The world of wines is vast and complex. To an uninitiated person, wine may be simply a fermented grape juice, which comes either as red wine or white. And then we know there is champagne or sparkling wine. Some may understand wine as a more acceptable and classy alcoholic drink, with less alcohol percentage than whiskey or rum. Well, some of the above understanding is right; however, to understand wine in more detail, let’s understand how many different types of wines there are.

Red wine and white wine

This was easy! Yes, red and white. Wine is broadly classified based on its colour. But at a more cellular level, we classify the grapes the wines are made of. There are hundreds of different grapes out there, and they are naturally only of two colours, red or white. Red wines are made of red grapes, and white wines are made of white grapes (well, most of them)!

The colour of the wine comes not from the pulp but its skin. Red grapes have red skin, and white grapes, you guessed it right, have white skin. As the wine ferments along with the skin, it gets its colour from it. And thus, all red wines are made out of red grapes, but not all white wines are made out of white grapes (Most of them do). A style of wine known as ‘Blanc de noir’ is a white wine made out of red grapes, in which only the juice of the red grapes is extracted, and the skin is discarded; thereby, the clear juice of red grapes is fermented to create ‘Blanc De Noir’.

Barring this exception, we know red wines are made from red grapes, and white wines are made from white grapes. That’s a good start; let’s raise a toast to it.

Red wine is made from red grapes | Unsplash

Rose wine

Ahh! The beautiful and romantic Rose or a pink colour wine looks so beautiful on the dinner table. But do we have pink grapes growing in the vineyard? No, I have never seen them. The trick to producing a pink wine is to keep the skin of red grapes in contact (Maceration) with the juice for just enough time to leave its pink colour or slightly darker or lighter (as per the winemaker’s choice) to get the desired wine colour. And that’s how we get Rose Wine.

As white grapes do not have colour pigments in them, thus, rose wine cannot be produced from white grapes; it’s the red grapes only which can do the work. So red wine from red grapes, white wine from white grapes (except blanc de noir), and Pink / Rose wine from Red Grapes. Fantastic! You Passed level 1!

Still and sparking

Most wines are still wines. When we say still, it simply means it has no carbonation. Do wines have carbonation? Yes, we call them sparkling wines; without them, celebrations are often incomplete. Sparkling wines are celebrated wines, which poof out as soon as we open. Like champagne!

So, ‘Still’ wines have no carbonation, and ‘Sparkling’ wines have carbonation.

What is Champagne?

Interesting question! Champagne is a sparkling wine.

Well, then, why do we call it Champagne? Its because it is produced in a region called Champagne, which lies 160 km Northeast of Paris. Sparkling wines produced only in the region of Champagne and abiding by the appellation’s rules can be called Champagne. So, is a sparkling wine from Paris, Sicily, or Nasik called a Champagne? No, we call them Sparkling wines. Can Champagne be called a sparkling wine? Yes, of course. Thus, all champagnes are sparkling wines, but not all sparkling wines are Champagnes. Bravo, you passed level 2.

All champagnes are sparkling wines | Unsplash

So, what’s level 3?

Well, have you heard about ‘Fortified Wines’? As the name suggests, Fortified wines are strengthened wines (In alcohol content) by the addition of a spirit. Spirits are distilled alcoholic beverages, like Whiskey, Rum, Gin, Vodka, Brandy, Tequila etc. And, of course, Wines are fermented alcoholic beverages. You know that, right? Else we go back to level 1.

So, wines + Spirit = Fortified wines. Some key examples of fortified wines are Port wines (From Portugal) and Sherry (From Spain).

Is that all?

No, there is another class of wines called ‘Aromatized wines’. Aromatized wines may or may not be fortified with a spirit; however, they must have added herbs, spices or flavourings. These wines have distinct flavours and tastes and are consumed as an aperitif or used as a flavouring in cocktails. Vermouth is one of the classic aromatised wines. Sweet vermouth adds a critical flavour to cocktails like Manhattan and Negroni.

Are all levels done?

A bit more. Do you know that wines are also classified as per sugar content in them? Wine fermentation converts Sugar (of grape juice) into alcohol. However, not all sugar content gets converted into alcohol, leaving residual sugar in the wine. Accordingly, wines with less residual sugar content are dry wines, and increasingly (sugar content), they are referred to as semi-dry, semi-sweet, or sweet wines.

The basic levels of wine classification are complete, but it would be great if you could understand that wines are classified as per their mouthfeel or the weight of the wine. In wine terms, we call it the ‘Body of the wine’. Accordingly, wines are classified as ‘Light Bodied Wine’, ‘Medium Bodied Wine’, and ‘Full-bodied wine’. Now that your basic levels are complete, we will discuss them in greater detail in our next article on Wines. Cheers!

Sidharth Bhan Gupta, is a Hospitality / Food and Beverage / Restaurant Consultant, Travelling across India on a Cultural and Culinary Exploration.