Wine Basics 101: Breaking Down Popular Types of Wine
Wine Basics 101: Breaking Down Popular Types of Wine

If you find yourself intimidated by the subject of wine, fear not! We’re here to take the mystique out of wine so that you’ll know what to order and describe what you’re sippin’ on – it’s RelaxNation Wine Basics 101, Part One!

Major Types of Wine

Here are the basics to get you started. Keep in mind that there are many different varieties of wine as well as blended table wines. That’s a big reason to love wine – there are so many options! So don’t get discouraged if you don’t like them all, just remember to keep trying until you find what you like.


Merlot: Considered a good introduction to red wine due to its mellow softness, low acidity and general easy drinkability. Merlot has rich flavors of blackberry, plum and cherry and can be served with a wide variety of food.
Cabernet Sauvignon: Dark purple or ruby in color, medium to full bodied, and has a beautiful array of intense aromas and flavors. It is often served with red meat.
Pinot Noir: The taste of Pinot Noir wines is delicate and fresh, with a fruity aroma and earthy notes. It has light to moderate body and is often served with chicken, lamb and salmon.
Syrah/Shiraz: Known as Shiraz in Australia and South Africa and as Syrah in California and France. This wine has low to moderate acidity and is very drinkable with wonderful flavors of spice and fruit. The wine goes well with beef, steak, stew and wild game.
Zinfandel: Ranges from blushes to rich, heavy reds and has a zesty berry and pepper flavor. Depending of the heaviness of a particular Zinfandel, it may be served with pasta in tomato sauce, pizza or meat.
Malbec: Similar to a Merlot but with a more distinctive, full bodied flavor. It has an earthy aroma with tastes of berries, plums and spice. Malbec is often blended with other varieties and pairs well with meats and heavily spiced dishes.


Chardonnay: Can be enjoyed as a sparkling or still wine and has a wide-bodied, velvety citrus flavor. Depending on how it is aged, it can vary with hints of nuts, butter, oak or vanilla. It goes well with fish and chicken dishes.
Pinot Grigio: Can vary greatly and are dependent on the region and wine making style they are from. Most are medium to full bodies wines with a rich and citrus aroma.
Muscat: Muscat describes a family of grapes and the wine it produces can be known by many names, from Muscadel to Muscat to Moscatel to Moscato. They generally have a sweet flavor with a fruity aroma.
Riesling: Riesling wines are fresh tasting, light and reminiscent of fresh apples. It has medium to high acidity and light to medium body with a distinct fruity aroma. They compliment a wide variety of cuisines and spice levels.
Sauvignon Blanc: Has a flavor which is both herbal and fruity, and can sometimes also be smoky. These wines are considered versatile food wines and are often served with poultry, seafood and salads.

Useful Terms for Describing Wine – from the “Wine for Dummies Cheat Sheet”

Bridging the gap between knowing how to taste wine and drinking what you like is putting taste into words. Using these words for describing wine will help you find wine you like without always taking the time to taste:

Aroma or bouquet: The smell of a wine. Bouquet applies particularly to the aroma of older wines.
Body: The apparent weight of a wine in your mouth (light, medium, or full)
Crisp: A wine with refreshing acidity
Dry: Not sweet
Finish: The impression a wine leaves as you swallow it
Flavor intensity: How strong or weak a wine’s flavors are
Fruity: A wine whose aromas and flavors suggest fruit; does not imply sweetness
Oaky: A wine that has oak flavors (smoky, toasty)
Soft: A wine has a smooth rather than crisp mouthfeel

Now that you have the basics down, get out there, get tasting and be sure to share your favorites with us!

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