Your Basic Guide to Different Wine Types
Faced with many bottles, labels, and prices in the wine section, it’s highly probable that many of us, if not all, have allowed our pride to take over one too many times. Whether in a physical store or browsing through one online, the thought of choosing which one looks most sophisticated and yet, not too pricey has been your guiding light for far too long.
While this tactic has worked so far, it would be a great disservice to your experience with wine. There’s much more to wine than the design of their labels, colour of their bottles, and price tags. It doesn’t have to be intimidating because in reality, it’s not. By the end of this article, you’ll be able to choose a good bottle of wine AND have a nice conversation starter for your next night out.
Have these in mind for your next wine run. Below is our basic guide to six types of wine along with examples, food pairings, and if you want to go a little further– their ideal temperature when served.
Red wine gets its red hues from dark-skinned grapes, the skins are mixed with the juice that’s produced. Since skins are kept in the process, this produces tannins– the ones responsible for the “mouth-drying” feel and bitterness associated with red wine. Tannins also act as a preservative, which is why red wine ages much longer compared to white wines.
When red wines age, they tend to form sediments at the bottom and this is where decanters can come in useful. There’s absolutely no harm in using them for the sole purpose of aesthetics but decanters actually play a crucial role in leaving out these sediments. Decanters also help release more of the wine’s flavours through oxidation.
As for taste– all red wines, even those that are of the same grape variety, vary. Generally, red wines have flavours of red to dark-skinned fruits like strawberries, raspberries, plums, cranberries, blueberries, etc. Important to note as well that aroma and flavour will depend on the “terroir” or microclimate where the grapes grow.
To get the best taste though considering we live in a tropical country, make sure to serve your wine between 15 to 20 degrees Celsius. When red wine is served at room temperature, it can be too overpowering.
Popular red wines to consider are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, and Pinot Noir.
Cabernet Sauvignon typically has notes of currants along with spices and cherries. They’re best with any red meat. Think ribs, steak, and burgers.
Merlot, on the other hand, has fruity qualities and will give you a smoother sip as compared to Cabernet Sauvignon. These go especially well with white meat like chicken and turkey.
Shiraz, also known as Syrah, is known for its peppery notes with hints of dark fruits like blackberry. If you’re preparing a charcuterie board, a bottle of Shiraz should be your first choice. Shiraz will provide balance to the selection of cheeses and meats.
One of the lighter-bodied red wines is Pinot Noir. If you’re just getting into reds, Pinot Noir can be the one to start with since it isn’t as powerful as the others. Even if it is typically considered a medium bodied wine, It usually has surprisingly expressive notes of berries, like raspberry and cranberry, and it goes well with caviar– pinot noir, caviar, yes… not just lyrics that hilariously go well in Titus’ song, “Peeno Noir”, in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
Unlike red, white wine is often produced from green-coloured grapes with its skins removed. Because the skin isn’t included, this produces less to no tannins, giving much more emphasis to the aroma and acid structure. They’re typically aged in stainless steel barrels to preserve the aroma and crispness but oak ageing is also an option. With oak, it can add aromas of vanilla, coconut, and spices.
In terms of flavour, similar to red, it can vary from sweet to dry. Tastes will vary depending on climate, grape, and at what level of ripeness they’re in when harvested. As a general rule of thumb, you can expect tropical fruit notes in warmer climates while for cooler climates, you can expect lemons, limes, and even grapefruits.
When serving, white wine is best served at around, 7 to 10 celsius. Don’t be tempted to pop it in the freezer because serving it too cold can mute the smell and unique flavours. Your typical refrigerator will do the job.
When starting out, some white wines to consider are Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and Chardonnay.
Sauvignon blanc is known for its refreshing and citrusy quality. Again, climate plays a crucial role in its flavour. If you try Sauvignon blanc from France and Italy, you can expect hints of grapefruits while a sip from one in New Zealand, you’ll notice bold notes of tropical fruits. Sauvignon blanc goes well with green vegetables and seafood. Think of broccoli, asparagus, and brussel sprouts, salmon, and lobster.
Pinot Grigio is best enjoyed ice cold on a hot summer day. It’s a dry white known for its zesty flavour and perfect for Manila’s tropical climate. You can expect some flavours of green apples, limes, and lemons. Pinot Grigio goes well with salty food like oysters, potato chips, and seafood as well.
Chardonnay a low acidity and widely popular option. You’ll taste a blend of citrus, green apple, and pineapple too. Again, largely depending on which climate the grapes were harvested. It’s best to pair them with white meat like chicken, fish, prawns, and crab, to name a few.
Sparkling wines come in many colours and grape varieties. They can be white, red, and rosé and can range from dry to sweet. Most popular sparkling wines are Prosecco, Cava, and Champagne.
Sparkling wines are best served 45 to 50 degrees fahrenheit, 7 to 10 celsius, the same as white wine. You want to serve it chilled to maximize the bubbles and to prevent the bottle from popping unexpectedly.
Prosecco is essentially a dry Italian sparkling wine and they’re mostly produced in the Veneto region in Italy. Grapes used in Prosecco are called Glera. For pairing, they go well with savoury food. We recommend prosciutto, cured meat, and seafood.
While Prosecco comes from Italy, Cava, on the other hand, comes from Spain. The process is almost the same as how Champagne is made, although the climate and soils are distinctly different. Cava is mostly produced in Catalonia and has a more earthy and savoury tone. It’s also known as one of the most food-friendly wines. We recommend rice dishes like paella and risotto, tapas such as cheeses, olives, and jamón, and even vegetables like artichokes and asparagus.
Generally, champagne has notes of peach, almond, and citrus and is usually a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes.
More than just for welcoming the new year, champagne goes perfectly well with a handful of food– from charcuterie, seafood, desserts, and even pizza!
The pink hue from rosés come from red grapes, skins removed mid-process. They have notes common in both red and white wines– cherry, raspberry, strawberry, citrus, and even tropical fruits. You can pair rosé with soft cheeses like brie, seafood like salmon, and it goes surprisingly well with hummus and bread too. They’re best served chilled at 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit, 7 to 10 celsius.
Dessert wines can include fortified wines, sweet reds, and even sparkling. They’re ideally enjoyed on their own but if you’re eager to pair them with something to eat, cheese or small sweets are options.
While all other wines are best served chilled, fortified wines are actually best served either at room temperature or slightly chilled (around 14 degrees celsius).
Now armed with this knowledge, you can confidently choose the wine that’ll suit your taste buds perfectly. No more hoping for the best, all you and your new-found knowledge of basic wine types. You got this!