Visiting your local wine store when choosing a bottle of wine for a gift or a special occasion and being confronted by the many different types of wine available can be intimidating. While the uninitiated may conclude that there are only four types of wine: red or white, cheap or expensive, in reality, of course, there are many more different wines that could possibly be stocked in just one building.
While most people consider the difference between red and white wines being definitive, it is worthwhile understanding that red wines gain their color by leaving the grape skins in contact with the grape juice during the fermentation process. To produce rosé styles of wine the skins are left in contact with the juice for a limited time and white wines are fermented without contact between the grape skins and the juice at all. In addition to color, different aging processes help to determine the different styles of wine available.
Red wines are usually aged in wooden barrels usually produced from French or American oak which impart a deeper, richer flavor to the wine. New oak barrels will impart different characteristics to old oak and sometimes wine will spend some time in each type of barrel. The toast character of the barrel – light, medium or dark – will also affect the flavor of the wine.
Some styles of white wines are are aged in oak. Chardonnay is frequently given oak treatment and some semillon also receives oak treatment. Many white wines are fermented in stainless steel to maintain their usually cleaner, fresher taste.
Wine and Food Pairing
There are many suggestions about the types of wine to drink with particular types of food, but it should be remembered that these suggestions are guidelines only and personal preference is important.
Guidelines Are Not Rules
As a general rule, it is suggested that red wine should accompany red meats and white wines matched with white meats and fish. However, with the different flavors of the different types of wine, people are finding that some lighter styles of red wine – pinot noir is a prime example – go superbly well with some fish dishes and some full bodied white wines are good accompaniments for red meat dishes. Essentially, it is a matter of individual taste that determines the suitability of a wine to match a meal.
Not all wine is produced from grapes. Wines can be made from a variety of fruits and these styles of wine should have the fruit they have been produced from stated on the label.
There are also several wines that are made from grains such as rice, but they tend to used in cooking, in Asian recipes in particular, and are not produced as table wines.
There is even a wine made from grapes that have been frozen – either naturally on the vine, or commercially in a freezer – known as ice wine that offers a delightful accompaniment to many desserts.
A majority of wine drinkers will only give a cursory glance to a wine label and the wealth of information that it contains about the origin of the wine, the alcohol content, the winemaker’s comments and guidelines and potential for aging the wine.
When choosing a bottle of wine for a special occasion it is worthwhile doing a little research into the reputation of the winery and the winemaker and have an understanding of the wine you are about to purchase.