Wine 101: A Guide to Popular Varieties

There's more to wine than just red and white.


Chardonnay: Medium to full-bodied, rich, more complex

Pinot Grigio: Light to medium–bodied, crisp and dry

Sauvignon Blanc: Light, herbal, crisp

Riesling: Floral, fruity, ranging from dry to very sweet


Cabernet Sauvignon: Full-bodied, drier, more complex

Merlot: Supple, smoother, less tannic

Zinfandel: Fruity, light to medium-bodied

Pinot Noir: Floral, fruity, ranging from dry to very sweet

Shiraz/Syrah: Full-bodied, dense and tannic


Champagne: A dry sparkling wine from France; under U.S. labeling law, a semi-generic term for sparkling wines

Sparkling Wines: Range from sweet (Spumante) to semi-sweet (Extra-Dry) to dry (Brut)

 Click on individual items below for more detail

  • White

  • Red

  • Sparkling

Major Wine Styles

New World
In general, the United States and other wine-producing countries in the Western and Southern Hemispheres produce fruit-forward, easy drinking wines that are labeled by predominant grape varietal.

  • Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Merlot are the most popular California varietals
  • In California, a wine must contain at least 75% of the stated varietal

Old World
In Europe, it is common practice to blend two or more grape varieties, resulting in earthier, subtler wines that are at their best with food. Old-world wines are typically labeled by region rather than varietal.

  • Popular Old World wines include Chablis, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Rioja and Chianti


Suggested Wine Serving Temperatures

Red Wines
Light-bodied reds (Beaujolais, Pinot Noir, Barbera, Light Chianti): 55-62°F
Full-bodied reds (Cabernet, Merlot, Zinfandel): 62-68°F
Most other red wines: 54-58°F

White Wines
Light Chardonnay, Riesling, Soave, Sauvignon Blanc: 48-53°F
Viognier, White Burgundy, full-bodied Chardonnay, Semillon: 54-58°F

All sparkling wine (Champagne, Cava, etc.): 45-50°F

Dessert Wines
Sauternes, Riesling Beerenauslese, Eiswein: 51-61°F
Port, Madeira, Sherry: 62-65°F