Wines are classified according to the grape varieties used to produce them. The term “terroir” is used to refer to the grape variety and characteristics of a vineyard or region, including the climate and soil composition. These factors can have a significant impact on the wine’s flavor profile. The dominant wine types are red wines and white wines. Each of these wine types has a number of popular varietals.

Red Wines

Red wines are fermented with the grape skins intact, which imparts both color and tannins to the wine. These tannins add the astringent, slightly bitter flavor that characterizes many red wines.

Common grape varietals for red wines include:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon: Produced all over the world, this wine is typically strong and full-bodied.
  • Malbec: Grown widely in France, Argentina and Chile, Malbec is characterized by fruit and spice notes; however, its flavor profile varies by region.
  • Merlot: Grown in France as well as elsewhere in Europe and North and South America, Merlot is less tannic than Cabernet Sauvignon and often characterized by cherry and plum flavors.
  • Pinot Noir: This grape produces a less tannic, more delicate red wine, and is grown in France, Austria, New Zealand and the American West.
  • Sangiovese: Sangiovese is a medium-bodied Italian wine with fresh fruit notes. Sangiovese grapes are also used in the production of Chianti wine.
  • Syrah (also called Shiraz): Produced in Australia, California and parts of France, this red wine is typically bold and spicy.
  • Zinfandel: Grown in California, Zinfandel grapes are used to make a variety of wines from full-bodied, peppery red zinfandel to blush wine (white zinfandel).

White Wines

White wine is produced by fermenting grapes without their skins. This generally yields light, fresh, fruity flavors. White wine grape varietals include the following:

  • Chardonnay: Chardonnay originated in Burgundy, France, but is now grown around the world. It is often aged in oak barrels, which lends slightly tannic or vanilla flavor.