Do you know the 9 basic wine styles?

As a rule, there are two ways of describing wines: by variety (e.g. Sauvignon Blanc or Fetească Neagră) or by region (e.g. Bordeaux or Dealu Mare). This approach is very precise and requires extensive knowledge. Fortunately, to simplify the process of knowing and learning about wines, you can start by classifying them into 9 basic styles, which makes it much easier to explore thousands of wines and regions. Most wines fall into 9 main categories, including all reds, whites, rosés, sparkling and dessert wines.

Full-bodied red wines.

Full-bodied red wines tend to contain more tannins and alcohol and are dominated by aromas of berries and black fruits such as blackberries, plums and blackcurrants. These wines contain a lot of pigment, which is why they have more anthocyanins, which have been shown to have a beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system. The taste and flavours of full-bodied red wines are persistent and rich. That’s why they pair best with equally aromatic and spicy dishes.

Medium-bodied red wines.

They are the easiest wines to pair with food. Classic examples in this category include varieties such as Merlot, Black Fetească. Wines made from these varieties may differ slightly in style due to regional differences in cultivation and winemaking. For example, Merlot from the Lechința vineyard in Transylvania contains more tannins and is dominated by berries, while a Merlot from Dealu Mare usually contains fewer tannins and has a mild red fruit aroma.

Light red wines

With delicate, subtle flavours, light red wines are ideal for long evenings with stories. Experienced collectors and newcomers alike enjoy this type of wine. Light red wines are known to contain less tannin, have a noticeable acidity and lower alcohol content. The aromas are dominated by berries and red fruits. These wines are usually served in Burgundy glasses, the shape of which helps you taste the more delicate flavours.

Rosé wines.

Between red and white wines, red wines have made their way. So, we can say that they are the “middle” of the two. Even though they are made from red varieties, rosés tend to behave more like white wines. They are usually served chilled and are mostly dry wines, with a few exceptions. The most common flavours found in rosé wines are strawberry, raspberry, melon, rose petals, rhubarb, lemon zest.

Full-bodied white wines.

If we served a full-bodied white wine in a black glass, we could easily mistake it for red wine. Full-bodied white wines tend to undergo similar treatments to red wines to achieve bold flavours and thus have some aromatic similarities.

Typically, many full-bodied white wines are matured in oak barrels to give them characteristic vanilla and/or coconut flavours, but they also undergo a process called ‘malolactic fermentation’. This process converts the more aggressive malic acid into the milder lactic acid. Good wines can be aged in bottle for up to 10 years, but it’s best to drink such wines from wide-opening glasses when they reach their third or fourth year after bottling.

Light, fresh white wines.

Dry, crisp, sour, energetic, savoury – these are all epithets used to describe this type of wine. These are wines that should be drunk while young, within a year or two of harvest, while they are full of freshness and pleasant acidity.

Aromatic and sweet wines.

With intense floral and fruity aromas, these wines often (but not always) have a higher amount of residual sugar. As with good lemonade, this sweetness is used to balance the aggressive acidity. Sugar is left in only for balance, not sweetness. Without a little natural sugar, many of these wines would be too acidic or bitter for most consumers.

Note that sweetness in wine is not the property of a particular grape variety. Whether or not there is sugar in the wine is entirely up to the winemaker’s decision. Any variety can produce both sweet and dry wines, even those varieties you might associate with sweet wines. Riesling is the most illustrative example of this. You can’t tell from the smell alone whether the wine is sweet or dry until you take a sip, even though the aromas associated with the sweet taste are felt in full. These wines are drunk from sparkling glasses, kept chilled.

Liqueur wines and fortified wines.

In order for dessert wines to retain their aromas and sweet taste, the fermentation process is stopped before the yeast has congealed all the sugar. Usually there is still very little alcohol at this stage, but because distilled spirit can be added to fortified wines, the strength of these wines eventually rises to 17-20%. Because of the high alcohol and sugar levels, such wines are drunk from small glasses in 50-80 ml portions.

In addition to a wide range of fortified wines (Sherry, Madeira and Port), this category also includes naturally sweet wines – Tokay, Sauternes, late harvest Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley, Eiswein, etc.

Fizzy wines.

The secret of bubbles in sparkling wines is the second natural fermentation. The sugar and yeast in the wine ferment and produce the carbon dioxide that naturally creates the bubbles. All this happens at a controlled temperature of 200C. Depending on the method by which the second fermentation is done we have:

  1. Champenoise method
  2. Charmat or Cuve method (traditional method)
  3. Transfer method
  4. Carbon dioxide impregnation method

Depending on the region of origin, but also on the way they were produced and the characteristics they have, there are several types of sparkling wine.

Once you understand the classification of wines by these 9 styles, you’ll find it easier to navigate the world of wine. Now, when you want to order a certain type of wine, whether in a wine shop or a restaurant, you’ll be able to explain it more easily, without limiting yourself to “I’d like a dry red, white or sparkling”.

Once you’ve been introduced to the 9 styles of wine, think about which one do you prefer? But which ones would you like to discover and explore more? I would love to take this discussion to our community. So, I look forward to seeing you on Facebook and Instagram in comments.