5 Types of Wine You Must Know of (A Complete Guide)

Brent Akamine

Pinot Noirs, and many more, you may easily get confused about which ones to buy for your collection.

Don’t worry - we’ve got you covered!

This article explores the five main types of wine - red, white, rose, sparkling, and dessert wine. You find out everything you need to know about them - from their taste and aging potential to the best food pairings. 

We’ll also tell you the top wine recommendations (for drinking and even investing), and a hassle-free way to buy these fine wines.

Further reading

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This Article Contains

  1. Cabernet Sauvignon
  2. Pinot Noir 
  3. Merlot
  4. Other Red Wines
  1. Sauvignon Blanc
  2. Riesling
  3. Chardonnay
  4. Other White Wines
  1. Champagne 
  2. Other Sparkling Wines
  1. Icewine
  2. Fortified Wine

The 5 Different Types Of Wine (Including Characteristics, Food Pairings, Wine Recommendations)

The 5 Different Types Of Wine (Including Characteristics, Food Pairings, Wine Recommendations)

The unique characteristics of a wine variety are determined by various factors like the terroir, grape varieties used, climatic variations, and winemaking techniques. Wines made from different grape varietals have varying characteristics like tannins (phenolic compounds) and acidity levels, which affect their taste. 

To make it simpler, let’s broadly divide the different types of wine into five main categories - red, white, rose, sparkling, and dessert wines.

Ready to discover which wine suits your style?

A. Red Wine

Red Wine

With dark, brooding flavors and beautiful ruby-garnet colors, red wine makes the perfect wine gift for an oenophile.

What Is Red Wine?

Simply put, red wine is wine made from dark-skinned grape varieties. The wine grapes are fermented along with their skins to give the wine unique color, flavors, acidity, and tannin levels. 

Red Wine Characteristics And Food Pairings 

Red Wine Characteristics And Food Pairings 

Here are some common characteristics of red wine.

  • Color: A red wine can vary from opaque purple to deep garnet and soft ruby color.
  • Tannin: Usually has high tannin levels, which gives it a dry sensation on the palate 
  • Acidity: Red wines are slightly acidic with a refreshing mouthfeel. 
  • Taste: Red wines have dominant fruit flavors, including red and black fruit. Oak barrel aging gives them cedar, chocolate, and coffee notes. Old World red wines (from regions like France and Italy) display more terroir-specific notes (like earthy aromas of soil and wet leaves.) The new world wines (from the USA, New Zealand, Australia) are fruitier with subtle earthy nuances.
  • Varietals: Can be grape varietal wines (made from a single grape variety like Cabernet Franc, Petit Sirah, and Cabernet Sauvignon) or a wine blend. Some famous red blend wines are the red Bordeaux blends, Port wines, and the red Rhone wines. The famous Italian Super Tuscan wines are also blends of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and more.

In New World wine regions, the wines are labeled by their grape variety. In Old World regions, the labels mention the wine region (for example, Burgundy, Chianti, or Beaujolais.)

  • Food Pairing: Red meat dishes like steak, veal, and game go well with red wine.

Popular Red Wines by Grape Varietal

Popular Red Wines by Grape Varietal

There are several red wine types, but the easiest way to understand them is through its grape varietal.

1. Cabernet Sauvignon

The Cabernet Sauvignon wine varietal is an offspring of the ancient red wine grape, Cabernet Franc. Wine drinkers admire Cabernet Sauvignon red wine for its ‘green bell pepper’ notes and complex aromas. 

It is grown almost in all major wine regions of the world.

The wine made from this red grape has blackberry, blackcurrant, blueberry, and creme de cassis fruit flavors with hints of chocolate, tobacco, cedar, and mint.

These wines can age for a minimum of 7-10 years and can go up to two decades.

Cabernet Sauvignon and other full-bodied reds (like Cabernet Franc) are best served in tall and broad-bowled red wine glasses.

Our favorite Cabernet Sauvignon wines are:

  • 2013 Ghost Horse Vineyard 'Spectre' Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, USA (Price: $5,295)
  • 2017 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, USA (Price: $4,304)

2. Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is a red grape that produces light to medium body dry wine. 

A Pinot Noir wine tasting reveals dominant strawberry, cherry, and raspberry flavors. Oak barrel aging gives the wine spicy cinnamon and tobacco notes. 

A good Pinot Noir varietal wine can effortlessly age for 10-30 years. It is best served in an aroma collector ‘Bourgogne’ wine glass.

Our favorite wines from the Pinot Noir grape are:

  • 2015 Domaine Leroy Musigny Grand Cru, Cote de Nuits, France (Price: $99,567)
  • 2015 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Romanee-Conti Grand Cru,Cote de Nuits, France  (Price: $25,395)

3. Merlot

A hardy grape varietal, the Merlot wine grape produces a variety of flavors depending on where it's grown. Cooler climate Merlot wines have fruity raspberry, candied berries, and cherry flavors, while Merlot from a warm wine region has more herbaceous notes.

Merlot is also used as a blending grape (along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec) in the red Bordeaux wine blend.

Merlot wines can age from 3 to 15 years.

The best Merlot wines to try are:

  • 2015 Le Pin, Pomerol, France (Price: $4,518)
  • 2018 Petrus, Pomerol, France (Price: $5,085)

4. Other Red Wines

Other famous red grape varietal styles include Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Petit Sirah, Syrah (Shiraz), Zinfandel, Petit Verdot, Tempranillo, and Grenache.

B. White Wine

White Wine

Elegant and seductive, white wines are usually the star of fancy evening soirées. 

Here’s everything you need to know about them.

What Is White Wine?

White wine is made by fermenting green-skinned grape varieties. White wines can also be produced from black grapes by simply removing the skins off the grape before fermentation.

White Wine Characteristics And Food Pairings

White Wine Characteristics And Food Pairings
  • Color: Usually clear with a golden-yellow tint 
  • Tannin: Minimal to no tannins
  • Acidity: High acidity with low alcohol content
  • Taste: Either dry or sweet with lemon, grapefruit, apple, quince, and peach flavors.
  • Varietal: Grape varieties include Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Viognier, and Chenin Blanc. Blends are more common in the Bordeaux and Southern Rhone regions of France and some parts of Spain.
  • Food Pairing: Seafood dishes like shrimp and crab

Popular White Wines By Grape Varietal Wines

Popular White Wines By Grape Varietal Wines

Here are some of the best white grape varietal wines:

1. Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is a green-skinned grape variety that produces dry, crisp, and medium-bodied varietal wine. This dry wine has a citrus fruit flavor of green apples with fresh gooseberry and bell pepper flavors.

Sauvignon Blanc is also used as a blending grape in the white Bordeaux wine blend.

It can age up to 7 years, but Sauvignon Blanc blends can age from 10-20 years.

This wine type should be served in a small, U-shaped wine glass.

Our favorite Sauvignon Blanc wines are:

  • 2011 Screaming Eagle Sauvignon Blanc, Oakville, USA (Price: $8,218)
  • 2008 Benjamin-Louis - Didier Dagueneau Pouilly-Fumé Astéroïde, Loire, France (Price: $1,682)

2. Riesling

The Riesling grape variety grows best in cooler wine regions. It is mainly grown in Germany, France, and some of the new world regions.

Riesling wines have a distinct acidity and robust fruit flavor of green apple, apricot, peach, and pear.

Dry Riesling wines can age for 5-15 years, while sweet Rieslings can spend 20-30 years in the cellar.

The top Riesling wines are:

  • 2004 Weingut Keller G-Max Riesling Trocken, Rheinhessen, Germany (Price: $5,302)
  • 2017 Markus Molitor Bernkasteler Doctor Riesling Auslese Trocken, Mosel, Germany (Price: $1,934)

3. Chardonnay

This wine grape displays different flavors in different climates - rich and creamy in Napa Valley to light and crisp in Pouilly-Fuisse.

Cooler climate regions like Chile produce light-bodied varietal wine with citrus notes, while warm climate Chardonnays (like Spain and California) have more fruit flavors.

Most Chardonnay wines can age for 5-7 years but some exceptional vintages can age for more than a decade.

The best wines made from this white grape are:

  • 2010 Domaine Leflaive Montrachet Grand Cru, Cote de Beaune, France (Price: $16,502)
  • 2007 Leroy Domaine d'Auvenay Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru, Cote de Beaune, France (Price: $12,585)

4. Other White Wines

Other white grape wines include Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio), Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Viognier, Marsanne, and Semillon.

C. Rose Wine

Rose Wine

A delicious blush wine, Rose is super-popular among wine drinkers and investors alike. 

What Is Rose Wine?

Rose wine is made from red wine grape varietals by macerating the grape juice with the grape skins for only a few hours. This limited contact with grape skin is what gives the wine light pink color.

Rose wine can be sweet, dry, and even sparkling.

While most Roses are meant to be drunk early, some exceptional sparkling Roses like Dom Perignon Rose can age for up to 30-40 years.

Rose Wine Characteristics And Food Pairings

Rose Wine Characteristics And Food Pairings
  • Color: Rose wine can range from blush pink to translucent red color.
  • Tannin: Low tannins
  • Acidity: Rose wine has moderate to high acidity.
  • Taste: Dominant red fruit flavors with subtle floral and citrus notes
  • Varietal: Usually made from a blend of red wine grapes like Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Pinot Noir. But in New World regions, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot, and Merlot varietals are common as well.
  • Food Pairing: Chicken, salmon, duck, lamb, veggie skewers, and soft cheese

Popular Rose Wines

The best rose wines are:

  • 2000 Dom Pérignon Vintage Rosé Case Gold Methuselah, Champagne, France (Price: $12,499)
  • 1995 Louis Roederer Cristal Vinotheque Edition Brut Rose Millesime, Champagne, France  (Price: $2167)

D. Sparkling Wine

Sparkling Wine

When it comes to celebrations, sparkling wine is another option you should look for!

What Is Sparkling Wine?

Sparkling wine is a fizzy drink with carbon dioxide bubbles that gives it a shimmering look. 

Sparkling wines are produced by fermenting the wine twice. They are produced from two main methods - Methode Traditionelle (or Methode Champenoise) and the Charmat method. 

In the traditional method, the secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle, while in the Charmat method, the wine is fermented in pressurized tanks.

Sparkling Wine Characteristics And Food Pairings

Sparkling Wine Characteristics And Food Pairings

Here are some common sparkling wines characteristics:

  • Color: Can be red, white, or rose
  • Tannin: Low tannin levels
  • Acidity: Moderate to high acidity
  • Taste: Since sparkling wines are produced from various grape varieties, the flavors vary quite a bit. Most sparkling wines have a distinct citric flavor to them.
  • Varietal: Can be a varietal wine like Prosecco or a blend of different grape varieties (red and white grapes) like Champagne
  • Food Pairing: Cream cheese, seafood, fruit desserts

Popular Sparkling Wines

Popular Sparkling Wines

Sparkling wines are produced worldwide with unique styles, but Champagne is the most admired one.

1. Champagne

This French wine is produced in the Champagne wine region of France. It is made from the traditional ‘Methode Champenoise’ from a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes. 

This cellar-worthy French wine can age for 5-20 years.

The top Champagnes to buy in 2021 are:

  • 1996 Dom Perignon Rose Gold, Champagne, France (Price: $57,490)
  • Moet & Chandon Esprit du Siecle Brut, Champagne, France (Price: $6,646)

2. Other Sparkling Wines

These popular wines are also produced in the US, England, Hungary, Romania, Australia, Canada, South Africa, and Chile. 

  • Italy: Prosecco, Franciacorta, and Lambrusco
  • Spain: Cava (A semi-sweet to dry wine made from Methode Traditionelle)
  • Germany: Sekt (a blend of French, Italian, and Spanish sparkling wines imported to Germany)

E. Dessert Wine

Dessert Wine

The last on this list is sweet wine, commonly called dessert wine.

What Is Dessert Wine?

A dessert wine is produced when the winemaker ferments the grape juice only partially, so the wine is left with some residual sugar. This residual sugar gives the wine a sweet flavor.

Sweet wine should be served in a compact, small-sized wine glass.

Dessert Wine Characteristics And Food Pairings

Dessert Wine Characteristics And Food Pairings

Here are some common characteristics of dessert wines.

  • Color: A dessert wine can be red, rose, or white.
  • Tannin: This sweet wine has moderate to low tannins. 
  • Acidity: More than 1% acidity to balance the sweet flavor
  • Taste: In general, sweet white wines are more floral and nutty, while sweet red wines have strong fruit flavors.
  • Varietal: Sweet wines are produced as both blends and varietals. Some popular sweet varietal wines are Moscato, White Zinfandel, and Riesling.

Popular Dessert Wines

Popular Dessert Wines

Ice wine and fortified wine are two very popular dessert wine styles.

1. Icewine

Icewine (Eiswein) is produced from partially frozen grapes with concentrated juice and naturally high residual sugar levels.

It has strong citric notes balanced by honey, stone fruit, and tropical fruit flavors.

The best ice wines can age comfortably for 20-30 years.

The top ice wines are:

  • 1998 Egon Muller Scharzhofberger Riesling Eiswein, Mosel, Germany (Price: $7,666)
  • 1983 Joh. Jos. Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Eiswein, Mosel, Germany (Price: $1,528)

2. Fortified Wine

Fortified wine is made by adding distilled spirits like brandy before the fermentation is completed - effectively stopping the fermentation process. 

Some famous fortified wines are Madeira and Port from Portugal, Marsala from Italy, and Sherry wine from Spain.

While Marsala and Sherry are early-drinking wines, Port wines can age for 20-50 years.

Our best fortified wine recommendations are:

  • 1875 D'Oliveiras Moscatel Reserva Vintage, Madeira, Portugal (Price: $1,400)
  • W & J Graham’s ‘Ne Oublie' Tawny Port, Portugal (Price: $8,349)

Before we end this comprehensive guide to types of wines, here’s something which you may be curious about:

Investing In Fine Wines

Investing In Fine Wines

Investing in wine is a lucrative opportunity if you want to diversify your typical investment portfolio. This is based on the fact that some of the best wines improve in taste and value over time.

Over the past 15 years, the fine wine industry has delivered 13.6% annual returns - much higher than mainstream investments. Wine has also outperformed the S&P 500 by 1000% in the past two decades.

While it's true that some wines are excellent for long-term investments, not every wine is worth cellaring. A Barbera d’Asti is perfect for your Sunday steak dinner, but it may not be an investment-worthy wine like a high-quality Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir from the world’s best winemakers.

Thankfully, a trusted wine investment company like Vinovest can help you buy and store the right wines that will potentially yield significant returns in the long run.

Buy Authentic Fine Wine Through Vinovest


Vinovest is a leading online wine investment company that helps you buy authentic fine wines from Bordeaux, Napa Valley, Argentina, or anywhere else in the world.

Besides buying, Vinovest also helps you store your Chateau Lafite, Pomerol, and other authentic wines and sell them at the right time to earn maximum returns.

How Does It Work?

Here's how to start investing with Vinovest

  • Sign up on Vinovest.
  • Determine your risk appetite and investment preferences.
  • Add funds to your account (minimum $1000.)
  • Add exotic Pinot Noir and other collectibles to your online wine investment portfolio!


Here are a few reasons to consider Vinovest as your wine investment partner:

1. AI-Driven Platform

Vinovest’s AI-driven online platform makes buying and selling wines super-easy - with just a few clicks of your mouse!

2. Best Prices

Vinovest buys wine directly from wineries, global wine auctions, and wine exchanges. So you get your Bordeaux and other authentic wines at wholesale prices.

3. Access To A Deep Wine Network

Investing with Vinovest gives you access to a deep network of rare wineries, limited edition wines, and upcoming vineyards, even in lesser-known regions. 

4. Perfect Storage

Vinovest stores your sweet wine and other collectibles in bonded warehouses with optimal temperature, the right light, humidity, and vibration levels. 

5. Provenance And Authenticity

Vinovest’s wine experts ensure the provenance of every wine bottle you buy through them. So, you won’t have to worry about a counterfeit bottle of Bordeaux ever again!

6. Full-Coverage Insurance

Each bottle of Pinot Noir and other fine wines you buy through Vinovest comes with a comprehensive insurance policy covering breakage, loss, and theft.

7. Low Overall Cost

Vinovest charges a minimal fee of 2.85% (2.5% for a portfolio of $50,000.)

This fee includes buying, storage, authentication, selling, full-coverage insurance, and portfolio management. Also, since your wines are stored in bonded warehouses, you don’t have to pay any VAT or excise duty.

8. Ownership

You have complete ownership of every bottle you buy through Vinovest.

Explore The World Of Fine Wine Investment

Be prepared to be dazzled by delicious red grape wines like Pinot Noir and Merlot, zesty whites like Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Moscato, and fortified wine like Port!

This stunning diversity of wines offers a range of flavors to wine drinkers. On the other hand, they also offer a creative alternative to mainstream investments for keen investors.

Sign up with Vinovest to discover more about fine wine investing and start your investment journey.

Further reading

Step into the world of fabulous Red Wines in This Incredibly Useful Red Wine Guide!

Written by

Brent Akamine

Brent is a serial entrepreneur bringing nearly 20 years of experience from senior roles TrueCar, ByteDance and more. He led the US re-launch/re-design of the TikTok App and was also design director at Blockfolio.