Understanding Different Wine Types Before Buying

Buying wine can be a difficult process for those just starting out, as they may not understand all the different varieties. There is also a huge range of sweetness and other taste factors that affect wines of the same or similar varieties, and even the year in which wine is made can affect its overall flavor, as the surrounding environment can affect the growth of the grapes harvested that year to make wine. If you're new to wine buying, note a few terms about the different types so you can invest in something you're sure to love.

Blanc de blanc

This refers to wine made entirely from white grapes, usually the sweetest and palest of grapes. It's a term used on champagne labels and also refers to a chardonnay wine, which is a pure white wine.

Blanc de noir

This wine is made from a selection of black grapes, which are very sweet but very robust. You'll see this term used on champagne types and typically this type of champagne is a richer, fuller taste than one made with all white grapes.

Spumante, cava, frizzante

Spumante is an Italian term meaning sparkling, and cava is the Spanish equivalent. A sparkling wine will have something of a bubbly taste and is good for drinking on its own or after a meal, versus having it with a meal. The bubble taste of a sparkling wine can sometime interfere with food itself, so choose a spumante or cava for a party or for after dinner enjoyment. If you do like a sparkle taste but don't want it to interfere with your dining, opt for frizzante, which is an Italian wine with a lighter sparkle than spumante or cava.

Crusted port

This refers to the crust that develops in a barrel as a wine ages. Crusted ports are usually made from a blend of different wines and may have a very rich, full flavor. They are good for after eating or for enjoying on their own.

Ruby port

A ruby port is also blended from different wines, but it is bottled after a short aging process. This is done so that the wine keeps the ruby color and also the full flavor of grapes. A ruby port may be much sweeter than any other type of port wine.

Vintage port

This type of wine is going to be exceptional; this wine is taken from grapes that had the best growing year and then aged in a bottle for decades. Expect to pay top dollar for a vintage port.