Wine is a fermented beverage most often created from grapes. The wide variety of grapes available and the unique characteristics of the many locations in which they can be grown result in a wide varieties of wines. Wines are typically named after the variety of grape from which the wine is fermented, though some are named after the color of the wine or the origin of the grapes.

Red wine

Red wine glass
At a glance
  • Temperature: Usually served at room temperature
  • Glassware: Red wine glass

Red wine's distinctive red coloring is the result of including the grape skin in the fermentation process. It is commonly believed that red wines are made from "red" grapes, while white wines are made from "white" or "green" grapes. This is not true. Grapes are "white" underneath the skin. Red wines acquire their distinctive hue from the coloring of the grape skin, not the grape itself. This is also why most red wines are "drier" and have a more tannic aftertaste than most white wines (tannins are present in grapeskin; they give your tongue the distinctive "dryness" after each sip). Tannin acts as a surfactant on your tongue. For this reason, it is said that it is best to drink red wine with meat, and white wine with chicken and fish. The fats in meat bind to one's tongue, but the tannins wash them away, allowing the consumer to enjoy their meal. The taste of tannin can overpower the more delicate flavor of chicken and fish, and therefore, its effect is not as desirable.

Common varieties
  • Cabernet Sauvingon
  • Merlot
  • Pinot Noir
  • Shiraz/Syrah
  • Zinfandel

White wine

White wine glass
At a glance
  • Temperature: Usually served chilled
  • Glassware: White wine glass

Made from grapes whose skins are removed before the fermentation process. White wines are sweeter, lighter, and more "quaffable" than red wines. While many red wines have an earthiness to them, white wines have a more crisp, mineral quality.

Common varieties
  • Chardonnay: Produces a French white Burgundy and perhaps the most popular wine in the United States.
  • Chenin Blanc: The major grape planted in the French Loire valley. Often used to make a light, fruity wine.
  • Gewürztraminer: Has a floral bouquet and the wine itself is often drunk with spicy foods.
  • Riesling: This is also a floral smelling wine which is a light, fresh type. Reisling is quite often used as a dessert wine. Reisling has lots of depth and complexity.
  • Sauvignon Blanc: A crisp, light wine with a "grassy" or "herbacious" characteristic. Sometimes called Fume Blanc in California.
  • Semillon: One of the major varieties grown in Bordeaux. This can also have a grassy note but it can also have notes of ripe figs. Semillon can be drunk dry or sweet.
  • Pinot Grigio

Rosé Wine


In the pure sense, Rosé wine is made in the same way as red wine but with minimal, often only hours, of skin contact. An exception is pink Champagne, which is usually made by blending white wine with a small quantity of red.

The best rosé wines are made from the free run juice of red grapes where the weight of the mass imparts a light color to the juice. More commercial style rosés are made from pressing the mass but reducing the skin contact time. Known as 'rosado' in Spain, 'rosata' in Italy and 'blush' in California, these pink wines have quite a large following and no more so than in the Provence region of France and the Loire Valley. One only has to look to Portugal and the ubiquitous Mateus Rosé, which for some years was the world's largest wine export.

Many red wines, notably in cooler climates such as Germany and Alsace, rarely mature beyond a rosé color although fermented as red wines. For a more serious rosé, try Tavel from the Rhône Valley.

Common varieties
  • Blush: From California and elsewhere
  • Mateus Rosé: From Portugal
  • Rosado: From Spain
  • Rosata: From Italy
  • Tavel: From Germany

Sparkling Wine

At a glance
  • Temperature: Usually served well chilled and with an ice bucket
  • Glassware: Flute or Saucer

Sparkling wine is wine that contains carbon dioxide, giving it the distinctive "bubbly" nature. While they can be served at anytime, sparkling wines are frequently served to celebrate special occasions. In the United States, they are often served at Sunday Brunches.

Customers often refer to any sparkling wine as Champagne. Legally, only sparkling wine from the Champagne region in France is permitted to be designated as Champagne. Due to the popularity of Champagne, many producers add Champagne with a geographic qualifier to their labels or use the term "champagne method" to describe their wine.

Common varieties
  • Champagne: From the Champagne region of France
  • Prosecco: From Italy
  • Cava: From Spain
Presentation notes

Flutes are the preferred glassware in which to serve sparkling wine, as it helps hold the bubbles inside the glass and displays the bubbles well. Flutes should, of course, be clean, but the lint from a clean towel or the fibers from a paper towel used to quickly wipe the inside of the glass will produce particularly attractive bubble streams. Flutes should never be filled above the three-quarters line; otherwise the wine will not be able to breathe.

Saucers are another common glass used, but are poor substitutes for flutes. Being wide and shallow, saucers allow the carbonation to quickly escape the wine. Additionally, there is no place for the aromatics of the wine to collect, thus even good wine will not taste as good in a saucer as it will in a flute. Perhaps one reason saucers are popular is that they are faster to fill in large numbers, stack well, and hold less alcohol than flutes. This makes it a popular drinkware choice at larger ceremonies where many people are served at once, such as for a wedding toast.

Fortified Wine


Fortified wine is a wine to which distilled alcohol (generally grape spirits) has been added to increase the alcohol content. This addition kills the yeast in the wine, leaving residual sugar, making most fortified wines sweeter than normal fermented wines. For this reason, they are often consumed as aperitifs or desserts.

Common varieties
  • Madeira
  • Marsala
  • Port
  • Sherry