Today, entire stores are dedicated to selling wine. While there are five basic types of wine, there are countless subvarieties and blends to select from. That creates a dilemma when deciding which type of wine is best for a specific use. Before buying wine, learning a few basics will help to ensure you’re selecting the best wine that matches your use. 

Types of Wine

To start, the five main types of wine are red, white, rosé, sparkling, and dessert. Each type includes a range of varieties depending on the type of grape and how the vintner creates and ages the wine. That, in turn, means enjoying a glass of wine will require a little research to find the ones that match your tastes. An excellent place to start your wine-tasting adventures is the Alcohol Professor’s wine guide.

Understanding Grapes

Wines are made from grapes, but the grapes used to make wine differ dramatically from the grapes commonly found in grocery stores. Wine grapes are smaller than table grapes and grown for specific types of wine. With over 1,300 established wine grape varieties and many other hybrids raised by vintners, the number of potential wine varieties is almost endless.

Both red and white grape varieties are grown in regions around the world, and their taste and texture vary depending on the climate and soil in the area. That’s why some regions are known for producing outstanding wines while others are not as well-known. For example, more than 90 percent of the nation’s commercial vineyards are on the west coast. The Great Lakes region also produces a large percentage of the nation’s wine grapes. Other states around the country produce smaller volumes, with most of those areas specializing in a small number of varieties.

Pairing Wines with Specific Foods

The idea behind pairing wines with specific foods is to improve your enjoyment of both the wine and food. In other words, it’s a symbiotic relationship, with each element of the meal contributing to the dining experience as a whole. While a sommelier will recommend specific wines to pair with a meal, no one is required to limit their experience. In other words, if you don’t enjoy a specific wine, having it with a meal won’t elevate your enjoyment of the dining experience.

Okay, now that you’re totally confused, let’s back up a little. Yes, certain wine varieties will pair better with certain foods. The reason is that taste profiles of the wine and food complement each other. That’s why, as a very general rule, some varieties are recommended when dining on specific types of food. For example, medium red wines are commonly recommended for meals where rich beef and chicken dishes are served. On the other hand, a dry white wine may be the best choice when serving fish.

Again, if you have a strong dislike of acidic white wines, you’re unlikely to enjoy that wine regardless of where or when it’s served. Here, you might consider looking at the sweetness level of a wine to determine whether a similar wine would be slightly sweeter and still provide the overall taste effect sommeliers recommend. In this case, a dry white wine would be below one percent sweetness. Look at wines closer to three percent sweetness to see if they provide the taste you’re looking for in a white wine.

Don’t Limit Your Options

Of course, there are many complicating factors when pairing wines. Heavy sauces often call for red wines, but that doesn’t mean meals with sauces will always call for a rich red wine. Many pasta dishes will pair nicely with a light red wine like Pinot Noir. Another example might be pairing a medium-bodied red wine with a zesty salad. Many wines work with a variety of foods, so be willing to experiment.