Different varieties and types of wine mostly evolved from chance observations made by curious, experimental winegrowers. Today, thanks to these winegrowers, we enjoy a wide choice of wine and wine specialities
Red wines are made from red grapes, and they have a longer maturing time than white wines. They are, on the whole, heavier too, although lighter red wines do exist, Beaujolais, Kalterer See or the German Dornfelder for example.
The color of red wine comes from the skin of the grapes. Unlike with white wine, the winegrower allows the skins’ tannins and flavors to be transferred into the must, and the quality and quantity of these play an important role in the further maturing process.
The amount of tannin in the must also has a considerable influence on the taste of the wine – it can make the red wine bitter, or it have a key positive effect on the wine’s texture. Due to their preserving effect, the quantity of tannins and acid determines the wine’s suitability for aging.
White wines are nearly always pressed from white grapes and, in general, have a fresh, fruity flavour. They often contain less alcohol and are frequently more acidic than red wines.
Although white wines are typically drunk young, some can age for up to 25 years and even longer, like the great Rieslings from Germany, Alsace or the Wachau – or some American Chardonnays or white Burgundys which aim for richness rather than crispness and acidity.
Rosé wines are pressed from red grapes. Here, however, the must and grape skins are separated from one another after just a few hours. By so doing, only a little of the skin’s red color diffuses into the wine, thus creating the pink color. As far as wine types are concerned, rosé wines are, in fact, white wines since no malolactic fermentation, i.e. softening of the acidity, takes place. While methods to produce rosé wine by mixing white and red wine do exist, these are prohibited within the EU (with the exception of sparkling rosé wines which are generally produced in this way).
Special Types of Wine
Semi-sparkling wines are types of wine which have a small amount of artificially added carbonic acid (atmospheric pressure of 1 – 2.5 bar). Sekt and champagne do not belong to this category since they possess a much higher carbon dioxide pressure. Italian Prosecco frizzante is a typical example of a semi-sparkling wine.
Champagne, German Sekt, Prosecco spumante, Spanish Cava oder Krimsekt (Crimean sparkling wine) all fall into the category of sparkling wines. The pressure inside the bottle ranges from approximately 3 bar (crémants) to 6 bar in the case of champagne. A variety of different methods are using in the production of sparkling wines:
- Either the carbonic acid is produced through a combination of pressure and cooling;
- Or, at the end of the first fermentation, with sweet must and further fermentation in a pressurized tank or in the bottle (Asti spumante).
- The third method of producing sparkling wine involves creating the CO2 by means of secondary fermentation – sugar and yeast are added to the young wine and this mixture is fermented in a pressurized tank. Sekt and champagne are made using this method.
Noble Sweet Wines
Noble sweet wines are dessert wines made using grapes affected by the fungus Botrytis cinerea. The fungus perforates the grape skins allowing water to evaporate which results in a higher concentration of sugar in the grapes. In addition, the fungus releases metabolites which create the noble rot bouquet or botrytis character. Noble sweet wines are not to be confused with medium-sweet wines.
The (high-priced) noble sweet wines include Sauternes or Anjou from France, Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese from Germany (Moselle, Rhine District), from Valais (Petite Arvine) or from Slovakia and Hungary (Tokaji).
Types of wine with an alcohol content of over 15% by volume are called fortified wines. These are wines to which brandy has been added and they include port wine, sherry, Marsala, Madeira and Banyuls.
Sherry comes from Andalusia and is produced using a dry white wine made from Palomino grapes. At the end of fermentation, the wine is fortified to an alcohol level of up to 22%, after which it is left to age in open-topped barrels exposed to the open air. Sweet sherries are produced by adding sweet wine (made from Moscatel or Pedro Ximenez grapes).
There are numerous types of sherry, each distinguishable by their alcohol content and degree of oxidation – the two types of wine Fino and Manzanilla for example, are dry and possess a slightly salty/bitter taste (15-17% alc./vol.) while Oloroso (17-20% alc./vol.) is sweet and full-bodied.
Port wine or port is a sweet type of wine from Portugal with an alcohol content of between 19 and 22% vol. Fortifying the fermenting must using a high-proof grape spirit stops the fermentation process. The timing of the fortification determines the sweetness of the final product. After fortification, the port wine is stored in barrels before being bottled. Standard port wines can be drunk immediately – longer storage would cause them to lose flavor.
To attain premium quality, first-class ports mature in the bottle for a minimum of 10 years, often longer.
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