Color reveals certain characteristics about wine, it is probably the first thing you notice, but wines may be classified in various other ways. Wine classification can be organized by the country of origin, by the variety of grapes used and often by the wine producing techniques employed by the vintner. For classification by vinification, there are broadly four main types of wines, four different categories depending on what taste, alcoholic content and style the winemaker wants to achieve with the fermented grape juice.

Still Wine

Still wine production takes place worldwide either from one grape variety or a combination of grapes and is widely appreciated as an everyday alcoholic beverage. This category of wine is called still wine because it is a non-sparkling wine, a wine without effervescence: this shows that it contains little carbon dioxide gas, the byproduct of primary fermentation; Although still wines are treated to remove carbon dioxide, there are sometimes traces of the inert gas which you may notice as tiny bubbles. Leaving wine to mature in barrels for a couple of months or years gives still wine time to get rid of carbon dioxide before bottling.

Sparkling Wine

Sparkling wine is technically still wine with added sparkle. Sparkling wine is differs from still wine because of the significant amounts of carbon dioxide it contains making the wine fizzy. Champagne is the most well-known example of sparkling wine. Although Champagne is a sparkling wine, it is called Champagne because it comes from the Champagne region of France where winemakers respect the traditional method of creating and trapping the bubbles which is called Methode Champenoise. Making Champagne involves two rounds of fermentation the first takes place in the regular tank fermentation process (Charmat Method) while the second takes place in the capped stored bottles when the wine process is completed.

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Sparkling wine obtained when the wine goes through fermentation a second time has become popular worldwide, and wine makers now have many methods of trapping the carbon dioxide. Sparkling wine is always served chilled and less expensive versions are made via carbon dioxide injection.

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Fortified Wine

Fortified wines are still wines with an extra boost of alcohol - they are, thus, considered fortified usually by the addition of brandy which takes the alcohol content up between 14 to 23%. Fortified wine can be sweet or dry depending on when the alcohol was added. Fortified wine was discovered centuries ago when winemakers found that the addition of brandy allowed the wine to preserve better, thus, strengthening the wine – a bonus for manufacturers if the wine was too shipped far distances, for example, to colonies across the globe.

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Examples of Fortified Wine

Port and Sherry are two well-known fortified wines. Port is a sweet red wine from Northern Portugal. Sherry is a fortified wine made from white grapes of Andalucía, Spain. It gets its alcohol increase after fermentation. Vermouth is also a fortified wine. It is an aromatized, fortified wine flavored with various botanicals, usually used in martinis.

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Brandy

Although brandy refers to liquors distilled from fruit such as pears, cherries and plums, this popular after-dinner beverage refers to distilled grape juice. Made from a base or still wine using early grapes, it’s the distillation process that turns wine into brandy and increases the alcoholic content.

After distillation comes the aging process vital for developing good quality brandy. Leaving the liquid to mature in oak barrels at this stage also develops the color of the beverage.

Cognac, the most famous brandy in the world, is made only in the city of Cognac in south west France with white grape varieties from the appellation Cognac Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC). Making cognac involves two rounds of distillation. The first one takes place after the fresh basic grape juice is pressed and fermented naturally. The second distillation renders a base spirit called eau de vie (water of life). Before selling to the public as cognac, manufacturers must leave the eau to vie to age for at least 2 years in oak casks, in cellars the French call “Paradis.”

France’s Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC) categorizes cognac according to age and quality:

V.S. (Very Special)

V.S. Cognacs are required to have a minimum of two years storage time.

V.S.O.P. (Very Superior Old Pale), Reserve

V.S.O.P. Cognacs are those with a storage time of at least four years.

X.O. (Extra Old)

X.O. Cognac is the finest grade of Cognac, with a storage time of at least six years.

Hors d'âge

Hors d'âge is a type of Cognac that is made exclusively from Ugni Blanc grapes. Hors d’âge translates into “beyond age” which denotes the long time that the cognac spends in antique copper or oak barrels to age.

An Italian version of brandy is Grappa, which is made from the pomace of grape wine production as was invented as a way to reduce waste during vinification.

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To comply with Strict wine rules and regulations wine producers must display the type of wine on the labels on the alcoholic beverage they produce, vital information for consumers wanting a clear idea on the quality and value of the wine they are buying.