About Wine Grape Varieties
Barbera - Black Grape
Barbera is planted across Italy, but most widespread in the Piedmont area, where it accounts for more than 50% of wine production. Barbera produces wines that are lighter in style with deep colour, low tannins and high acidity levels.
Cabernet Franc - Black Grape
Cabernet Franc is lighter than Cabernet Sauvignon due to its thinner skin. It is principally grown for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to add bouquet and complexity to the wines. Cabernet Franc is widely planted in Bordeaux and thrives in the Loire with cooler growing conditions to accentuate the herbaceous and grassy aromas.
Cabernet Sauvignon - Black Grape
Cabernet Sauvignon is arguably the world’s most renowned grape variety for red wine, and the most widely planted. It is the most important constituent in red Bordeaux especially those wines of the Médoc, where it is often blended with Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Today this grape can be found in nearly every important wine region in the world including Australia, California and Chile where the characteristic complexity and longevity can be found in their top wines. Cabernet Sauvignon wines have the potential to age a long time due to the tannins which come from the skins, and they gain in stature if aged in oak.
Carignan - Black Grape
Carignan mostly produces wines that have high colour, acidity, and tannin, without displaying much distinct flavour or personality. Carignan is useful for adding colour, fleshy tannins and acidity to the southern French blends of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault. Although Carignan can potentially generate generously floral and balanced wine, only a few growers carefully manage vine vigour and limit crop size in order to produce these appealing, interesting, distinctive wines. As with many other varietals, older Carignan vines seem to produce wines with generally more character and less brutality.
Carmenère - Black Grape
Originally a Bordeaux variety, Carmenère is seen increasingly in Chile where it now makes some the country's most distinctive wines. Carmenère produces excellent, deep coloured and rich wines with well-rounded tannins and ripe berry fruit flavours.
Cinsault - Black Grape
The Cinsault grape produces robust wines with good colour. Its heat tolerance and productivity mean it is found mostly in the Languedoc and Southern Rhône regions of France. It is often blended with grapes such as Grenache and Carignan to add softness and bouquet.
Gamay - Black Grape
Gamay is solely responsible for the distinctive wines of Beaujolais, but also found in the Loire, and to a small extent outside France. Simple Beaujolais is best drunk young with its light, fresh, fruity and uncomplicated style, but the Crus or single village wines can age well and develop more complexity.
Grenache - Black Grape
Grenache is the most widely planted grape in Spain, where it is known as Garnacha, and the second most widely planted variety in the world. Especially important in Southern France, it is the main constituent of most Châteauneuf du Pape and Côtes du Rhône wines. In Spain it is partnered with Tempranillo in Rioja. Grenache generally produces spicy, rich, warm wines with berry flavours that are soft on the palate and high in alcohol content.
Malbec - Black Grape
Malbec is now primarily planted in Cahors in South West France and has been popular in Bordeaux blends where it was often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot. It has become the main red grape of Argentina in its own right, where it expresses a vivid blackberry fruitiness and a silky firmness not often achieved in France.
Merlot - Black Grape
Merlot is often associated with the wines of Saint Emilion and Pomerol in Bordeaux where the early maturing, plump, rounded qualities complement Cabernet Sauvignon. Merlot is now important around the world in all wine producing countries and can be found in Italy, Australia, California and South Africa amongst others.
Montepulciano - Black Grape
Montepulciano is an important red grape variety in much of central Italy. Confusingly, it has no connection with Vino Nobile di Montepulciano - a Tuscan wine region, whose wines are made from the Sangiovese grape! Montepulciano tends to ripen later and produces rich and juicy wines that deep in colour.
Nebbiolo - Black Grape
Nebbiolo is a small, thick skinned grape that is responsible for some of Italy’s finest and longest lived wines such as Barolo and Barbaresco from the Piedmont region. It is often softened by the addition of grapes such as Bonarda. The signature style of Nebbiolo grapes produces wines that are deep red in colour with exotic aromas of cherries, tar and roses.
Petit Verdot - Black Grape
Petit Verdot is one of Bordeaux's classic black grape varieties used for blending. It produces long lived wines but ripens late. When it does ripen it contributes colour, tannin and flavour to the blend. More recently it has attracted attention from New World winemakers in countries such as Australia and Chile where it ripens more reliably so can be used as a single varietal wine.
Pinot Meunier - Black Grape
Pinot Meunier is an important variety in Champagne, where its resistance to spring frosts is particularly important in its natural home the Marne Valley. It ripens well to produce a soft, fruity style that blends well with Pinot Noir. Krug include Pinot Meunier in approximately 15% of all their final blends.
Pinot Noir - Black Grape
Pinot Noir makes some of the finest wines in the world as it is an important part of the vineyards of Burgundy and Champagne. It is thin-skinned and makes a pale wine that has intense perfume and flavour. Pinot Noir is extremely sensitive to climate and notably good wines are now being produced in the cooler parts of New World vineyards, particularly in California and central Otago.
Pinotage - Black Grape
A cross between Cinsault and Pinot Noir, Pinotage is a unique South African variety which has steadily grown in popularity to become their second most widely planted red grape. Pinotage can produce long lived, rich, deep coloured wines which benefit from oak maturation.
Sangiovese - Black Grape
Sangiovese is Italy's most widely planted red grape and dominates central Italy where it produces the great wines of Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. It has flavours of bitter cherry, tobacco, spices and herbs. Sangiovese is a late ripening grape producing wines with pronounced tannins and acidity. It is beginning to be planted in the Napa Valley and McLaren Vale with much success.
Syrah (Shiraz) - Black Grape
Known as Syrah in France and Shiraz in the New World, this is one of the great grapes of the world. Responsible for the famous northern Rhône wines such as Hermitage; where the wine is rich and tannic with a good deal of fruit. It is now also grown extensively in the Southern Rhône where it is blended with Grenache and Mourvèdre to produce the great red wines of Châteauneuf du Pape and Gigondas amongst others. Shiraz is also an important grape variety in Australia where it tends to be sweeter than its French counterpart. The adaptable Shiraz grape is also being used in Australia for sparkling wines.
Tempranillo - Black Grape
Tempranillo is grown throughout Spain and is an important variety in Rioja and sometimes considered as Spain’s answer to Cabernet Sauvignon; its grapes are thick skinned and capable of making deep coloured, long lasting wines. Tempranillo-based wines tend to have a fruity, spicy character meant for drinking young. However when oak-aged it becomes rich, powerful vanilla-flavoured reds that can be extraordinarily long-lived.
Zinfandel - Black Grape
Zinfandel is a versatile grape grown mainly in California where it produces whites, rosés and big, tannic reds. These are full-bodied wines packed with ripe berry fruit and supple tannins. Most are ready for drinking within two or three years but the best will last up to ten years.
Albariño - white Grape
Albariño is a premium white grape variety originating from NorthWest Spain in the Rias Baixas area and in Northern Portugal along the Atlantic coast. The grape is noted for its distinctive aroma, very similar to that of Viognier, Gewurztraminer and Petit Manseng, suggesting apricot and peach. The wine produced is unusually light, and generally high in acidity with alcohol levels of 11.5–12.5%. Its thick skins and large number of pips can cause residual bitterness.
Aligoté - White Grape
This thin-skinned variety is grown mainly in Burgundy, but with plantings in Moldavia, Bulgaria and even California. It produces fairly tart wines of moderate alcoholic content. The best wines are produced in Burgundy where they are sometimes blended with a little Chardonnay. The best growers can produce balanced examples with nutty and citrus hints.
Chardonnay - White Grape
Chardonnay is one of the most popular grape varieties in the world, being planted almost everywhere as it is easy to cultivate and generously productive in most climates. It can be fashioned in a whole range of styles, some of the greatest styles coming from the vineyards of Chablis, Champagne and Burgundy's Côte d'Or. In Australia, Chardonnay is making popular and great value white wine. Chardonnay wines range from crisp and light to rich and weighty. Oak-ageing will add toasty vanilla flavours.
Chenin Blanc - White Grape
Chenin Blanc is a most versatile grape variety producing many of the world’s great dessert wines, sparkling wines and easy-drinking wines from the New World, especially South Africa where it has been grown for over 400 years. Chenin Blanc is regarded as the signature white wine for the Cape, where it is grown under the name Steen. In the Loire it produces high quality dry wines and luscious, sweet dessert wines. The name comes from Mount Chenin in the Touraine district of the Loire.
Colombard - White Grape
Colombard produce crisp, light, fruity wines with spring blossom fragrance and fresh apple flavours. It is often blended with other varieties such as Chardonnay in the New World. Colombard lends itself well to distillation and is the base wine for local brandies, armagnac and cognac in France.
Garganega Bianco - White Grape
Garganega is the 5th most widely planted white grape in Italy and is the main grape used in the production of Soave, reaching its peak in Soave Classico where it makes up 70-100% of the blend. Vigorous, over produced and can be bland but at its best, produces fine delicate wines.
Gewürztraminer - White Grape
The highly aromatic Gewürztraminer is grown at its best in Alsace where it can be dry or sweet. Unlike most white grape varieties Gewürztraminer is a pink skinned grape which produces a deep, gold colour often with a pink tinge. The wine has an exotic, spicy perfume with a taste of lychees and tends to be full-bodied, quite alcoholic with low acidity.
Grenache Blanc - White Grape
Grenache Blanc is a variety of white wine grape widely planted in France and Spain that is related to the red grape Grenache. It is mostly found in Rhône blends and in northeast Spain where its wines are characterised by high alcohol content and low acidity with citrus notes. If yields are controlled it can contribute flavour and length to blends.
Macabeo (or Viura) - White Grape
Macabeo, also known as Viura, is a white grape grown in the Rioja region of Spain and the Languedoc-Roussilon region of France. A generous-yielding grape, in Rioja it tends to be blended with Malvasia to produce classic white Riojas whereas in Rioja Alvesa it is blended with Tempranillo or Grenache (either oaked or unoaked) to produce high quality red Rioja. It is also used to create sparkling cava and as the base sprit in Absinthe.
Marsanne - White Grape
Marsanne is a white wine grape, most commonly found in the Northern Rhône region. It is often blended with Roussanne. The round, medium-gold to amber Marsanne berries make deep-coloured wine that is also fairly full-bodied, sometimes described as almost "waxy". Where growing conditions are right, Marsanne aromas can suggest almond paste or citrus, mixed with perfume or model airplane cement. Low acidity means Marsanne wine is best consumed young.
Melon de Bourgogne - White Grape
The Muscadet region of France is near the mouth of the Loire river. While in the 1600s this specific area was known for its red wines, cold winters killed those vines in the early 1700s and it was replanted with Melon de Bourgogne, a hardy white variety. The best known area of this region, producing 80% of the wine, is Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine. This is named for two rivers in the area. The two other regions are Muscadet des Côteaux de la Loire, and the basic Muscadet. Muscadet wine is unusual in that the grape (again, Melon de Bourgogne) is so flavourless that many producers let the wine sit on the lees all winter, hoping to absorb some extra flavour. This also gives the wine a bit of carbonization and life. Muscadet wine is very light, a bit tangy, and a small bit sparkly. It goes well with seafood and often has a light, green apple flavour.
Müller Thurgau - White Grape
Müller-Thurgau is a Riesling/Sylvaner cross that in 1990 occupied nearly one quarter of Germany’s vineyards. It is the main constituent in Liebfraumilch and other well known names like Niersteiner. In England it gives characterful wines with crisp, privet hedge aromas.
Muscat - White Grape
Muscat is a family name for approximately 200 grape varieties grown around the world, the better known ones are Muscat Blanc, Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venises and Muscat de Rivesaltes. They produce styles ranging from dry to sweet, still to sparkling and fortified.
Palomino Fino - White Grape
Palomino is the main grape variety for the production of sherry (Fino, Manzanilla, Amontillado, Oloroso and Palo Cortado). It thrives in the chalk-based soils of Cadiz in Spain where it produces large bunches of golden yellow grapes to produce a whole range of intense and aromatic sherries. It is also grown in the New World – South Africa, California and Australia - where it is fortified to make sherry-style wines.
Pinot Grigio - White Grape
Pinot Grigio, also known as Pinot Gris, is grown all over the world although its spiritual home is northern Italy where it produces light to medium bodied wines. In Alsace it is known as Tokay Pinot Gris, producing richly honeyed, dry whites and fabulous sweet wines.
Riesling - White Grape
Riesling is considered one of the greatest white wine varieties in the world, producing a range of styles from bone dry to intensely sweet. It also has the potential to age well, but all Riesling should have a vivid fruitiness and a lively balancing acidity. Although if you think of Riesling you think of Germany or Alsace, it is currently producing some stunning results in the New World vineyards of Australia and New Zealand.
Sauvignon Blanc - White Grape
Sauvignon Blanc is responsible for some of the world's most popular dry white wines and is instantly recognisable by its piercing gooseberry aroma. The finest wines come from the central Loire, Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, and New Zealand. It thrives on the gravelly soils of Bordeaux where it is blended with Sémillon to produce fresh, dry Bordeaux Blancs as well as the more prestigious Cru Classé White Graves and the great sweet wines of Sauternes.
Sauvignon Gris - White Grape
Sauvignon Gris is a rare grape variety producing a distinct white wine variety that has existed for well over one hundred years. Long cultivated in the Bordeaux region, it wasn't replanted after phylloxera because it yielded a small crop so was less economical. However, it was revived in the 1980's by the ITV (Institut Technique du Vin) in Bordeaux which made it again available to châteaux owners. Thought to be an older version of the Sauvignon Blanc varietal, Sauvignon Gris has a more pinkish hue to its skin and produces fruit with a much higher sugar level contributing to greater aromatics and a more rich and round feel to the wines.
Sémillon - White Grape
Sémillon is the mainstay of white Bordeaux and is blended with Sauvignon Blanc to form the dry whites Graves as well as the great dessert wines of Sauternes. In Bordeaux it is known for its round, lanoliney quality giving a lovely golden colour with a rich, lemon character. It has become an iconic, well-established grape variety in the New World, especially Australia's Hunter Valley where it produces long-lived dry whites that become increasingly honeyed and toasty with age.
Siria - White Grape
Siria (or Roupeiro) is a pale-skinned grape variety grown throughout Portugal, under a multitude of regional guises. It is mostly produced in inland areas, from Tras-os-Montes in the north, leading further south past the Douro where it is known as Codega. Siria is thought to be best expressed in the elevated sites around Pinhel in the Beiras region, but it also produces very good wines in the southern Alentejo DOC, where it is known as Roupeiro and Alva. Siria wines are typically not suited to cellaring. Premature oxidation is a common problem, and the wines are best when consumed upon release. However, at their best, wines exhibit citrus and stonefruit flavours with a pleasing aromatic lift.
Sylvaner - White Grape
Widely planted in Germany, where it is known as Silvaner, and Alsace, it is a prolific and early maturing white variety. The best results are being seen in Franken.
Torrontes - White Grape
The wines made from the Torrontés grape have been, for many years, the calling-card of the Argentine Wine Producers and have received many international awards. As it has progressed in the international market, Torrentés has become the characteristic white wine grape of Argentina producing fresh, aromatic white wines. Torrontés is the most distinctive of all Argentine wines, including both white and red, because Argentina is the only country to produce it. It is considered a wholly Argentine variety.
Ugni Blanc - White Grape
A high yielding grape variety originating in the Eastern Mediterranean where it is known as Trebbiano. Ugni Blanc in France, it is the second most widely planted grape variety in the world. Used a major component in the distillation of Armagnac and Cognac that benefit from its high acidity and subtle flavours.
Verdelho - White Grape
Verdelho is mainly used to produce medium-sweet white wines, but modern winemaking techniques have unlocked some surprising characters from this grape. The resulting wines are aromatic, herbaceous revealing laurel leaf and fresh hay and citrus. They have a full middle palate and with good oak treatment, develop nutty characteristics normally only found in rich Chardonnays. Originally from the island of Madeira where it is used to make medium-sweet, fortified wine, it is also grown in the Douro Valley in Portugal where it is an important part of white port.
Viognier - White Grape
Viognier originates in the northern Rhône and is important for its rarity. Used in fine wines such as Condrieu it has distinctive peach and honeysuckle aromas. Plantings are also beginning to grow with some success in other areas of France such as southern Rhône, the Languedoc and Australia which produce richly fragrant wines redolent of apricots and peaches that sell at a fraction of the price.