While there are many varietals and styles of wine available to enjoy, there are 4 main types of wine: table wine, sparkling wine, dessert wine and fortified wine. They differ greatly from one another and it can be difficult to know how to serve them if they are unfamiliar. This quick guide will help you learn how to enjoy the types of wine.
This category of wine is the most common and familiar type of wine, with stars like Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Burgundy. These wines are generally 12-14% alcohol, not overtly sweet and are not carbonated. The flavors can range from tropical fruits to berry jam to smokey vanilla toast and the acidity is pleasantly balanced. They are best served with meals., but because there are so many varietals and styles in this class, pairing them with food can be a challenge. An easy rule of thumb is to match the color of the wine to the color of the food. A white wine goes well with chicken, creamy pasta dishes and fish; a red wine goes well with beef, lamb and tomato sauces and a rose is generally treated like a white wine. Pork is adaptable and goes well with all colors of table wine rainbow.
These wines are synonymous with celebration and luxury. Examples are champagne and cava. A sparkling wine can only be called champagne if it comes from the Champagne region in France. This bubbly wine is 12% alcohol, high in acid, has flavors of green apples and yeast and is best served very cold. It pairs nicely with foods that taste good with lemons, like oysters, caviar and chicken piccata. It can clash with other acids, like vinegar and tomato sauces.
Fortified wines are produced by adding extra alcohol to wine, during or after fermentation, to increase the alcohol content. They are around 18% alcohol. They offer a solid structure and pleasant oxidized fruit characteristics from being in a barrel. Examples are port and sherry. Fortified wines are nice to drink straight as an aperitif or digestif. They also pair nicely with desserts, especially cakes, tiramisu and crepes. I hear that port and cigars are a match made in heaven, although I cannot personally attest to this combo.
When grapes are very ripe and start to wrinkle, their sugars, flavors and acids concentrate. They are ready to make dessert wine, which is a very sweet wine with a silky texture that lingers on the palate. Famous examples are Sauternes and eiswein. Contrary to their name, dessert wines are actually best with fatty appetizers, like charcuterie, cheese and foie gras. These wines do not usually pair well with desserts because they do not offer enough contrast, but a glass in place of dessert would be divine.
Now that you know how to enjoy the 4 types of wine, why not pick up a bottle tonight and start exploring the exciting world of wines?