Classification of Wine

As the wine became more and more popular through the ages, various governments started slowly implementing laws and guidance's that regulated their classification. Even in the ancient times, Roman winemakers started cataloging all the possible methods for creation and uses of wine, which was greatly improved when winemaking spread beyond Europe. By then, Italian and French governments started implementing strict laws which helped to authenticate traditional wines that were made in specific areas of their countries, or by using specific grapes and techniques.

The most common classifications of wine are done by:

  • place of origin (or appellation),
  • vinification methods and style,
  • sweetness,
  • taste,
  • quality,
  • vintage or varietal (which describes from what variety of grapes was selected wine been made).

One of the first classifications of wine was by their place of origin (or appellation), for example Bordeaux, Rioja, Mosel and Chianti all described the place of wine's origin and sometimes style in which were created. These classifications also specified exactly which grapes were used for making each wine, and the process of their fermentation. French appellation system is one of the most advanced and strongest enforced in the European Union. 1919 Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I included an international agreement which stated that Champagne wine must only be made from grapes grown in Champagne region of France and vinified using specific method. However, United States law enabled local winemakers to use certain generic terms such as Champagne, Sherry as an addition to their actual region of origin.

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Regional wine classification were introduced to monitor the state and authenticity of wines created at a specific locations (estates and vineyards) in the world. The first of those laws was introduced in 1855s "Bordeaux Wine Official Classification" which catalogued all best wines created in their Bordeaux region. Some of the most notable regional specifications include Classification of Saint-Émilion wine of Bordeaux (updated every 10 years), Classification of Graves wine of Bordeaux, Classified estates of Provence and Grand cru of Burgundy and Alsace.

Classification by vinification refers to how the wines are made, and they separate all wines into three major categories: table wines, sparkling wines and fortified wines. Table wines (also called natural wines) are mostly consumed with food, and they serve as acompliment to the meal. Sparkling wines are mostly dedicated for consumption at celebrations, and fortified wines are used before or after the meal (or in cooking as an ingredient).

Taste classification describes the character of wine as dry (not sweet, containing 2-3% of sugar and about 10% of alcohol), semidry, semisweet (5-6% sugar, 13-14% alcohol) and sweet (often called dessert wines, 14-16% sugar and 16% alcohol).

Vintage classification regulates wines that are made from grapes that were grown in specific year which is accordingly dated on its packaging.

Varietal classification regulates the origin of dominant grapes in wine. As wines may not be entirely made from one type of grapes, various countries enforce different amounts of grapes before naming that wine "varietal". United States asks for at least 75% particular grape before allowing it to be labeled varietal, but European Union has a minimum of 85% and it has strict laws about naming wines with multiple grape types.

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