What’s your favorite wine? If you aren’t sure, you won’t need to devote your life to enology to figure out the answer (though a little tasting know-how never hurts). We recommend a much more fun way to tour the many types of wine out there. Simply buy a sampler pack, pick a bottle (any bottle), pour yourself a glass, and click on its corresponding varietal below:
Next, click on what you think of it. No matter where you begin, our wine guide will transport you to your next recommendation based on your reaction to each varietal. As you explore, do you find yourself coming back to the same varietal over and over again? Congratulations! You’ve found your liquid soulmate! And if you don’t…. well, keep playing.
When red-grape skins are removed from juice before fermentation, they can’t infuse wine with their intense hue. The result is rosé
, a wine that’s light in color and flavor. In fact, the most notable characteristic of rosés is their easy-drinking flavor profiles, which feature mellow fruit notes.
Critters have been munching on crops for centuries, and merlot is proof. The varietal was named after merlau, the Eurasian blackbird that not only shared the grape’s distinctive black-blue color, but also treated the vineyards as their buffet. Around the same time—the late 18th century—merlot was declared some of the best wine in southern France, and it remains a favorite wine for many thanks to its well-rounded character.
’s origins in southern France, the varietal’s modern Argentine versions are its most famous. A French agronomist introduced malbec to South America in the mid-19th century. It has thrived there ever since, especially in the high-altitude Mendoza region, which produces highly acclaimed malbecs with velvety textures and powerful red-fruit flavors.
Syrah or Shiraz
In Europe or South America, you’d ask for a glass of syrah
. In Australia, you’d say shiraz
. Elsewhere, it goes by sirac or serine. No matter what the locals call it, however, these versatile, full-bodied types of wine pair dark-berry flavors with earthy undertones.
Although cabernet sauvignon
is consistently bold in flavor, it has slight regional variations. For example, cabernet sauvignon from warmer climates tends to be more fruit-forward with notes of dark fruits and jam, while colder climates such as Northern California and Washington produce a distinctive vegetal flavor.
Despite its dark fruit—the name pinot noir
means “black pine” in French—this varietal is one of the lighter shades on the red-wine spectrum. Strawberry, raspberry, and cherry are common flavors, which can be developed alongside vegetal notes if you let the wine age.
is a blend of Portuguese red wine and aguardente, a spirit whose name translates to fire water
. And with good reason. The spirit not only raises the alcohol content of port, but stops the fermentation process entirely, allowing much of the grape’s sugars to remain. It’s no surprise then that this wine is characterized by its sweetness.
Most wines’ flavors come from their grapes. Riesling
, however, is “terroir expressive,” which means its characteristics are derived from its growing environment. That’s why the fruit-forward white wine varies in flavor and texture depending on the vineyard’s sun exposure, latitude, and soil. In general, though, riesling from cooler climates exhibits higher acidity and apple and pear notes, while warmer climates produce a sweeter, more citrusy wine.
A glance at any chardonnay
label will tell you whether or not the wine was aged in oak barrels. This may seem secondary to the grapes themselves, but chardonnay is a neutral varietal that is heavily influenced by the barrels in which it ferments. For example, American oak is known to impart a vanilla flavor, while slightly charred oak barrels makes the wine taste slightly toasted.
is best drunk young and doesn’t benefit from aging in the bottle, earning it an unusual distinction as one of the first varietals to popularize screwcap bottles. So, twist off the cap of a chilled sauvignon blanc and treat yourself to the crisp and refreshing fruit-forward wine.
Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio
Nearly genetically identical to pinot noir
, these two types of wine are only visually distinguishable from their sibling by the slightly lighter shade of the grapes, the result of a centuries-old genetic mutation. Despite this similarity, pinot gris
is used almost exclusively to make white, rather than red, wine. Typically the color of light straw, pinot gris has a wide range of regional styles, from the full-bodied, fruity Alsatian variety to the more acidic and balanced Italian style, known as pinot grigio
Champagne may be the most famous sparkling wine
, but Old World wine-producing countries are full of similar styles. If you’re looking for a sparkling wine that follows the same traditional methods of carbonation and fermentation as champagne, but want to experience different regional flavors, franciacorta from Italy, cava from Spain, and higher-end bottles of Germany’s sekt are all typically produced in the méthode traditionnelle
Welcome to Wine Tasting 101
Your wine-tasting experience won't be intimidating if you follow our advice on swirling, sipping, and spitting.