Types of wine.
Apart from the obvious differentiation in colour (red, white or ros?/blush), people usually choose their wine based on grape variety, in the UK at least. There are over 10,000 grape varieties in the world, but Pinot Grigio (or Pinot Gris), Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Muscat are the most commonly known in the whites, though Xinisteri from Cyprus and Assyrtiko from Greece are also gaining popularity. In the reds Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Shiraz (or Syrah), Malbec and Montepulciano (Montepulciano is both a grape variety and a geographical area) are probably the one that roll off people?s tongue, but Greek Agiorgitiko and Xinomavro are also getting known, as is Maratheftiko from Cyprus. Portuguese wines tend to be known by their region, particularly Douro Valley, Vinho Verde, and Alentejo. In Spain wines tend to be known by the region, particularly in the case of Rioja whose grapes are mainly Tempranillo. Italian wines are sometimes known by region as in Chianti whose principal grape is Sangiovese, sometimes by grape variety.
In France it?s nearly all down to the region. The Grape varieties are rarely mentioned on the labels. The grape varieties still give the dominant characteristics, but the terroir of the different regions plays an important role too. The Pinot Noir in a Burgundy red will taste quite different from the Pinot Noir from Alsace. Gewurztraminer, though, and Riesling, in Alsace will be known by the grape variety.
In Bordeaux most reds are from a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon in varying proportions, sometimes with the addition of a little Cabernet Franc or Malbec. In France wine connoisseurs will frequently not even know what the grape varieties of wine are, but they will know that they will like, say, a Bordeaux or within Bordeaux a C?tes de Blaye or a C?tes de Bourg or a St Emillion. They will not ask for a Pinot Noir, but a Gevrey Chambertin or Aloxe Corton (Burgundy wines). Alsace is an exception and one would ask for a Pinot Noir d?Alsace. Likewise in whites they will ask for a Sancerre (which is a Sauvignon Blanc) or perhaps Chablis (which is a Chardonnay). In the Languedoc area things are a bit different and wines tend to be labelled there, as in Alsace, according to their grape variety.
There are of course other ways that wine is categorised: There?s still wine and sparkling wine for a start. Then there?s wine that is ?petillant? ? not exactly sparkling but slightly effervescent due to the fact that the wine is so young (so recently bottled), that it is still fermenting. In France Juran?on produces some such. In Portugal the whole Vinho Verde region is famous for it.
Sparkling wine is produced in different ways. Champagne is the standard-bearer, though the first sparkling wine was not Champagne but Blanquette de Limoux created in SW France by an Englishman, Simon Merret in the 17th Century. The essence of the Champagne technique is the induction of a second fermentation known as the ?M?thode Champagnoise? or ?M?thode Traditionelle?. A cheaper method of creating sparkling wine is to carry out the second fermentation in a tank rather than in bottles. This is known as the ?Charmat method? after the Frenchman Eg?ne Charmat who possibly invented, but certainly promoted the process.
Dessert wine is one that we might call another ?type? of wine. As one might expect this is sweeter than normal table wine and usually stronger. The sweetness is obtained through leaving the grapes to ripen on the vines longer and sometimes sun-drying them after they have been harvested. 16 or 17 per cent alcohol is the maximum strength a wine can have through fermentation. Dessert wine is often made stronger by adding brandy or other distilled wine. Typical dessert wines are Cyprus Commandaria Link to Commandaria blog, Santorini Vinsanto and, from Portugal, Port.
How else do we characterise wines? Well by intensity of flavour. We talk of a light wine, of a medium bodied-wine and of a full bodied wine. This is nothing to do with alcoholic strength though the two characteristics do often go hand in hand. Most whites are light to medium-bodied. Most reds are medium-bodied to full-bodied, though there are exceptions Beaujolais is usually fairly light as is Alsace Pinot Noir. The intensity of flavour of wine is important when it comes to wine and food pairing. Link to Wine & Food Pairing Infographioc/write up.
And what about ?Kosher Wine??you might ask. ?Is that another type of wine? Not as such, in that it is made in the normal way, but is one that has been prepared according to Kosher rules. Orthodox (and many non-Orthodox) Jews to this day will follow the strict dietary principles outlined in the Bible books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus. Certain meats notably camels and pigs, but also hare and rabbits, may not be eaten nor will fish that do not have fins and scales lobster and Calamari are out. Meat and dairy products must not be mixed. Many foods are ?pareve? which are automatically considered OK (eggs for example), but even pareve foods must follow rules of preparation. In the case of wine, it must be created under the immediate supervision of a Rabbi, and, from crushing to bottling only Sabbath-observant Jewish males must touch the grapes. Then there is Kosher for Passover where yeast used for fermentation must not be grown on bread; also a number of preservatives such as Potassium Sorbate must not be used. Kosher and Kosher for Passover wines will have on their labels recognisable certification from certifying bodies round the world.