"A rosé by any other name would smell as sweet."
Shakespeare would be right in that statement. Still, not knowing the term rosé would prevent you from ever being able to taste its sweetness. We're here to walk you through the most common wine names and varietals on the market. We'll also give you some information about each wine so that you can make better decisions with your purchases and build the best wine list.
One of the most helpful things to know is the difference between a wine name and varietal. The name is what a particular wine is called regardless of the grapes used, like a blended wine or merlot. A varietal is also a name but only refers to wines made from a single type of grape or grape variety. These are also often named after the location they are made, like Champagne or Bordeaux.
Whether you're looking for a food wine pairing or you can't remember the name of your favorite wine, we can help. We can also recommend a great electric wine opener so you don't have to stress when opening one of these great wines.
Red Wine Names and Red Wine Varietals
Deliciously rich and imbued with a dark color thanks to the tannins, red wines are known for their complex tastes and heartiness. There are some sweet red wines which we'll cover later, but the most popular red wines are dry with subtle tones of spices. There is usually also a higher wine alcohol content in red wine, making them better for pairing with food.
Here are the four most popular red wines:
- Cabernet sauvignon. Cabernet is a full-bodied, oaky wine created in and named after a region in the south of France. It only has a moderate level of acid in wine, making it the perfect wine to drink with dinner.
- Merlot. One of the most well-known red wines, merlot is a softer and more accessible red wine. It typically tastes like rich, ripe fruit and can have subtle earthy undertones.
- Pinot noir. Pinot noir is the most popular red wine in the world and is also one of the oldest. Pinot is medium-bodied, with complex and rich flavors that can include cherry, raspberry, and spices.
- Zinfandel. Grown in many California vineyards, red zinfandels have a strong impact on the taste buds. They usually taste like a bold fruit jam with undertones of spices and a smoky finish.
White Wine Names and White Wine Varietals
White wines are often viewed as the entry-point for wine drinkers. They run the gamut from sweet to dry and tend to be easier to drink than their red counterparts. There also tends to be more sugar in white wine. The light, refreshing zest found in white wines makes them perfect for parties. They also go great with a starter menu or paired with fish.
Here are three sweet white wines worth buying. We'll cover the dry ones in the section below.
- Sauvignon blanc. This precursor to cabernet sauvignon couldn't be more different. The blanc can be dry or sweet and has a citrusy taste. Depending on the age of the grape used, it can be anywhere from spicy to gentle.
- Riesling. This sweet, aromatic wine is highly versatile and can accompany a meal or be used for dessert. It is highly acidic with a crisp, fruity taste.
- Gewürztraminer. A far less common wine, gewürztraminer is a sweet, aromatic wine. It has low acidity with a flavor profile similar to grapefruit or pineapple.
Names of Dry White Wine
Many of the most-loved white wines have a deliciously dry mouthfeel. They still feel lighter than red wines, but have a crisp bite to them. They are the perfect foil to spicy, flavorful dishes and can help cleanse the palate.
Here are five of the best dry white wines.
- Chablis. This dry, light-bodied wine is a great place for a wine drinker to start. It has soft, floral notes accompanied by a great citrus taste. It often has undertones of minerals and salt.
- Chardonnay. The more flavorful cousin to Chablis, chardonnay is a medium-to-full-bodied wine. It has strong fruity notes ranging from apple to papaya with hints of oak and vanilla.
- Chenin blanc. This highly-acidic wine is known for its light body and strong citrus flavors. It's not too dry and is a great choice to accompany a meal.
- Pinot grigio. A relative of pinot noir, grigio is a very light and refreshing white wine. It has a citrus taste with salty undertones and a honey-like aroma.
Pink Wine Name
Pink wine is also called rosé or blush and is the perfect mix of a red and white wine. Pink is actually a misleading term as the wines in this genre can be anywhere from soft orange to a vivid purple. Pink wines can vary in flavor but usually taste of flowers and citrus. It is often viewed as a summer wine and you can freeze wine to make slushies.
Some of the most common types of pink wines are rosé, white zinfandel, blush Chablis, and ink Moscato.
Sparkling Wine Names
Sparkling wine is a carbonated wine that has a fizzy mouthfeel and can be sweet or dry depending on the maker. Their effervescent nature makes them highly sought after and enjoyed. This is the type of wine that is usually broken out for celebrations or special events. They're also the perfect opportunity to break out those wine glasses with pour lines so you can ensure everyone gets the same serving.
There are three main types of sparkling wine on the market.
- Champagne. Named for the region in France, Champagne is the top-tier sparkling wine varietal on the market. It tends to have a subtle almond and citrus notes and is the perfect accompaniment to hors d'oeuvres.
- Prosecco. Often considered the second-best sparkling wine, Prosecco is more than just an imitation of Champagne. Instead of one region, Prosecco can come from any of nine regions in Italy so it is viewed as less prestigious. It tends to have a fruity taste akin to apples, melons, or pears.
- Brut. Brut is a French term that means dry, not a wine name in itself. However, if a wine has Brut in the name, that means that it is a sweet sparkling wine. Champagne, Cava, pinot noir, and more can be carbonated and sold with the term Brut attached.
French Wine Names
You'd be hard-pressed to find a French wine that doesn't have a pedigree over a century old. With exacting rules and naming conventions, French wine is held to the highest of standards. France is the home to some of the most world-renowned varietals and vintages including both white wines and red wines. These varietals are worth the investment and you might want to pick up a new wine pourer to avoid wasting any or learn how to sell wine to make a profit.
Most French wines are varietals, named after the wine region in France where the grapes are grown. French wines include Champagne, Bordeaux, Chablis, pinot noir, sauvignon blanc, and many more.
French Red Wine Names List
French red wines are some of the most well-known and loved in the world. You've probably had a few yourself. These wines are the perfect excuse to pick up the best wine decanter on the market.
Here is a non-comprehensive list of the most popular French red wines.
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Pinot Noir
Italian Wine Names and Italian Wine Varietals
Italy produces more wine than any other country in the world and this is for good reason. It is home to some of the oldest wine varietals in the world and wine is a major part of Italian culture. Some Italian wines can trace their provenance back to the Roman period!
Knowing Italian wine names and varietals is paramount if you intend to have any knowledge of wine. Some of the most popular and common Italian wines are Chianti, sangiovese, pinot grigio, and more.
Italian White Wine Varietals
White wines from Italy are second-to-none. These wines can be sweet, dry, or somewhere in between. Most Italian white wines are varietals. This means that the grapes are only grown in a particular area and the wine is held to a high standard.
Here is a non-comprehensive list of popular Italian white wines varietals.
- Pinot Grigio
Spanish Wine Varietals
Spain is the second-largest producer of wine in the world and is the birthplace of many delicious varietals. White wine and red wine alike are exported from the country en masse. Spain also shares many wines with France due to their shared border and history. You may have had a Spanish-made wine without ever knowing it.
There are still many Spanish-specific varietals on the market. Some of the most worthy of your time are Tempranillo, Grenache, Bobal, Albariño.
Sweet Wine Names
If you prefer white wine, red wine, or something in between, you can always find a sweet wine that matches your tastes. Sweet is not necessarily the opposite of dry, it's more of a spectrum.
It is entirely possible to drink a wine that is both sweet and dry. You'll only know what works after tasting. Here are a few of the most-purchased sweet wines.
Sweet Red Wine Names
Red wine is usually known for being dry but there are a number of sweet red wines on the market. From dry wines with sweet undertones to fortified reds, there are sweet options for red wine lovers. Just make sure to pick up a wine stain remover beforehand in case you spill any of these great wines.
Here are five sweet red wines worth a taste. You can use these wines as dessert wines or as a substitute for a white wine if you're not a fan.
- Brachetto d’Acqui
- Vintage Port
- Black Muscat
Dessert Wine Names
Dessert wine, or pudding wine in the UK, is a type of wine usually consumed following a meal. Most often these wines are noted for their sweet, sugary taste. That's why dessert wines have some of the highest calories in wine.
That being said, there is no defined rule about what is or is not considered a dessert wine. A white wine, red wine, or fortified wine can fit the bill. Here are some of the most popularly consumed wines for dessert:
- Moscato d'Asti
- Ice Wine
That's Quite the Variety
Wine comes in all shapes, colors, and flavors. Finding the best wine for the right occasion is a lot easier once you begin to understand the inherent differences between the wines. Where it's from, what it's made of, and when to use it differs from wine to wine. Some varieties are also more likely to set off wine allergies than others even if you use a wine aerator decanter, so it's important to understand the differences. You can even buy a bottle and bring it with you out to eat if you're okay paying a corkage fee.
Make sure to stay on top of your wine knowledge. One of the best ways to do that is to pick up a book and learn about wine. or look at the most famous wine lists or most popular wine lists in the country. There are all types of wine lists! You should also learn the proper way to handle different wines. Preventing wine oxidation or dealing with bottle shock can help keep you from having a bad day.