Your Wine IQ

Other Wine

Rose wine

Wines are not always red and white, they can be rosé or orange.
This photo is in the public domain.

If your wine IQ is low, you probably think of wine as simply "red wine" or "white wine." Yet, there are subtle and not so subtle differences in flavor, aroma, quality and price. Red wines vary from region to region, vintage to vintage, producer to producer. The same is true for white wines. As you increase your knowledge about wine, you will learn to appreciate these differences.

You may start by taking notice of the basic differences between standard red or white wine and some other wines.

For example, most red wines are dry. However, sweet red wines may be created by means of fortification, where the fermentation of the wine is interrupted with the addition of a distilled beverage. Some common sweet red wines include sherry (officially called Jerez), vermouth (not widely considered a wine), and Madeira. Port, produced in the Douro region of Portugal, is a sweet, highly ageworthy beverage that combines the best elements of liquor with the best elements of wine. This unique beverage is among the most highly regarded wines in the world.

Another example is the sweet white wine Sauternes, which is made from noble-rotted grapes. Noble rot (or, in Latin, Botrytis cinerea) is a fungus that infects grapes but, miraculously, serves to concentrate and improve the flavors. Other wines are produced from noble rot, but none rival the complexity of Sauternes. Some great sweet white wines are produced in Germany, Austria, Alsace, and the United States using the "late-harvest" method: By harvesting grapes late in the season, winemakers allow the flavors to sweeten, resulting in wine that is surprisingly complex.

Most reds and whites are "still" wines, as opposed to "sparkling" wines. The defining characteristic of sparkling wines is their rapidly rising bubbles. The sparkles add verve that, in a champagne like Krug's famous Clos du Mesnil, is unparalleled. In France, the premier region for the production of sparkling wines is Champagne. French Champagne is widely regarded as the world's best. There are dozens of other highly valued regions that produce sparkling wines, from Cava in Spain to Prosecco in Italy. California also makes some fine bubblies.

White wines can range in color: from the pale yellow of a young California Chardonnay to the distinctive greenish color of Sauvignon Blanc or the rich gold of white Burgundy. Among reds, Nebbiolo-based wines such as Barolo, as well as Pinot Noir, tend toward pale red hues, while Bordeaux and Syrah can be almost black in color.

Wines can also be pink or orange. Pink wines are called rosé. Anjou is a well-known rosé region in France, as are Bandol and Tavel. These wines are often lighter than reds in flavor as well as color, and are easier to drink. Rosés are produced when winemakers opt to exclude the skins of the grape from fermentation. Rosé Champagne, however, is made by blending red wine with white Champagne. The results are a pretty pink Champagne which is lovely and delicious.

Orange wines are rare. To create the striking color, the skins of the white wine grapes are not removed during fermentation. Orange wines tend to be powerful and raw-edged. Although they are produced in some regions of Italy, orange wines are not popular at this time.