Understanding Wine-Types

Edited by Shivangi Srivastava


In the last blog, we learned how a grape is matured and then processed into a glass of wine. It’s time now to understand how the wines are classified. I’m sure that you know them already but just in case you have any doubts, let’s clear them out. It’s time to take our journey ahead and understand more about wine.

Important terms to remember

Wine has to be classified structurally and this is the foremost step for any person who loves to drink or learn about wine. This structure comprises of 3 basic steps,

  • Style– You prefer a glass of still or sparkling wine? That is the question any bartender or waiter would query when you ask for a glass of wine. And, it is the broader and widely understood classification.
  • Body– There are 3 different types, namely, light, medium and full/heavy. Heavy word is generally associated with fortified wines. How would you know which one you like? Try this at home. Take 3 glasses full of water, lemon juice and mango juice respectively. Try to blindfold yourself and drink from each glass one at a time, following the same order. Try to feel the viscosity of each liquid and not the taste. Water is for light, lemon juice to medium and mango juice for full-bodied wines.
  • Sweetness– In the world of wines there is no such thing as sour or bitter wines, even though you may taste few. They are classified on their sugar level and are either dry or sweet. A similar experiment could be done at home making two glasses of lemonade. Add a little bit of sugar to one and none to the other. Don’t fixate on taste but see what it does to your throat. Understand how you feel while holding the liquid in your mouth and then down your throat.

Based on style

In the broader perspective of things, wines are classified into two major types/styles, still and sparkling. Still wines are those which are allowed to complete its fermentation process and all the CO2 is released during the fermentation process, so there are no bubbles left.

On the contrary, sparkling wines trap the CO2 within the bottles while the fermentation happens. Although most of the CO2 is trapped within the bottle, sometimes the carbonation produced by the yeast is not enough and additional CO2 is added at the later stages. However, this process is rare and winemakers prefer to add more sugar for the yeast to react within the bottle and produce more carbonation.

Based on body

This classification is mainly for still wines and there are only two categories to it, light and heavy. Light wines are natural unfortified wines that are soft and delicate on your palate. To be noted, in addition to light-bodied wines, medium, and full-bodied wines are usually classified within light wines. Since either of them is not fortified with any spirits or liqueurs, they are part of the wider group. Light wines have low alcohol content and acidity can vary depending upon the winemaker.

Heavy body wines are also known as fortified wines. They are achieved by adding liqueur to the wine after the fermentation process is complete. This is done in order to kill the yeast. These wines are usually drunk as aperitif or digestives. They can or cannot be sweet, depending upon the style of making.

Based on sweetness

When it comes to sweetness or dryness of the wine, it is assessed based on sugar level within. Sweet wines have high sugar content. This could be left in the wine after the fermentation process. Sometimes it is added to the wine to increase its sweetness. This process is called Chaptalization and is named after Dr. Chaptal, who invented it. As we know from understanding the grapes’ cycle, a higher sugar level signifies a higher alcohol level hence; it is done for attaining a higher level of alcohol.

On the other hand, dry wines have a low sugar level. However, the acidity of the wine increases as all the sugar is used up during the fermentation process. For it to have some sort of sweetness, additional sugar is added after the fermentation process.

Hope this has clarified some of your doubts regarding the classification of wines. Maybe, next time when you sit in front of your friends, you would be able to tell them a bit more about the wine they drink. Please let me know how the little exercise and if it helped you understand the wine a bit more.

There will be more posts regarding wines and understanding of them. Please share your thoughts and comments for me to improve.


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