Unpolished Grape 101: The 5 Major Types of Wine

White Wine

White wine is wine made from grapes fermented without grape skin contact. It contains the clear juice from grape pulps, minus the added color and flavors that colored grape skins provide. Although white wine is usually made from white grapes (Blanc de Blanc), it can be made from black grapes as well (Blanc de Noir), like the clear Pinot Noir juice used for Champagne.

White wines range from green fruit notes, to tropical aromas and flavors. We enjoy white wines because of their acidity and refreshing nature. Some styles undergo Malolactic Conversion/Fermentation (MLF), a process that converts some of the tart acids to creamier, buttery flavors. Although most white wines are meant to be consumed within a few years, there are some that improve with age. These older wines will have less fresh-fruit notes and more tertiary flavors, such as honey, hay, or even petroleum as they age in the bottle.

Popular white wines include Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Grigio.

Red Wine

Red wines come from black grapes fermented with their skins. When grape juice is soaked with dark skins over a period of days or weeks, the process extracts color and additional flavor compounds found in the skins themselves. Red wines can be purple, ruby, or brown, and range from various levels of color intensity. The primary fruit flavors range from red fruit, to black fruit, to even cooked or baked fruit flavors.

Because black grape skins include tannin, astringent chemical compounds that give wine a cotton-like texture, red wines are commonly aged in oak barrels. The barrels allow small amounts of oxygen to seep in over time, softening the tannins, making the wines more approachable, and adding spicy and sweet flavors from the wood. Most red wine is made to be consumed within a few years. However, those that have the potential to improve over time can develop tertiary flavors of earth, forest floor, or even meat as they age in the bottle.

Popular red wines include Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvigon, and Zinfandel.

Rosé Wine

Most Rosés are made from black grapes in a process that falls in between traditional whites and traditional reds.

Either the juice is pressed with very minimal skin contact to make a light pink wine (direct-press), or the clear juice is allowed to mix with its skins for several hours to make a darker pink wine (short maceration). In less-common practices, red and white wine are simply blended together to create the rosè. The wine-maker must decide in advance which method to use in order to create a lighter, or more complex style of wine.

Rosés are commonly made from Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Zinfandel.

Sparkling Wine

Sparkling wine is made when Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is deliberately trapped in the wine, causing the dancing bubbles and fizzy taste. After the grapes have been fermented by yeast, the wine is placed in the bottle or holding tank for a second fermentation. The winemaker will add a dose of Liqueur de Tirage to the liquid- a mixture that includes a bit of wine, sugar, nutrients and yeasts. As the yeasts begin to consume the new sugar, the CO2 becomes trapped under pressure, producing the the sparkly bubbles. The pressure is released with a “pop” when we are ready to remove the heavy-duty cork and enjoy the bubbly!

Sparkling wine is a global treat. Although the term “Champagne” is used to describe many sparkling wines, only wine made from Champagne, France can legally use the name. Other names for sparkling wine across the world are Cremant from France, Cava from Spain, Proseco from Italy, or just simply “sparkling” anywhere else.

Fortified Wine

Fortified wine has the addition of a grape spirit or liquor that can increase the Alcohol By Volume (ABV) amount to up to 22%. Sherry wines, made from white Spanish grapes, can range from 15% to 22% ABV and even have the addition of flor (a layer of yeast that develops on the wine to give it additional flavors). As the wines age or oxidize, they can develop a browner color over time.

Port is red wine from Portugal with the addition of spirit that can raise the ABV to 22%. The most common styles are Ruby and Tawny ports- blends of 3-year old wine aged in large oak or steel. Reserved Ports are aged in wood for a minimum of 6 years. Making up only 1% of port production, Vintage Ports are made from the best vineyards and only with grapes from the best vintages.


Muscat is another grape that commonly undergoes fortification. A younger, fresher expression named Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise are made from ripe grapes fortified with sweet grape spirit. More developed and aged expressions can be found in Australia, where raisined grapes are fermented and aged for decades.


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