What's in a name? Popular types of wine

Male and female from the Advanced Business Management Alcohol Beverages program seating doing wine teasting 

Ordering wine at a restaurant always makes me flustered because I only sort of know what I like and what I don't like. For example, I know I don't like the bitter-tasting wines. I enjoy ones that have a hint of sweetness to them. And I really like white wine! But, if a waiter asked me if I prefer Chardonnay or Reisling, I would have no idea. To be honest, the world of wines can be quite overwhelming.

Here is a look at some of the most wine types you will encounter and a bit about each of them so the next time a waiter asks you what kind of wine you want, you won't stutter and fumble when trying to explain.

Before we get to them though, let me familiarize your with the term "body". This refers to the perceived "weight" and thickness of the wine. A full-bodied wine feels thick and will coat the side of your glass as you swirl. A light-bodied wine, meanwhile, is almost like water. A medium-bodied wine is in-between.

Popular Red Wine types

  • Pinot Noir: Without a doubt, Pinot Noir is one of the most romanticized wines in the world. That's partially because it comes from a grape that is difficult to grow while being one of the most popular. It is a dry wine. What does that mean? Simply that the wine is without residual sugar, so it isn't sweet. Pinot Noir pairs well with grilled salmon, chicken, lamb, pork, veal, duck, cured meat, cream sauces, soft cheeses and Japanese dishes.
  • Merlot: Producing another dry wine, Merlot grapes thrive in cooler climates and are grown all over the world. Medium to heavy bodied, Merlot wines are typically smooth, velvety and exceptionally easy to drink. They make a great introduction into the world of red wines. Merlot really shines with grilled or baked poultry, beef or game, and alongside any dishes use a strong cheese, like sharp cheddar.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon: Widely regarded as one of the world's best varieties or "The King of Red Grapes", Cabernet Sauvignon is full-bodied and with heavy tannis — the organic substances found in the skin and seeds of wine grapes that give wine a bitter and biting taste. Cabernet Sauvignon is best when served with lamb, but it goes well with almost any red meat like beef or pork.

Popular White Wine types

  • Chardonnay: Chardonnay is a very versatile wine grape and is the best-selling wine, red or white, in the United States as well as one of the world's most popular white wine grape varieties. While Chardonnay is a dry white wine, most of the cheaper Chardonnays tend to be a bit sweeter. It is a medium bodied wine and matches perfectly with leaner meats (roasted chicken), seafood as well as creamy or buttery sauces.
  • Riesling: Rieslings are commonly known as light bodied with a touch of sweetness, although they do come in dry variations as well. The crisp and refreshing wines made from the Riesling grape have strong floral and fruit aromas and well-balanced fruit flavors of apple and peach. Try it with chicken, pork, duck, turkey, cured meat and dishes from places such as India, Thailand, Vietnam, Morocco and Germany.
  • Sauvignon Blanc: The dryness of this light to medium bodied wine is offset by a high acidity to produce a crisp, refreshing taste. It was first planted in France and now also grows in New Zealand. Sauvignon Blanc takes well to light fish like sole, cod and tilapia, and white meats like chicken.

If your interest in wine goes past various types, Centennial College has the program for you. It's Advanced Business Management - Alcoholic Beverages program looks at how the business of wines, beers and spirits is managed and includes topics such as category management and supply chain, accounting, marketing, the global regulatory framework and good corporate social responsibility.

By Izabela Szydlo

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