Do you love your wines, but aren’t quite sure what people mean by ‘sparkling’ or ‘dessert’? Then this is the wine guide for you! Louisvale Winery will take you through the 5 basic types of wines, and everything you need to know about them to enjoy your drinks (and serve them well).


Red and White wines

This one may seem very obvious, but there are some subtle nuances that could be in play. Of course, the easiest answer is that ‘see-through’ or faintly golden/greenish wines are ‘white wines’ and wines that are tinged delicate pink right through to robust ruby are your ‘red wines’.


Oddly enough, it’s not always about the grape colour, however. While many white wines are made from white grapes, some use red or black- the pigments are simply not brought over into the wine-making process.


White wines are typically light, savoury and sometimes creamy, and Chardonnay, our specialty, is probably the most beginner-friendly white wine on the market. Sauvignon Blanc is another classic to explore. White wines are typically put with salads, non-fatty veg, poultry, fish, creamy cheese and light desserts and flavour profiles. Here their herby or fruity overtones lift the dish and shine. You’d typically reach for a tall classic wine glass for white.


While a light red like a rose can be so delicate it’s almost a white, for the most part, red wines are richer and heavier. They use the grape skin, pip and seed to add extra body and tannin to the wine. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir are all red wines you’ll probably recognise.


Red wines go with ‘heavier’ veggie dishes- light reds for grilled veggies, and heavier reds for roasted. Lighter reds also pair well with poultry. Full-bodied reds are best paired with red meats, smoked meats and other rich dishes. Typically you use a wider glass for red wine, allowing it to breathe.

Rosé Wines

We briefly touched on rosé wines above, but really they deserve their own category. While they can be a white/red blend, they can also be made with red or black grapes. If so, they fermented for a really short time (typically under 2 days). It makes a unique dry, but fruity, wine with low tannin level but still some of the punch of red wines. It’s the sort of wine you reach for on a hot summers day , and pairs well with light dishes like poultry, fish, fruit and light desserts.

Dessert/sweet wines

Unlike the other categories we’ve looked at, there’s no fixed definition for a dessert wine. These are, however, sweeter wines that match up well with a typical dessert. They’re mostly red, although the odd white wine slides into this category too. Your fortified ports, sherries and Madeira wines all fit here. In some places of the world, a ‘sweet’ wine means a white you’ll use as an aperitif, leaving sweeter red wines as their only ‘dessert’ wines, but it’s a regional usage.


Dessert wines typically complement smoked meats and softer cheeses well, too. They’re usually served in a shot glass or smaller glass than dinner wines.

Sparkling wines

Colloquially, we call most sparkling wines ‘champagne’. While all champagnes are, indeed, sparkling wines, not all sparkling wines are actually champagne. Sparkling wines are your party wines, often used to celebrate special occasions. 


In a plain sparkling wine, the zest is added by introducing carbon dioxide to the bottle. True MCC and Champagne varieties, on the other hand, are re-fermented, adding yeast and sugar to the bottle. In fact, they’re the only wines where the addition of extra sugar is allowed! This allows the secondary fermentation, and natural carbonation, to occur. They are left to rest on the lees for at least a full year.


They’re often named for their region of origin (like Champagne, or Prosecco in Italy). The best South African sparkling wines carry the Method Cap Classique (MCC) label, and are easily the rivals of many famous Champagnes. Sparkling wine is typically drunk from a long flute to keep it cool and to prevent the bubbles from dissipating too fast.


With this handy wine classification guide from Louisvale Wines under your belt, you’ll never be confused about your wines again!