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Classifications of Wine

Updated on July 28, 2010


· Producer – most often a winery, but wines are also made by blending together grapes from many different small vineyards.

· Vintage – is the year in which the grapes were picked and the winemaking process began for that particular bottle.

· Varietal – the type of grape used.


· Contains the natural sugar, the fruit, the liquid, the acidity that gives the wine its taste and balance; the tannins that provides taste and longevity.

· Different types f grapes exhibit different characteristics and therefore, become different-tasting wines.

· There are red grapes and white grapes, whether the red grape is actually red or blackish or purple, its still considered a red grape.

· Red wine – are made when red grapes are crushed and fermented along with their skins and stems.

· Rose wine – are made when the skin has limited contact with the juice, imparting only some of its color.

· White wine – are fermented without their skins. They are lighter in color and flavor, and lack the tannins of red wines.

The Red Grape Varietals

v Cabernet Sauvignon – is possibly the most important grape varietal in the world. It produces the greatest red wines of Bordeaux and the best reds in both California and Australia. It is often called simply “Cabernet”.

v Cabernet Frank – is a close but a lower quality relative of Cabernet Sauvignon.

v Pinot Noir – is used to make the great Burgundy wines in France. It is also used to make some of the world’s finest Champagnes, when the juice is separated from its skin. Interesting red wines, lighter in body that Cabernets, are made from Pinot Noir in Oregon and California.

v Merlot – is an important red grape in Bordeaux, Italy, and California. At one time, it was used mostly to blend with Cabernets since it is smoother and less tannic. But now, you’ll find just as many Merlots and Cabernets on wine store shelves, and they are a favorite red wine for being mellow, uncomplicated and easy to drink.

v Gamay Beaujolais – is the name of the light, fresh, and fruity red wine made from Gamay grape. It was first produced in the Beaujolais region in France, but now California wineries make similar wines and call them either Gamay Beaujolais or Napa Gamay.

v Zinfandel – is a red grape grown almost exclusively in California. It was once used to make inexpensive “jug wines”, but has developed its own following, and there are now some exceptional California “Zins” being bottled. Zinfandel is a very adaptable grape; it can be used to make everything from the sweet, pink, fruity White Zinfandel to thick, dark, full flavored reds best served with steak or hearty pastas.

v Syrah – in France and California or Shiraz grape in Australia. This is the varietal to watch in the early 21st century. In California, planting of Syrah vines rank fourth behind Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel. In France, this intensely tannic, full-bodied wine is often blended with other grapes in such well-known wines as Hermitage and Cote Rotie.

v Grenache – grape is sweet and red, making a lightly colored wine. Aside from Tavel rose of France, Grenache is also a major component of Rioja wines of Spain and of California roses.

v Tempranillo – is the main red wine grape in Spain, blended with Grenache to make those award winning Rioja wines. With its softer tannins, Tempranillo had developed a kind of cult following among wine lovers. Some Spanish wineries are not bottling 100% Tempranillo instead of blending it. California winemakers have tried t grow this varietal, but without any success.

v Sangiovese – grape of Italy makes the well-known Chiante. When blended with Cabernet, it is the base for a trendy new group of wines that have ben dubbed the “super Tuscans”. Sangiovese is also becoming more popular in California. Barbera is another Italian red grape that has transplanted well in California, where it is used for blending and to make a variety of wine styles.

v Lambrusco – is a grape grown in Northern Italy that produces a very fruity, rather sweet red wine with a fizzy characteristic. Some people think it tastes more like a soft drink that a wine, but it is popular nonetheless.

The White Grape Varietals

v Chardonnay – is the white wine grape most Americans are familiar with. It produces mostly dry wines of strong body and distinctive flavor worldwide. Chardonnay grapes are grown all over Europe, in Australia and in New Zealand.

v Sauvignon Blanc – is the grape second only to Chardonnay. In France, it is the predominant white grape of Bordeaux. In California, some wineries call their Sauvignon Blanc wines Fume Blanc.

v Semillon – used to be a grape used primarily for blending with Chardonnay, Graves and Sauternes wines, but it has developed a loyal following and is not bottled separately by many wineries. It is known for its rich fruit flavor.

v Reisling – is the fruity white grape used to make many of the sweeter German wines, including late harvest or dessert wines, although it can be made into a sophisticated dry wine. It is also widely grown in California.

v Chenin Blanc – grapes makes tasty white wines, some of the sparkling. It is also widely planted white grape in California, where it is made in a variety of styles ranging from dry to sweet. In South African winemaking, Chenin Blanc is called Steen.

v Gewurztraminer – is the spicy white grape of the French Alsece region and parts of Germany. This grape typically makes a flavorful dry white wine but like the Reisling, can produce late-harvest sweet wines. It is grown in Australia and New Zealand.

v Pinot Blanc – is a white grape grown in Alsace, northern Italy and California. It is an especially good grape fro making sparkling wine.

v Muscat – grape can be either red or white, and the wines made from it are usually sweet. They are made all over the world. One made from a white Muscat – Asti Spumante – is Italy’s popular sweet sparkling wine.

Muller-Thurgau – is the most widely grown grape in Germany. It makes many soft, aromatic white wines of varying degrees of sweetness, but experts generally feel it cannot compare with the Reisling for quality.


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      Bruce 6 years ago

      I buy grape juice from Chile. I think it's much better than California juices. I buy Cabernet, Merlot and Zinfandel. I ferment each juice separately. once I have"Wine", I blend the three equally.(After I rack the must off of the lees.) Then I rack it every 60 days, 2 more times. Then I bulk age it for at least 1 year before bottling. It is so delicious, and I get a lot of compliments on it. I call it, "La Miscella Di Tre". In Italian that translates to, " The blend of Three".