The Most Popular Types of Wine

Getting to Know the Grapes


Want to branch out beyond your favorite wine but don't feel comfortable, not knowing what’s out there? Well, take a look at our rundown of the most popular varietal wines in America! This handy guide is an introduction to the grapes you want to learn about. In brief, easy–to-understand snippets (no fancy wine-speak here), you'll begin to understand what makes a Pinot a Pinot and how it differs from a Cabernet Sauvignon.


Chardonnay is America's most popular grape and with good reason. Made in styles that range from steely, mineral-laced wines with crisp green apple fruit to wines that are buttery, rich, and laden with tropical fruits, there is a Chardonnay that will appeal to every palate. Chardonnay is most closely associated with France's Burgundy region and California's northern valleys, though it has proven successful around the globe.

Pinot Grigio

Pinot Grigio is one of the world's most popular wines. Also known under the French moniker "Pinot Gris", and even the German "Ruländer" among others, Pinot Grigio is a chameleon of a grape. It is produced in a range of styles, from the light fruity Italian style that has gained popularity, to a more mineral, flinty rich wine favored by the French -- particularly in Alsace -- and emulated by many in the new world.

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc has a long history in France, and is even one of the parents of the most famous grape of all, Cabernet Sauvignon. Although having achieved high levels of acceptance and popularity in France, Sauvignon Blanc is most famous in some of its new world incarnations. The citrus, pineapple and kiwifruit tones most common in New Zealand's Sauvignon Blanc are paired with intensely green aromatics that recall gooseberries, freshly cut grass, and jalapenos, offering an unusual and unusually compelling blend of savory and sweet that has found a huge following.


Riesling is a chameleon of a grape, able to produce world-class wines that range from bone-dry to unctuously sweet. Germany is most closely associated with Riesling, where all styles are made and the range of flavors runs the gamut from steely and crisp with crunchy mineral-driven flavors to fresh lime, apple and peach-flavored expressions -- and even rich, honied, candied fruit tones in the great dessert wines.


Champagne is specifically a sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of France; every other sparkling is simply that, sparkling wine. Made to be aged for a few to many years, in many languages "Champagne" is synonymous with "party". When young, Champagne exhibits the fresh fruit tones of its cépage or blend. Usually based on a blend that features either Chardonnay or Pinot Noir as its main ingredient, Champagne's fruit can range from citrusy to orchard fruits and even red berries. The wine gains distinct yeasty notes from its secondary fermentation, the one that adds the fizz, which is typically described as recalling brioche or bread. As it ages, Champagne tends to lose its obvious fruit, which is replaced by subtle nutty tones and subdued elements of dried fruits.

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  • There is no such thing as "White Zinfandel", this a blend of usually colombard, red grape juice and sugar. It was origionally invented and sold by Sutter Home.

    Oct 06, 2010 at 12:56 PM

  • White Zinfandel is the product of 1) crushed and pressed low quality Zin (which would not likely make a good red) or 2) the by-product of bleed-off (Saignee) from crushed zin (this is done to get better color extraction..Zin tends to have difficulty getting color).

    Sutter Home did not invent White Zin. They did invent marketing white zin. There are roses made from just about any red grape. Typically, yuong vineyards have a difficult time with concentration and structure. So, it is not uncommon to make rose out of young Tempranillo, young Cabernet Sauvignon, etc. Many times the rose is a by-product of the red being made through the bleeding procedure.

    2 cents from a Winemaker.

    Oct 06, 2010 at 4:15 PM

  • Snooth User: TomG
    40947 44

    "Riesling is a chameleon of a grape, able to produce world-class wines that range from bone-dry to unctuously sweet."

    "Unctuously"??? Really????? What happened to " me a favor and keep your smooth, greasy wines away from me."? Actually, I think I know what you mean (maybe even what Parker means when he says it).

    Oct 06, 2010 at 4:49 PM

  • Snooth User: RamBoDan56
    1134050 29

    A good wine will brings back your true spirit...

    Sep 02, 2012 at 9:54 PM

  • Snooth User: whamo9
    726201 1

    "Unctuously!" Really? Isn't that one of those hated wine words?

    Sep 26, 2012 at 1:31 PM

  • What exactly does a forest floor taste like?

    Sep 26, 2012 at 11:01 PM

  • You're hilarious! Didn't you just write an article about your 5 most hated words in wine writing, which began with unctuous? Sheesh. You're starting to remind me of Mitt Romney.

    Sep 29, 2012 at 5:10 PM

  • Snooth User: LiLu
    1146577 21

    I liked TomG's comment- Unctuously? Really? :)

    Oct 06, 2012 at 7:19 PM

  • "You're starting to remind me of Mitt Romney"

    Does Romney drink wine? Your beloved Messiah drinks beer.

    Oct 07, 2012 at 3:37 PM

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