The 9 Styles of Wine and Their Main Characteristics

by JJ Buckley Fine Wines

Different types of wine in glasses on a barrel

When you’re shopping for a good bottle of wine, the choices can be overwhelming. But luckily, completing your collection is easy once you understand the nine main types of wine. Once we walk you through your wine discovery journey, you'll know what your collection is missing, and you'll learn how to pair them like a sommelier.

Different Styles of Wine for Different Tastes

1. Sparkling Wine

Don't you love some bubbles on a special occasion ⁠— or just because? Made from any and all grape varietals, sparkling wines first became popular in France. Today, they're extremely popular around the world because of their refreshing elegance. 

Making sparkling wine is a lengthy process, but the magnificent results are well worth the extra time. These wines can have notes of toast, light berries, citrus, and peach. The most common examples are:

  • Champagne
  • Cava
  • Crémant
  • Prosseco

Pair your favorite sparkling wine with cheese, fish or seafood, and salads. These wines tend to be light-bodied, so pair them accordingly. 

2. Light-Bodied White Wine

Looking for a zesty option? Often grown and bottled in cool climates, light-bodied white wines are unmatchably crisp and fresh, with notes of melon, apple, grapefruit, peach, or citrus.

Light-bodied whites should be drunk while they’re young. Light-bodied white wines are typically easy-to-drink and are among the most-purchased wines worldwide. Some common examples are:

  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Pinot Gris
  • Soave
  • Grüner Veltliner
  • Albariño

Acidic and mineral in nature, light-bodied white wines pair incredibly with most foods, like nutty cheeses, shellfish, or chicken.

3. Full-Bodied White Wine

Full-bodied white wines are commonly aged in oak barrels, just like many whiskeys. Usually, this results in a rich, creamy wine with notes of ripe fruit and spice, like apple, starfruit, pineapple, or honeysuckle. The oak barrel may also impart cream, butter, and vanilla notes.

If you love big reds, try serving a full-bodied white wine with your next meal. Here are a few famous examples:

  • Warm climate Chardonnay
  • Viognier
  • Semillon
  • Pecorino

These wines are not considered picnic wines, but they go great with:

  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Roasted vegetables
  • Salty cheeses

‌4. Aromatic White Wine

If you like sweet, dry wines with somewhat perfumed aromas, aromatic white wines might be the right choice for you. They're made with aromatic grapes like Muscat — which, by the way, Cleopatra was particularly fond of. Their primary flavors include apple, honeysuckle, pear, flowers, beeswax, and peach.

Some aromatic white wines also age very well. The most consumed aromatic varietals, regardless of ageing potential are:

  • Gewurztraminer
  • Chenin Blanc
  • Riesling
  • Muscat Blanc
  • Moscato d'Asti
  • Torrontés

Pair the intensity of your favorite aromatic white with Indian cuisine, white beans, pungent cheeses, or spicy fish dishes.

5. Rosé Wine

An all-time summer favorite, rosé wine is famous for its pale red, almost pink, tones. This wine’s color isn’t the result of blending white and red grapes, contrary to popular belief. In fact, making rosé is sort of an art form that involves soaking a few red grape skins for a short period to dye the liquid.

Rosé first gained traction during the late 1700s. At that time, the English called this style “claret” for its delicate pale red tint. Today, rosé is widely popular because it’s crisp and refreshing, with hints of strawberry, melon, and citrus. The most popular types are:

  • Garnacha Rosé
  • Pinot Noir Rosé
  • Sangiovese Rosé
  • White Zinfandel
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Merlot

Rosés can be dry or sweet. They pair perfectly with picnic snacks, like cheese, white or cured meat, and pasta salad.

6. Light-Bodied Red Wine

While not quite as pale as rosés, light-bodied reds tend to have clearer tones than your average glass of red wine ⁠— you’ll likely be able to see through the glass. Light-bodied red wines are less tannic and more suitable for those who enjoy fruit-forward reds. Expect notes of fresh berries and herbs.

While the undisputed classic of light-bodied red wine is pinot noir, look for some of these varietals to round out your collection:

  • Pinotage
  • Grenache
  • Young zinfandels

These high acidity wines pair well with cured meats, pickled vegetables, and game birds.

‌7. Medium-Bodied Red Wine

Reds with a medium body make some of the most meal-friendly wines in production. These wines tend to age well and pair with most foods. They’re also the base of most wine cocktails.

As they’re such good all-around wines, there's a wide variety of them in the market. Look for:

  • Grenache
  • Merlot
  • Zinfandel
  • Barbera
  • Montepulciano
  • Sangiovese
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Carmenere

Medium-bodied reds are produced in a variety of ways, and they have a very wide range of tasting notes. Expect stonefruit, like plum or cherry, ripe berries, and earthy flavors, like cured meat. They pair well with most dishes, but especially beef, nutty cheeses, and pasta.

8. Full-Bodied Red Wine

Full-bodied reds aren’t for the faint of heart. They have lots of tannins and big flavors like cherry, black pepper, currant, tobacco, and cedar. While they're not as easy-drinking as the lighter varieties, they're great with hearty meals or as a nightcap. The most common are:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Montepulciano
  • Malbec
  • Syrah
  • Pinotage

Full-bodied red wines have lots of tannins, so they might dry out your mouth while drinking. Yet, they’re an unmatched pairing with fatty meats, especially barbecue and game, or rich stews or soups.

‌9. Dessert Wine

Dessert wines aren’t as popular as they were in the 1800s. Highly alcoholic and sugary, they’ve fallen out of favor with modern wine drinkers. However, they’re still delicious. These wines are not meant to be consumed in large quantities, and they’re typically served as a digestif.  Some of the most famous are:

Dessert wines are often intense and concentrated, with notes of tobacco, brown sugar, stone fruit, hazelnut, and caramel. Their high sugar content makes them the perfect treat after a delicious meal.

Drink Up With JJ Buckley Fine Wines!

Try all these styles of wines until you find the perfect match for you. To find the finest wines, sourced by world-class sommeliers, visit JJ Buckley Fine Wines. If you want to improve your collection, but you’re not sure where to starter, we offer wine consulting services to help you find just what you need.‌