There are a lot of different wine connoisseurs, but we all have one thing in common: we love wine. Whether you are a connoisseur or just love a glass of wine after a day of work, we decided it was time to bring our festival friends an easy guide to wine education.
All of us at Keystone Festivals love wine and are so excited to learn with you. These basics will help prepare you for all the wine you could ever dream of at our Colorado summer festival in Keystone. We partner with amazing wineries to truly bring some of the best wine from around the world to your tastebuds every July.
Wine Education 101 Basics
First, let’s start out with the basics. Many of you probably know that white, green, or pink grapes create white wine, and often, the skin is removed during fermentation. Red, black, or purple grapes with thicker skins that are used during fermentation create red wines. Combinations of different grapes create all of the varietals you know and love. The biggest factor in wine’s taste and quality is the grape varietal.
After determining if a wine is white, red, or sparkling, it can be further categorized by several characteristics. We differentiate wine by:
- Color: the grape variety and if the skin was left on or not
- Body: the weight or texture of the wine in your mouth
- Flavor: the flavors in the wine, such as tart or green-apple or fruity
- Dry or Sweet: not just about the sugar content, but also by acidity, alcohol content, and the presence of compounds called tannins
Next in wine education 101, let’s learn about the 9 different styles of wine. After reading our guide about these 9 distinct styles, you can put on your sommelier hat at Wine and Jazz during your summer visit to Keystone, Colorado (and anytime you’re drinking wine).
9 Styles of Wine
- Light-Bodied Red Wine
- Medium-Bodied Red Wine
- Full-Bodied Red Wine
- Sparkling Wine
- Light-Bodied White Wine
- Full-Bodied White Wine
- Aromatic (sweet) White Wine
- Rosé Wine
- Dessert Wine
Light-Bodied Red Wine
Light-bodied red wine is first up in wine education 101. Light-bodied reds are characterized by their lighter red color and less of a tannin taste. These wines typically pair well with cheese and have a fruit-forward aroma.
What are tannins, by the way?
According to Spruce Eats, “tannins are derived from the skins, stems, and seeds of the grapes used to produce the wine. Technically, they are plant-derived polyphenols. Red wines are in contact with the grape for a longer period, which is why they tend to have higher tannins.”
Perfect examples of light-bodied reds are Pinot Noir, Gamay (or more commonly known as Beaujolais), Cinsault, Brachetto, and Freisa.
Medium-Bodied Red Wine
Next up in Wine 101 from Keystone Festivals is medium-bodied reds. These makeup many wine varietals you are probably familiar with and generally go really well with food. These wines typically have moderate amounts of acidity and medium levels of tannin, all of which is influenced (like all wines) by climate, aging, and fermentation.
Different medium-bodied reds are Merlot, Zinfandel, Grenache, Cotes du Rhone, and Sangiovese.
Full-Bodied Red Wine
Richer in color and tannins with bolder flavors, full-bodied wines are powerful and memorable. Usually, pair full-bodied reds with steaks or heavier meals to accent their taste– they will stand up to the job!
Full-bodied wines tend to come from warmer climates. Warmer temperatures make for sweeter grapes, which provide a fuller-bodied wine with higher alcohol content.
Looking to try full-bodied reds? Try Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Malbec, Petit Sirah, and Tempranillo.
We all love to hear that POP when you open a bottle of sparkling wine! These wines are typically classified as “Brut,” meaning dry or “Deux,” meaning sweet. Sparkling wine naturally pairs nicely with fish but is most known for its use during toasts or at New Year’s Eve.
Did you know?
Champagne is only technically Champagne if it comes from the Champagne region of France! Here in the US, we have delicious sparkling wine, but it can never really be called Champagne. The Spanish equivalent is Cava!
Examples of sparkling wine are, of course, Champagne, Cava, Prosecco, and any other sparkling wine you can find.
Light-Bodied White Wine
Summer comes to mind when thinking about light-bodied white wine. These wines are typically crisp in flavor and exceptionally drinkable. They pair nicely with sushi or a fresh salad and generally come at an affordable price.
Some drinkable whites are Pinot Gris, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, and the lesser-known Verdicchio. These wines typically come from cooler climates (like here in Colorado!).
Full-Bodied White Wine
Do you love or hate Chardonnay? Regardless of whether or not it is on your Wine 101 “must-drink list,” Chardonnay is an excellent example of a full-bodied white wine along with Viognier and Semillon.
Full-bodied whites are more complex and tend to have undergone aging in oak barrels for three to ten years. They pair nicely with heavier seafood like lobster risotto and vegetables like asparagus.
Aromatic (sweet) White Wine
Usually made with residual sugars that balance out tangy or bitter flavors, sweet white wine is a treat. These wines typically have floral or perfume notes and could even complement a Thai or Indian curry dish.
Some kinds of sweet white wine are Chenin Blanc, Moscato, Gerwurtztraminer, and Riesling.
Is your favorite food Mexican and Thai food? Many people don’t realize that rose wines pair perfectly with these cuisines! Rose is insanely popular these days due to its lovely fruity flavors and drinkability (especially on a summer evening). Rose can be dry or sweet, and flavors range from strawberry to melon or citrus.
Examples of different kinds of rose wine are Pinot Noir Rose, Cotes du Rhone Rose, and Garnacha Rose. Try some different types and let us know which ones you prefer!
Last but not least is dessert wine. Dessert wine is the sweetest of them all and tends to have lower alcohol content. It pairs well with, you guessed it, dessert, and is best consumed in small amounts.
Yummy dessert wine examples are port and ice wine. Sherry and Madeira also fall into this category.
To learn more about wine 101, check out Vine Pair’s complete guide! Don’t forget that we offer outstanding opportunities to learn about wine during our wine seminars over the weekend of Wine and Jazz. The opportunities to refine your taste buds and learn are endless!