjoy Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc chances are you'll enjoy Chenin Blanc.

Similar to Riesling, it can be both a sweet and dry white wine. French Chenin Blanc tends to be a touch dry while the South Africa version is dry.

It's light bodied and medium to high acidity. Strong floral aromas are followed by fruity flavors, like green apple and pear.

Chenin Blanc is the primary grape used to make the iconic Vouvray wines.

Chenin Blanc Food Pairings

Chenin Blanc pairs well with light fishes, like sole or cod, and simple poultry dishes.

It also matches well with Mediterranean food.

Popular Bottles of Chenin Blanc


Philippe Foreau Vouvray Moelleux Reserve Clos Naudin 2009 ($89 @


Domaine Huet Vouvray Moelleux Le Haut-Lieu 2009  ($45 @


Badenhorst Secateurs Chenin Blanc 2013 ($15 @

types of wine: chenin blanc

Chenin Blanc cluster

4. Types of Wine : Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio

(PEE-noh gree/GREE-joh)

Type of White Wine (Dry or Sweet):

Country of Origin:
France (Alsace region)

Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio Variety Market Share:

About Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio

Two names, one grape; one grape, two very different wines.

If the wine comes from France, it would be labeled Pinot Gris. Conversely, if the wine comes from Italy, it would be marked Pinot Grigio.

Wine produced outside of these two countries, in places like California and Oregon, are labeled "Gris" or "Grigio" based on what flavor they most closely resemble: the French Gris or the Italian version Grigio.

For example, Oregon wine producers have had more luck producing a wine that resembles the French style so their bottles are almost always labeled as Pinot Gris.

The wine is produced worldwide and is currently the most popular white wine produced in Italy.

Common Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio Flavor Profile

Pinot Grigio tends to be light and crisp.

It's light to medium bodied and melds fruit flavors of apple and pear with notes of citrus. Typically, a Pinot Grigio will be dry white wine with high acidity.

Pinot Gris is richer than their Italian counterparts.

They're medium bodied and medium acid. Pinot Gris wines feature more complex fruit flavors and bolder citrus notes.

Both are crisp, flavorful and easy to drink.

Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio Food Pairings

Match a bottle of Pinot Grigio with lighter fishes like tilapia, sea bass, sole and cod.

It's also a great apéritif.

Pinot Gris pairs better with creamy sauces and smoked foods. Avoid spicy foods with this style of the wine.

Popular Bottles of Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio


Livio Felluga Pinot Grigio 2013 ($27 @


Ponzi 2013 Pinot Gris ($17 @


14 Hands Pinot Grigio 2013 ($12 @

types of wine: pinot gris

Viticulturist holding a Pinot Gris cluster

3. Riesling


Type of White Wine (Dry or Sweet):
Dry and Sweet Styles Exist

Country of Origin:
Germany (Rhine region)

Riesling Variety Market Share:

About Riesling

Rieslings are one of the most versatile, and often misunderstood, types of wine.

The majority of this white wine style is produced in Germany, where it originated.

It does best in cooler climates and, outside of Germany, does well in places like the Alsace region of France, the Clare Valley of Australia and Washington State.

Common Riesling Flavor Profile

Again, Rieslings are one of the most versatile wine types.

They tend to be light bodied but are sometimes medium to full bodied. They're commonly, and traditionally, a touch sweet, but are produced in both very sweet and bone dry versions.

The standard, light bodied and slightly sweet variety tends to be high acidity, crisp and refreshing.

Rieslings have strong floral and fruit aromas and well-balanced fruit flavors of apple and peach.

Riesling Food Pairings

Rieslings are perhaps the most versatile type of wine for pairing with food.

It goes well with anything from appetizers to desserts, from a juicy steak to spicy Mexican or Asian food.

Popular Bottles of Riesling


Trimbach Cuvee Frederic Emile Riesling 2007 ($65 @


Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer Spatlese Riesling 2012 ($36 @


Poet's Leap Riesling 2013 ($22 @

types of wine: riesling

Harvested Riesling clusters

2. Types of Wine : Sauvignon Blanc

so-veen-YAWN blahnk

Type of White Wine (Dry or Sweet):

Country of Origin:
France (Loire Valley)

Sauvignon Blanc Variety Market Share:

About Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is French for "Wild White".

It was first produced, and still thrives, in the Loire Valley of Northwestern France.

Outside of the Loire Valley, this grape does exceptionally well in the Marlborough region of New Zealand.

Common Sauvignon Blanc Flavor Profile

Sauvignon Blanc is a light to medium bodied dry white wine.

Its dryness is offset by a high acidity to produce a crisp, refreshing wine.

Sharp citrus flavors, like lemon and grapefruit, are complimented by herbaceous, grassy undertones to produce a flavorful, easy to drink style of wine.

Sauvignon Blanc Food Pairings

Sauvignon Blanc pairs well with light fishes, like sole, cod, orange roughly and tilapia, and white meats, like chicken and pork.

The wine's herbaceous, grassy undertones match well with dishes that feature heavy use of green herbs like mint, basil, sage and parsley.

Sauvignon Blanc is also a wonderful apéritif.

Popular Bottles of Sauvignon Blanc


Giesen Fuder Matthews Lane Sauvignon Blanc 2012 ($50 on


Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($33 on


Dry Creek Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2013  ($18 on

types of wine: sauvignon blanc

Sauvignon Blanc vines in Chile

1. Chardonnay


Type of White Wine (Dry or Sweet):

Country of Origin:
France (Burgundy region)

Chardonnay Variety Market Share:

About Chardonnay

If Cabernet Sauvignon is the "King of Red Grapes" Chardonnay is the "Queen of White Grapes".

It's the best-selling wine, red or white, in the US and is the world's most popular white wine grape variety. This green skinned grape can grow in a wide range of climates worldwide and is produced in all the world's major wine producing countries.

Chardonnay originated in the Burgundy region of France. The crème de la crème of Chardonnays is aptly named White Burgundy or "Bourgogne Blanc" after its originating region.

Outside of France's Burgundy region, Chardonnay does notably well in California, Australia, Washington State, South America, and South Africa.

Common Chardonnay Flavor Profile

Chardonnay tends to be medium bodied and medium to high acidity.

They are smooth, buttery and meld complex fruit flavors, like apple and pineapple, with bold oak notes.

While Chardonnay is a dry white wine, most of the cheaper Chardonnays on the market tend to be a bit sweeter.

Chardonnay Food Pairings

Chardonnay pairs well with leaner meats, like roasted chicken and pork, and many types of roasted or grilled seafood, like shrimp, crab lobster, halibut, trout and salmon.

It also goes beautifully with creamy or buttery sauces.

Popular Bottles of Chardonnay


Newton Unfiltered Chardonnay 2012 ($56 @


Thomas Fogarty Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay 2010 ($30 @


Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve Chardonnay 2012 ($20 @

types of wine: chandonnay

Chardonnay cluster in autumn

3 Other Types of Wine

Here are 3 different types of wine:

1. Fortified Wine

Fortified wines, or liqueur wines, are wines that have been fortified by the addition of a grape spirit, such as brandy, during the fermentation process.

Adding the grape spirit, which is essentially just distilled wine, raises the fortified wine's alcohol content to around 18-20%. The increased alcohol kills the yeast and effectively stops the fermentation process.

Fortified wines were originally created to help preserve wine, but soon became their own unique wine style.

Sherry and Port are the two most common fortified wines followed by Madeira, Marsala and vermouth (which is used to make martinis).

Fortified wines can be made from white wines (sherry) and red wines (usually Port) and can range from being very sweet to bone dry.

When you're first exploring the world of fortified wine, don't start with a $150 bottle of Vintage Port; start with something affordable, but still high quality like:

Ruby Port

Ruby Port is usually a blend of younger Ports. It's the most affordable entry into the world of Port.

A good bottle will run you around $15. Sandeman Fine Ruby Port ($11 @ is one of the most popular bottles on the market.

Cream Sherry

Cream Sherries tend to be sweeter and more inviting.

If you're interested in Sherry, I suggest you go to a Spanish restaurant a taste a flight of different sherries.

If you instead want to start with your own bottle, the Emilio Lustau East India Solera ($28 @ is a bottle  you'll find served at most restaurants.

types of wine: fortified wines

Barrells of Sandeman Port aging

2. Rosé Wine

Rosé wines are just part white and part red wine, right?

Rosé being a mix of red and white wines in is one of the most common misconceptions surrounding the wine.

Surprisingly, they're actually made exclusively from red varietals (the exception being Rosé Champagne and Rosé sparkling wine).

There are a few ways to produce a Rosé, the most common being limited maceration. In limited maceration, red grapes are first pressed. Next, the juice that was created from pressing the grapes is left in contact the grape's skin.

The longer the grapes are left in contact with the skin, the darker red the wine will be. This is why Rosé wines range from pink blush to a deep pink.

You should drink rosé while they are still young, between 1-3 years, and shouldn't spend more than $25 on a bottle.

They range in flavor but are typically dry wines that lead with full fruit flavors like strawberry or raspberry.

Popular bottles of Rosé Wine:

Barnard Griffin Rose of Sangiovese 2013 ($11 @

Angove Family Winemakers Nine Vines Rose 2013 ($11 @

types of wine: rose wines

Bottles of rosé wine

3. Sparkling Wine

Sparkling wine is one of the most unique types of wine.

It undergoes a second fermentation, often in the bottle, that gives it its characteristic bubbly quality.

Countries all over the world produce sparkling wine, but, the most famous, and well known, is undoubtedly Champagne.

While many sparkling wines are often referred to as Champagne, true Champagne can only come from the Champagne region of France.

Sparkling wine goes by different names depending on which country it comes from:

Spain = Cava

Italy = Prosecco or Moscato d'Asti

France (outside of Champagne) = Cremant

US = sparkling wine

Sparkling wines can range from dry to sweet and blend flavors like apple and pear with flavors nutty and vanilla flavors.

Prices for Champagne tend to be much higher than other sparkling wines. If you get a bottle of Champagne, expect to pay around $50. If you just want to try a good sparkling wine, start in the $10-$30 range.

Popular bottles of Sparkling Wine:

La Marca Prosecco ($17 @

Veuve Clicquote Brut Yellow Label ($50 @

types of wine: sparkling wines

Glass of sparkling wine

In Conclusion

The world of wine is complex and nuanced, but, after learning about the different types of wine, you have taken the biggest step towards fully understanding it.

Now it's time to join a great wine club or hit your local supermarket, stock up on wines and put your new knowledge to good use!


References and Notes
1. Variety Market Share

Each wine type has a section labeled "(type of wine) Variety Market Share" followed by a %. Using Chardonnay as an example, this % is 4.32%.

This means that 4.32% of grapes planted worldwide are Chardonnay grapes. The figures used are from a wine economics research study done by the University of Adelaide you can find here.

2. General Flavor Profile

Each wine type has a section labeled "(type of wine) General Flavor Profile.

As noted above, there a myriad of factors that influence the flavor of a wine. To give you an introduction to that specific style of wine, I wrote a common description for the flavor of the wine.

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Photos Courtesy of:

Scott Dexter | Francesco Sgroi  | Craig Camp | slgckgc | Carlos Varela | bigbirdz | chrisada | Jim Fischer | Stefano Lubiana | CucombreLibre | John Morgon | Ken and Nyetta | Dominic Lockyer | Justin FincherDominic Lockyer