What Are the Most Popular Wines & Why

a large group cheersing with glasses of wine in a wine cave

Wine has a long and rich history that spans multiple continents, cultures and people. Wine can be the subject of great debate but the one thing everyone can agree on is that wine is delicious. The best part about wine is that it’s a drink for all seasons and all reasons – whether it be for a casual get together or a special occasion. If you’re reading this article, it’s probably because you’ve just started drinking wine, or someone offered you a glass of something great and now you want to know more.

Table of Contents

an array of white and red wine in wine glasses on a table in paso

Best Wine for Beginners

If you’re new to the world of wine, the options can be overwhelming. Where do you even start? A lot of people start their wine journey with sweeter options or white wines and Rose’s and then start exploring the reds.

White wines don’t have the aggressive tannins that some of the reds may have and sweeter wines may remind you of drinks you’re already used to drinking, such as sodas or cocktails.

When you start exploring the reds, you may think the obvious choice is a Cabernet Sauvignon since everybody raves about that variety. It’s the variety that made Napa Valley world famous, but it’s also known to be big, bold, and higher in tannin.

Big bold reds are amazing, but they can also be a shock to your tastebuds if you’re not used to drinking wine. Red wine loses tannin with age, so you may think that starting off with an aged red wine is the way to go in that case, but aged wines often lose their youthful fruit and vibrancy, so sometimes aren’t as approachable as young red wines that are lower in tannin naturally.

Given this, you may want to start with some lighter reds, such as the popular Pinot Noir, or the Pinot Noir of the Rhone Valley Grenache, both of which have thinner skins and therefore lower tannin (color and tannin in wine comes from letting the juice sit on the skins of the grapes. Tannin can also come from new oak). Other great options include fruitier Sangiovese or Zinfandel, Gamay, or the Rhone varieties Valdiguie, Counoise, and Cinsaut to name a few.

Popular Red Wines

When it comes to vineyard acres planted, the most popular red wine in the world is unsurprisingly Cabernet Sauvignon followed by Merlot. After the movie Sideways, Merlot became unpopular in the US, but the rest of the world still loves this noble Bordeaux variety.

a couple drinking a popular red wine in a room with wine barrels from floor to ceiling

Some other popular red wines include:

  • Pinot Noir – known for producing light to medium-bodied red wines with a delicate flavor, it’s popular in cool-climate regions such as Burgundy, Oregon, and parts of California.
  • Syrah/Shiraz (yes, they’re the same!) – grown in many regions including Australia, California, and the Rhone Valley, these grapes do well in warm or cool climates and are very versatile in terms of flavor and structure.
  • Malbec – some of the most popular Malbecs come from Argentina, but this versatile grape can also be found in other South American countries, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and parts of Europe (including France, Italy & Spain). It’s known for producing full-bodied red wines with blackberry & chocolate characteristics.
  • Tempranillo – the name of this variety means ‘early ripener’ and is primarily grown in Spain & Portugal. Known for producing medium to full-bodied red wines with red fruit flavors, leather, tobacco, and vanilla. Often a delicious and approachable wine.
  • Zinfandel – is primarily grown in California, though it can be found in other parts of the world, including Italy & Croatia, where it is known as Primitivo and Crljenak Kaštelanski. This grape can produce a wide range of wine styles from light and fruity to full-bodied and rich. It’s often associated with bold, fruit-forward wines that are high in alcohol.

This is just a small sample of popular red wines, but there are so many more to discover and try for yourself!

Popular White Wines

Surprisingly, the most planted white grape variety that is used for making wine is Airen! Primarily grown in Spain, it’s a variety you don’t see that often in California.

However, Chardonnay (being the second most planted white grape variety) is the most popular white wine to be enjoyed by consumers. It’s a versatile grape that can be grown in a wide range of climates and soil types and is known for producing wines that can vary greatly in style depending on where it is grown, winemaking techniques used, and what type of vessel it aged in (notably if there has been new oak, neutral oak, concrete, stainless steel, etc).

A man observing a glass of white wine in front of a steel vat

Some other popular white wines include:

  • Sauvignon Blanc – known for producing aromatic white wines, it is most commonly associated with the Loire Valley and Bordeaux regions in France, where it produces wines such as Sancerre & Pouilly-Fume or is blended with Semillon to make a Bordeaux blend. Outside of France, it is widely planted in New Zealand, Australia, Chile, South African, and the U.S. (especially California).
  • Trebbiano – widely grown in Italy, it is used to produce both dry and sweet styles of wines.
  • Riesling – primarily grown in Germany, the grape variety is highly aromatic and has high acidity, which lends itself well to both dry and sweet styles of wine.
  • Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris – grown in many wine regions around the world, this variety produces light-bodied refreshing white wines.

Why people like certain kinds of wines

Part of the beauty of wine is that everyone’s palate is different, and we each have our own personal preferences.

Some people prefer white wines, others prefer red wines – and within those categories is a range of preferences as well (big & bold, light and fruity, sweeter/drier, oaked/unoaked – you get the idea!).

The weather, your mood, the people you’re with and the food you’re eating all may influence what wine you prefer in that moment.

On top of that your genetics, upbringing, and cultural background influence your preferences.

One of the most important factors in wine preference is personal taste. Some people prefer sweet wines with lower alcohol content, while others enjoy bold red wines that are heavy in tannin and pack a punch.

In addition to personal taste, wine preferences can be shaped by social and cultural factors. For example, certain types of wine may be associated with specific occasions or social groups. Champagne, for example, is often associated with celebrations and special occasions, while red wine may be more commonly consumed at dinner parties or in casual settings.

Another factor that can influence wine preferences is the wine’s flavor profile. Wine can have a wide range of flavors, from fruity and sweet to earthy and spicy. Some people may prefer wines with a particular flavor profile, while others may enjoy exploring different flavor profiles and expanding their palate.

The region where the wine is produced can also play a role in wine preferences. Wines from certain regions may be more highly regarded than others, and some people may have a preference for wines from a specific region. For example, wine lovers may seek out wines from Napa Valley or the Burgundy region of France, knowing that they are produced in areas with ideal growing conditions and that have a reputation for producing high-quality wines.

Finally, wine preferences can be influenced by personal experiences and memories. For example, someone who spent a summer in Tuscany might develop a fondness for Chianti. Similarly, someone who has a fond memory of a special bottle of wine shared with loved ones may continue to seek out that particular wine as a way of reliving that experience.

Whether you prefer sweet, fruity wines or bold, tannic reds, there’s a wine out there for everyone – and exploring different styles and varieties can be a fun and rewarding way to expand your palate and discover new flavors and aromas. So next time you enjoy a glass of wine, take a moment to reflect on why you enjoy it – and don’t be afraid to try something new!

a woman walking down a pathway drinking a glass of wine at a paso winery

Popular Wine Types in Paso Robles

Paso Robles is the perfect wine country if you want to learn more about your own preferences. Many wine regions focus on just a few grape varieties, however, Paso Robles offers ideal conditions for growing and producing over 60 varieties.

Being the largest wine country or AVA in the state and having a wide range of micro-climates and soil types makes it a region where many grape varieties flourish.

Add a bit of the wild west spirit to the mix, and you’ll find a wine region where winemakers and vineyard owners are eager to plant and produce wines from new varieties and constantly be evolving and growing.

When it comes to popular wines, our heritage grape variety is zinfandel, our most planted variety is Cabernet Sauvignon and we’re known as the Rhone-Zone of the United States, due to our similar growing conditions to the Southern Rhone Valley, but also because Paso Robles played a big role in introducing the Rhone varieties to the U.S.

No matter what your personal wine preferences are, Paso Robles is a wine region that is a must to visit. From producing amazing GSM’s (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) and rich Cabernets to crisp Picpoul Blancs, creamy Viogniers, and a wide variety of Spanish and Italian varieties – we surely have something for everyone!

Add to the fact that we have a number of excellent breweries and the only Distillery Trail in the state, boasting over a dozen high-quality craft distilleries, you’re sure to find something perfect for whatever mood or occasion you’re looking for.

a large group cheersing with glasses of wine in a wine cave

So what are you waiting for?  

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