Grape Varietals

 

Red Wine

White Wine

Merlot
Origin: Bordeaux (France)


This is still the most popular grape variety. The merlot grape produces wines that are deep in colour and have some plum and red berry fruit flavours. They are generally easy drinking and low in tannins. The most famous merlot based wines come from Saint-Emilion in Bordeaux yet this grape has achieved success in almost all of the winegrowing regions in particular Chile.


Popular in: Chile, South Africa

Chardonnay
Origin: Burgandy (France)

Chardonnay is still the most popular white grape variety due largely to its relatively neutral flavours and the ease of cultivation in almost all of the worlds wine regions. Chardonnay’s most famous wine hails from burgundy in France, for example Chablis, Pouilly Fuissé, Macon Lugny, Puligny Montrachet. Chardonnay has a medium gold colour, modern acidity with flavours of citrus fruits and in warmer climates more tropical fruits.  The most popular chardonnay’s are aged in oak  which adds vanilla and buttery characters, however, simple unaoked versions are gaining popularity.


Popular in: Worldwide

Cabernet Sauvignon
Origin: Bordeaux (France)


Cabernet Sauvignon is the most famous of all red grape varieties and is considered to make the best red wine, most notably, the best red wines of Bordeaux. Deep in colour, full bodied with blackcurrant, bramble and earthy characters and tannins and acidity can be high which means that the very best wines have the ability to age well. Cabernet Sauvignon wines are regularly blended with Merlot or Shiraz.


Popular in: France, Australia, California

Sauvignon Blanc
Origin: Loire Valley (France)


Sauvignon Blanc vies with chardonnay as the most popular wine variety due largely to its fresh zingy gooseberry and apple fruit flavours. The famous Sauvignon Blanc wines of Sancerre in France are being rivalled by the world class Sauvignon Blanc wines of New Zealand. Sauvignon Blanc doesn’t take well to oak aging, however, some interesting examples are made in California and Bordeaux.


Popular in: France, New Zealand, Chile, South Africa.

Syrah / Shiraz
Origin: Rhone (France)


This is known as Syrah in Europe and Shiraz in the rest of the world. Syrah is a dark deep colour, a very full bodied wine that tends to have a high alcohol level, medium tannins and flavours of blackcurrant, cassis, raisins and a peppery spice.  The best wine such as “Hermitage”, “Cornas” from the Rhône, and “Grange” from Australia are super wines which can age for many decades.


Popular in: France, Australia, South Africa

Riesling
Origin: Germany


This is considered by most wine critics to be the best white grape due to its delicate characters, incredible freshness and the ability of the best wine to age for decades. Riesling is gaining popularity again with wines from New Zealand, Australia and more recently Chile, bringing Riesling to a new consumer. The best examples still come from the Mosel and Rheingau region of Germany where the style can vary from dry to sweet and light to full bodied.


Popular in: Germany, New Zealand, Australia

Pinot Noir
Origin: Burgundy (France)


While Cabernet Sauvignon produces some of the world’s best wines, Pinot Noir can produce some of the most memorable. It is a thin skinned grape and the wines tend to have a pale red colour. They are light to medium bodied and the better examples have soft jam-like red berry fruit and earthy complex characters.


Popular in: France, New Zealand, California

Pinot  Gris / Grigi o
Origin: Alsace (France), Northern Italy


Known as Pinot Grigio in Italy, is the most fashionable wine of the 21st century due to its light, fresh, spicy, character. It is an ideal wine for almost any meal or occasion.


Popular in: France, Italy, Australia

Malbec
Origin: Cahors (France)


Malbec is still allowed to be part of the Bordeaux blend but is rarely used. Today, it is most prominent as a flagship wine of Argentina whose unique climatic conditions and long ripening season allow the grapes to achieve their full potential. The wines are inky black in colour, full bodied, with dark chocolate and black fruit flavours with a peppery character.


Popular in: France, Argentina

Gewürztraminer
Origin:  Alsace (France)


Gewürztraminer is an unusual wine which is richly flavoured and is easily identified by a tropical “lychee-style” fruits. The best examples come from Alsace, New Zealand and Chile. This is the ideal wine for oriental food due to its spicy character and rich oily texture.


Popular in: France, New Zealand

Tempranillo
Origin: Spain


Tempranillo is the most important red variety in Spanish wine making and produces all the great classic Spanish wine such as Rioja and Ribera del Duero. It is often likened to Pinot Noir but tends to produce more colour. The wines vary from ruby red to dark red in colour with cherry and blackberry fruit flavours and age well in oak.


Popular in: Spain, Portugal

Chenin Blanc
Origin:  Loire (France)


Chenin Blanc is an unusual grape that can produce the most basic white wine as well as the most complex and long lived. It is most commonly seen as a simple table wine from South Africa or Southern France, however, when treated well, it can produce wines that only show their true character after 5 – 10 years in bottle.   Chenin Blanc has a naturally high acidity that can develop tropical peach and melon flavours.


Popular in: France, South Africa

 

 

More Red Wines

 

Grenache
Origin: South of France / Spain


Grenache is a “work horse” grape variety. It produces many non-descript wines and makes up the blend of many others, however, when treated carefully with reduced yields, it can produce some of the most interesting and worthwhile wines. It is medium red in colour, medium bodied with flavours of dried fruits, raspberries and plums and has a firey spicy finish. The best examples are Châteauneuf du Pape and Priorato in Spain.


Popular in: France, Spain

Carménère
Origin: Bordeaux (France)


Carménère is part of the Bordeaux blend though rarely used. It has come to prominence as the flagship wine of Chile. It is very dark in colour and flavours similar to merlot with full bodied chocolaty spicy characters.


Popular in: Chile

Sangiovese
Origin: Tuscany (Italy)


Sangiovese is Italy’s most important red grape variety and is the principle grape for the great wines of Tuscany, which include Chianti, Brunello and Vino Nobile. It is ruby red in colour, medium bodied, has prominent acidity and cherry like dark fruit flavours.


Popular in: California

Zinfandel / Primitivo
Origin: Puglia (Italy)


Zinfandel is known as primitivo in Italy where it produces simple rustic wines in Italy’s southern regions and known as zinfandel in California where it is most famous for making medium, sweet rose wines, however when treated with care, Zinandel can produce rich, full bodied, high alcohol wines with flavours of dried fruits, spice and bright red berries.


Popular in: Italy California

Nebbiolo
Origin:  Piedmont (Italy)


Nebbiolo is considered by some to be one of the best red grapes. It produces the great Italian wines of Barolo and Barbarossa which are full bodied, full of character wines, that age well, however, Nebbiolo has limited success outside of Piedmont with only a few examples worth noting from California and Australia.

 

Popular in: Italy