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Understanding Wine Styles

They say that variety is the spice of life, but when it comes to wine, is it better to stick with what you know?


Buying wine should not be repetitive, challenging, or indeed boring, but the expansive choice can make this simple task overwhelming, leading to many people sticking within their comfort zone. However, if you’re looking for something new and unsure what to try, this simple guide could point you in the right direction.

Despite the ever-growing options when it comes to buying wine, our wines can pretty much be slotted into one of the following nine categories:

*Image by Wine Folly*


1. Sparkling

2. Crisp & Delicate White

3. Herbaceous & Aromatic White

4. Full Bodied & Fruity White

5. Rosé

6. Smooth & Fruity Red

7. Spicy & Warming Red

8. Full & Complex Red

9.Sweet / Dessert Wine


If you are brand spanking new to the world of wine, then my first recommendation would be to spend some time trying a wine from every style. I’m not trying to give you a headache or a drink problem, but this is the best way to gain a better understanding of what styles are available and it will also ascertain which styles you prefer.


If you are an old hat at this wine drinking lark then by all means you can still try a wine from every category, or, simply home in to your style of choice and see what other wines are waiting to be discovered…


Handy Hint: If you know the wine style you like, simply use the “Style Filters” on our website, and you’ll find your ready-made selection!


Wine Styles


1. SPARKLING

No longer just for celebrations, Sparkling wines have become part of our everyday life, and they are also no longer considered “just for girls!”. Champagne can often be too pricey and certainly a little flamboyant if you are just wanting to kick start your palate, so I would suggest starting with a sparkling Brut. An extra-dry Prosecco could do the trick or opt for a stylish Crémant as this gives you the Champagne style but in an easy drinking and easy on the wallet bubbly alternative.


RWC recommends:

Salasar Carte Noire Cremant | Red White & Cru (redwhiteandcru.wine)



2. CRISP & DELICATE WHITE

These light and easy drinking white wines are the most sold world-wide. They are often referred to as “crowd pleasers” or “gluggers” as most people will happily drink them. They don’t require food as a rule, however, are generally light enough that they match with almost anything.


Try: Pinot Grigio / Pinot Gris / Chenin Blanc / Vermentino & Unoaked Chardonnay


Handy Hint: Don’t be afraid to try blended wines, as they offer something a little different. Also think cooler climate European countries – where will it be cool and rainy in the Springtime?


RWC recommends: Claude Val Blanc | Red White & Cru (redwhiteandcru.wine)



3. HERBACEOUS & AROMATIC WHITE

Slightly harder category to understand as taste profiles are so subjective, but overall, these wines tend to have higher acidity levels and herbal aromas. The clearest example in this group would be Sauvignon Blanc, which is famous for its distinctive grassy notes and sharp gooseberry flavours. But there are many others to try if you’re looking for something different.


Try: Sauvignon Blanc / Picpoul de Pinet / Colombard / Verdejo & Albarino


Handy Hint: When matching food with wine; always remember that if it grows together, it goes together… So if you opt for a Picpoul grown on the shores of South West France, pair with anything from the sea & you won’t go wrong!


RWC recommends: Picpoul de Pinet Mas de Mas | Red White & Cru (redwhiteandcru.wine)



4. FULL BODIED & FRUITY WHITE

These wines have more complex flavours and textures and often have a higher alcohol content. I tend to think of them as the “red wine drinkers white” as they are more robust than the previous counterparts. Often produced with oak treatment to encourage the smooth finish & huge depth of flavours.


Try: Oaked Chardonnay / Viognier / Viura (White Rioja)



Handy Hint: The use of oak-aging massively changes a wine & tends to create richer & creamier wines. You may have noticed for example, that Chardonnay, when un-oaked appears in the Crisp & Delicate section (just in case you weren’t confused enough!).


RWC recommends: Viognier Reserve Jean Claude Mas | Red White & Cru (redwhiteandcru.wine)


5. ROSÉ

Much easier category to understand but sadly often misunderstood. Many perceive Rosé wines are just for the girlies, often assuming they’re all sweet. If you’re looking for sweet jam juice, then head for White Zinfandel, California. For those wanting a subtle, dry, elegant, rosé, we have lots! Some of them named by their grape (e.g Pinot Grigio) but many are produced as a blend.


Try: White Zinfandel for sweetness / Pinot Blush / Grenache & Syrah blends for crisp & dry


Handy Hint: Provence in Southern France is infamous for offering the world’s best rosé, but they come with a price tag. However, if you creep a little further along the coast to Languedoc; you get some very similar styles for a lot less.


RWC recommends: Le Rose Par Paul Mas | Red White & Cru (redwhiteandcru.wine)



6. SMOOTH & FRUITY RED

These wines tend to be lighter bodied and lighter in colour. They are often described as easy-drinking wines as they usually have very light tannins. Tannins are the mouth-drying element that are naturally found within the skins and seeds of the grapes. In general, the lower the tannins, the lighter the style.


Try: Pinot Noir / Merlot / Grenache Rouge



Handy Hint: If you’re drinking a red that contains too much tannin for your taste buds, simply match the palate with a little saturated fat and it makes the tannins disappear. In a pub? A bag of cheese & onion crisps will do the trick!


RWC recommends: Claude Val Rouge | Red White & Cru (redwhiteandcru.wine)



7. SPICY & WARMING RED

These can be medium or full bodied but tend to be more food led as they offer tons of flavour with balanced tannins. The characteristics of spicy reds come from an array of flavours ranging from sweet vanilla through to smoky tobacco, and they are mainly a result of the oak ageing treatment. Its here that tannins come into their own, as without them the wine simply wouldn’t be balanced.


Try: Cabernet Sauvignon / Shiraz / Tempranillo (Rioja)



Handy Hint: Once you find a grape variety that you like, start playing around with different origins as climates and soil types make a huge difference. You may also find the varietal name changes i.e Shiraz in France becomes Syrah!


RWC Recommends: Mabis Biscardo Neropasso | Red White & Cru (redwhiteandcru.wine)



8. FULL & COMPLEX REDS

As their name suggests, these are complex wines and sometimes tricky to identify and understand. They are the most full-bodied of reds; they will be the deepest and darkest by colour and the most intense on the palate. Interestingly it is not un-common to see previously mentioned grape varieties within this section. Tempranillo for example, which is the main variety used in Rioja, is aged for 5 years to make Gran Reserva wines, and by which have well and truly earnt their title of full & complex!


Try: Malbec / Tempranillo (Rioja Reserva / Rioja Gran Reserva) / Old Vine Zinfandel (Primitivo) / Chateauneuf-du-Pape


Handy Hint: Not all premium wines are produced using thicker heavier bottles or with a large punt underneath. Winemakers are focusing more on the environment than ever before & so many prefer to use thinner glass.


RWC Recommends: Monteagrelo Bressia Malbec | Red White & Cru (redwhiteandcru.wine)



9. SWEET / DESSERT WINES

To be consumed in small 125ml glasses and savoured like a glass of scotch, these sweet wines can often be classed as a pudding themselves. Produced using extra sweet grapes there are hundreds on the market, including Sweet Red Wines and the Fortified Ports and Sherries.


Try: Gewurztraminer / Sweet Riesling / Sauternes



Handy Hint: When reading wine labels be sure not to confuse Sec/Secco meaning dry with Demi-Sec/Semi-Secco meaning off-dry. The Riesling varietal is available in both dry & sweet styles, so make sure you know what you're getting!


RWC Recommends: MALAMADO


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