Although there are many varieties of each class, the five major classes of wine are as follows:
Red table wines: More or less red in color, these wines are suited to accompany food. They may be labeled with a generic name (for example, claret) or a varietal name (Cabernet). Or they may represent the grape by its full name – such as Cabernet Sauvignon. Rose wines (pink in color) are also in the red wine class.
White table wines: As the name implies, these are white wines, but the actual color appearing in your glass can range from straw yellow to deep amber. The label usually does not indicate what variety of grape is used so you’ll have to hunt a little into the ingredient label on the back of the bottle.
Sparkling wines: As suggested by their name, these wines – red, white or rose- sparkle or bubble. This class includes the champagnes and sparkling burgundies. To get their sparkle, some vintners will use the same type of carbonation used in making soda pop. These are the less expensive varieties. The better sparkling wines, such as champagne, use a natural fermentation process. Some still wines will have a natural state of effervescence, or bubbles, not to be confused with a sparkling wine.
Dessert wine: cream sherry, port, muscatel and sweet vermouth. Dessert wines and aperitif wine can almost share a class, but these four are reserved as strictly dessert wines. Other types of vermouth come under the aperitif class. Dessert wines are sweet tasting, a condition obtained by halting the fermentation process early, so that the juice retains much of its sugar content.
Aperitif wine: the word ‘aperitif’ meaning appetizer. These wines are usually served chilled before dinner, and are meant to stimulate the appetite. An example of an aperitif wine is Palomino, a pale, dry sherry.
Although they are not designated as a class of wine, the fruit and berry wines usually fall under the dessert wine class.