Red Wine, White Wine, and Rose Wine:
All You Need to Know about the Basics
Wines are a little bit confusing; although everybody basically knows the difference between red wine, white wine and rose wines, a lot of other terms that are bandied about in the wine industry or are used on wine bottle labels can be confusing. What does Shiraz mean? What does table wine mean? Here is a beginner lesson in what all those confusing terms mean.
As mentioned before, wines are generally divided up into three groups: red wine, white wine, and rose wine. White wines and rose wines are usually served chilled, while red wines are served at room temperature or slightly below in order for their full bouquet to be appreciated.
Wine grapes vs. supermarket grapes
All wines sold in shops are made from grapes unless otherwise stated on the bottle. However, the grapes used in wine production are not the same as grapes that are sold in supermarkets to eat as food; on a sweetness scale of one to ten, supermarket grapes are about a 7.5, while grapes used in winemaking are about a 12.
Blended wines and table wines
Different varieties of grape make different types of wine that have completely different flavors, textures, and colors. The type, species or subspecies of grape that is used to make wine is called a varietal. Inexpensive wines generally use several different types of varietal; although many of these mixed varietal wines are good, they are considered to be of lower quality than single varietal wines or wines that are a blend of only two varietals. You can easily identify a wine that is made from many different kinds of grapes; the label will only say that the contents of the bottle are “white wine” “red wine” or “rose wine”. The label will not contain the names of any grape varietal. These wines are also called table wines or will have the French term “vin ordinaire” or ordinary wine. The wines may also be described as sweet, medium, or dry, with dry meaning the wine is not sweet in any way.
Now this is where things get a bit more complicated. Wines can further be categorized according to the type of grape that was used in the wine’s production. For example, a wine bottle which contains the word “Shiraz” or the word “Malbec” means the wine inside was made almost exclusively with Shiraz grapes or with Malbec grapes. Each type of grape will make a wine that tastes subtly different. Here are a few of the most common red wine varietals and their main characteristics:
Cabernet Sauvignon A deeply colored wine that is high in tannins. Tastes of black fruit such as blackcurrant, vegetables such as bell peppers and can be high in acidity. Other tastes or flavors that may be present are black cherry, chocolate, vanilla and oak. The oak flavour is due to the oak barrels in which it may be aged. Cabernet Sauvignon wines pair well with beef, stews, steaks, strong cheeses and dark chocolate.
Merlot Merlot usually has a fuller body than Cabernet Sauvignon, but has a softer flavour and a medium tannin level. Tastes of red fruit such as strawberries; and wines that are made with super-ripe grapes will taste like fruitcake and chocolate. Food pairings include pork tenderloin, hamburgers, lamb, and hard cheeses.
Shiraz (Syrah) Deeply colored with medium to high tannin levels, this wine has a flavor that is reminiscent of blackberry, black pepper, warm spices and to some extent, chocolate and oak. Shiraz pairs very well with steak, grilled lamb, beef fondue, BBQ ribs, pork chops and hard cheese.
White wines also come in varietals, and here are three of the most common:
Chardonnay A very delicate wine that is slightly fruity in flavour, and depending on the region where it is grown, is can taste of green apples, pear, citrus fruit, or tropical fruit. Chardonnay can also be oaky and buttery in character, and has high natural acidity. Food pairings include seafood, grilled vegetables, soft, creamy cheeses, asparagus and chicken.
Sauvignon Blanc A crisp, dry white wine of medium to high acidity that has flavors that make one think of gooseberries and green fruit. Sauvignon Blanc is a nice wine to have on its own, but it also goes well with marinated chicken, oysters, Swiss cheese and Cobb salad.
Riesling A wine that is slightly sweeter but can vary between sweet to dry. Tastes include green fruit, citrus, stone fruit, honey, mango and pineapple. Most Rieslings have high acidity, and pair well with trout, curries, and desserts such as pumpkin pie.
Pronounced “ro-ZAY”, these are basically wines made with red varietals in which the grape skins were removed after a short while, resulting in a wine with slightly lighter characteristics and a pink color. Rose wines are always served chilled. Varietals used for making Rose, Rosado, Rosato or “blush” wines as they are also known, are Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Grenache, Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Zinfandel or the Italian Sangiovese varietal.
Rose wines can range from very sweet to bone dry, with the European versions being the driest on the market. If a person has never tried wine before, rose wines are usually the perfect introduction as they are a bit lighter in tannins, which take some getting used to. Rose wines are also incredibly versatile when it comes to food pairings; because they have both the characteristics of white and red wines, they will go well with almost any meal.