Grape guide 

grapes abruzzo.jpg

With over 1,300 grape varieties world wide it can be hard to choose. From traditional, noble varieties to something completely new it is best to know the grapes characteristics to truly enjoy your wine. 


Here is a key selection for you to explore.

Want to learn more? Some varieties have more detailed information click on the name to find out more.

White Grapes 

 

Airén

Potentially the worlds' most planted grape, grown mainly in central Spain hence why relatively unknown. A neutral style, with acidity being the main feature most go into the production of brandy.  

 

Albariño

The main variety in Rias Baixas. It produces wines with pure varietal flavour of citrus and stone fruits, creating refreshing and elegant wines. Its thick skin helps it avoid the fungal diseases often seen in this area of Spain.

Aligoté

Hiding in the shadow of Chardonnay this grape used to be widely planted in Burgundy

Alvarinho

Aka Albariño

Artino

A Portuguese classic found in the majority of regions due to its versatility and refreshing acidity. The wines often possess a mineral character balanced with flavours of apples, lemons and limes. It is also added to blends to increase the wines overall acidity, predominately in the hotter Portuguese region Alentejo. Its key DOC is Bucelas in Lisboa. This area is protected from the windy coast whilst still having an influence from the Tejo river.

Assyrtiko

This grape is produced in Santorini and produces high acid and citrus wines. The novel feature often associated with this grape is how they are grown in a basket like structure to protect them from the sea winds.

 

Bacchus

Named after the God if wine this variety suits the UK

Chardonnay

Without question one of the most famous grapes in the world, with each individual having their own opinion. This grape allows the wine makers influence as its neutral style lends itself brilliantly to a multitude of techniques. Making dry to sweet to even sparkling wines this versatile grape can be grown in almost every wine making region in the world.

 

Chenin Blanc

Producing a huge variety in styles of wine, this versatile grape produces some of the wines finest sweet wines and excellent dry examples as well as some sparkling examples. Growing very well in the Loire, South Africa and California. Its high in acid and ability to age well makes it a great all rounder.

 

Colombard

Producing mainly inexpensive examples of crisp and fruity wine its rather neutral character rarely stands out but still widely planted in California, South Africa and in some areas of France.

 

Cortese

Best know for its starring role in Gavi, Piemonte Italy. It's crisp, refreshing expressing mostly citrus characteristics.

 

Fiano

A vine mainly grown in Italy producing age worthy wines. It's a very aromatic variety that can show honey notes and nutty tones.

 

Fernão Pires

One of the most planted Portuguese white varieties

 

Furmint

Known mainly for its role in making Tokaji, Hungary’s sweet wine that has been effected by Nobel rot causing the grapes to shrivel concentrating the sugar, acidity and flavours.

Aka. Sipon

 

Garganega

Most famous for its staring role in Soave where it produces citrus and nutnotes that can both be enjoyed young or the best wines can age well.

Aka. Grecanico in Sicily

 

Gewürztraminer

This is an interesting grape the skins are pink in colour rather than the usual green skins, this give a deep golden colour which can be easily spotted and is often a give away of what’s to come! The aromas are tropical and aromatic, with rose, lychees and melon often seen. A low acidity and a sometimes oily texture can also be an indicator of this grape.

 

Glera

The grape used in the production of Prosecco, a sparkling wine its shows fruity

characteristics, with high acidity.

 

Grechetto

A grape known in Umbria, Italy producing citrus, full bodied, tangy wines.

 

Greco

Used in Campania its known for its pungent aromatics.

 

Grüner Veltiner

When people think of Austrian wine this is the grape that comes to mind. It produces refreshing, citrus wines with an obvious notes of white pepper. This combination makes unusual wines, pure of varietal flavour.

 

Hanepoot

Aka. Muscat of Alexandria in South Africa

 

Hárslevelü

A grape used in the production of Tokaji, a sweet wine from Hungary.

 

Italian Riesling

Aka Welshriesling

 

Johannisberg

See Sylvaner

 

Laski Rizling

See Welschrieling

 

Loureiro

Grown in Portugal and Spain it can produce crisp, dry wines with low alcohol. Its best know for its role in Vinho Verde.

 

Macabeo

Common in Spain and used in white Rioja (known as Viura). When fully ripe it has a floral, blossom aroma but quickly looses its acid levels when left on the vine. It is also widely used in the production of Cava a Spanish sparkling wine.

Aka. Viura, Maccabeo, Maccabeu

 

Malvasia

Mostly used in the production of madeira (a fortified wine). Deep in colour, and susceptible to oxidation, flavours of dried fruit and orange are often seen.  

 

Marsanne

Producing full bodied wines with nutty flavours. Thought to of originated from the Rhone in France it is often blended with other permitted white grapes from this area.

 

Minutolo

Often confused with Fiano as it was originally called Fiano Aromatico this grape from Puglia produces both dry and sparkling styles.  

 

Müller-Thurgau

This white grape can produce great wines to rather average bottles. At high yields the acidity levels can be very low and the character neutral, but better early ripening years can have a floral bouquet.

 

Muscadelle

One of the whites used in Bordeaux, and more commonly in Bergerac producing fruity wines to be drunk young or it can be used in the production of sweet wines.

 

Muscat

This is a family of grapes rather than an individual variety.  A grape that has aromas of grape (an uncommon flavour to be obviously present in wine!)

 

Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains

One of the best known members of the Muscat family used in making Asti- A sparkling wine from Piemonte also used for many sweet wines in France. Makes a fortified wine called Rutherglen in Australia.

 

Muscat of Alexandria

Used mainly in the production of Spainish fortified wines that can range from off dry to very sweet and tend to have a jammy orange flavour.

Aka Moscatel Gordo, Zibibbo

 

Olaszrizling

See Welshrieslinh

 

Palomino

This is a key grape in the production of sherry, therefore in the hot conditions of southern Spain is good at withstanding drought. It produces neutral base wines with low acidity, low sugar levels and is prone to oxidation.

 

Parellada

Used in the production of Cava in Spain, due to its high acidity.

 

Passerina

An Italian grape used predominately in Abruzzo and Marche. It can be used in a range of  styles but typically creates fresh, fruity wines. 

 

Pecorino

An elegant wine, with floral and fruit notes mainly found in the Abruzzo and Marche regions in Italy.  

 

Pedro Ximenez

Often used in the production of sweet sherry as its thin skins easily dry out concentrating the sugar, acid and flavours in the grape.

Aka.PX

 

Petit Manseng

A small yielding wine with thick skins allow the berries to shrink whilst remaining full of flavour, used mainly for sweet wines.

 

Picolit

A grape used within Friuli- Venezia Giulia producing passito style sweet wines. It is also occasionally used as a blending partner in dry white wines. 

Aka Piccolit, Piccolito

 

Pinot Blanc

A mutation of Pinot Grigio it is used mainly as a blending wine. The grapes tend to be low in acidity to best drunk young. The better examples of this grape can show complexity and smokey notes.

 

Pinot Gris/ Pinot Grigio

The more commonly used named for this grape is the Italian term Pinot Grigio, however in France it is referred to as Pinot Gris. The two names are now more commonly used to refer to the style of the wine. Pinot Grigio produces a dry, crisp, citrus style of wine moving to stone fruits as the ripeness increases. Whereas Gris is focused more on fleshy, ripe characteristics, notes of honey can sometimes be seen. However as these are the same grape variety a cross over can be seen.

Aka. Pinot Beaurot

 

Piquepoul

High acid and relatively full body are the key characteristics of this grape.

 

Riesling

Grown all around world but irrefutably its home lies in Germany. The capability to produce a wide range of styles with relatively low alcohol makes it extremely versatile. Flavours range from citrus (lemon), to stone fruits (peach, nectarine) and can even develop into tropical notes. One of the most famous characteristics is its petrol like aromas that are particularly noticeable in wines from Clare valley Australia.

 

Roussanne

The quality of this grape is very varied and grown mainly in the Northern Rhone. Has good aging potential when aged in oak barrels.

Aka. Bergeron

 

Sacy

Mainly grown in France, this early ripening grape is low in acidity, alcohol and colour.

 

Sauvignon Blanc

An extremely well know grape making wines all over the world. Depending on the wine making techniques used it can be very varied in style from fresh, crisp and refreshing to an oaked style often referred to as fume Blanc. The flavours depend on where its grown with New Zealand making a pungent tropical fruit, gooseberry and green pepper style. In France the wines tend to be more elegant and refined, with high acidity and vegetal notes.  

 

Sauvignon Gris

This darker skinned grape is increasing in popularity as it produces complex, smokey wines.

 

Savagnin

Used mainly in the production of sherry, it also has great aging ability.

 

Semillon

The grape has the ability to be made in a variety of style from dry to sweet noble rotted wines. Permitted in Bordeaux it adds ageing potential, body and strong, complex flavours to the blend.

 

Sylvaner

At its lower end it produces neutral styles of dry white wine but when produced in low yields and at good quality it can produce fruity dry wines.

Aka. Johannasberg in Switzerland, Silvaner

 

Timorasso

An almost extinct variety found in Piemonte, Italy.

 

Torrontes

An Argentina grape producing full bodied wines with floral, herb notes and a crisp, refreshing acidity.

           

Trebbiano

An Italian variety planted all around central to southern Italy. It produces light bodied, crisp wines. Also planted in other European countries such as Bulgaria and grown in vast quantities in South America.

Aka Ugni Blanc, Talia.

 

Treixadura

Low in acidity, low in flavour and aroma intensity it is most commonly used in blended wines.

Aka Trajadura.

 

Ugni Blanc

See trebbiano, this is the French name for the same grape however this is more commonly used in the production of Cognac and Armagnac.

 

Verdejo

Grown in Rueda, Spain loving high altitudes. Fresh, aromatic aromas pairs well with Sauvignon Blanc.

 

Verdelho

Produces the driest style of Madeira in Portugal. Also found in Australia where it produces full bodied, lemon flavoured wines.

 

Verdicchio

Best known for its alternative bottle shape. Grown in the Marche region in Italy it produces wines with high acidity and citrus notes.

 

Verduzzo

The wine produced from this grape tend to be sweet with honey characteristics, grown in the north of Italy.

 

Vernaccia

Producing full flavoured wines, with crisp acidity and citrus fruits, nutty aromas are also common.

 

Vidal

A hybrid grape used in the production of icewine in Canada

 

Viognier

This variety produces famous wines from Condrieu in the Northern Rhone. Flavours of peach, honeysuckle, blossom and apricots are often seen and the wines can easily be described as fruity. Full bodied and often high in alcohol.

 

Viosinho

Found within the Douro, Portugal it is mainly blended in the production of white port.

 

Vital

A very Portuguese variety with almost no examples being found outside the country. It is typically used in blended white wines and is relatively neutral in style.

 

Viura

See Macabeo

 

Welshriesling

Mainly used in the production sweet Nobel rot wines.

Aka Laski Rizling in Slovenia, Italian Riesling, Olaszrizling in Hungary  

 

Xarel-lo

Mainly used in the production of Cava in Catalonia, Spain. When used in this blend it adds intense aromas which can sometimes have hints of rubber.

Black Grapes 

 

Agiorgitiko

A Greek variety with the most famous being produced in the Nemea PDO

 

Baga

A Portuguese grape grown in the North of the country producing wines with high tannin, acidity and deep colour

 

Barbera

The most famous area for producing this grape is Piemonte N.W Italy where is makes Barbera d’Asti DOCG and Barbera d’Alba, the first being the most recognised and best. It’s a late ripening grape, high acidity but with a range for both tannin and colour depending on weather and wine making style. Common characteristics are cherry and plum flavours.

 

Blaufrankisch

Central European vine producing lively, fruity and sometimes peppery wines. Best examples are oak aged or blended with Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon.

Aka. Lemberger (in Washington state) Limberger (in Germany), Franconia (in Friuli), Game (in Bulgaria), Kekfrankos (in Hungary) and Frankovka (in Solvakia and Vojvodina)

 

Bonarda

A confusing variety that is actually a number of different grapes depending on the country you are in. It has big fruity flavours with relatively low tannin and high acidity.  

 

Cabernet Franc

Sometimes described as a more feminine Cabernet Sauvignon due to the subtler fragrance and more delicate youth. The predecessor of C.S with Sauvignon Blanc. In cooler years it's particularly great as it tends to ripen around a week earlier than C.S. Often the two are grown together, sometimes as an insurance policy but often to soften the C.S grape.  

 

Cabernet Sauvignon

The worlds' most famous red wine grape. Descendant of Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc. Planted in warmer regions as tends to ripen later. Powerful aromas of blackcurrant, and if matured in new oak, aromas of cedar and tobacco can be seen. In youth deep purple in colour, ages well. The grapes are small but thick skinned-high ratio of colour matter and tannins to juice.  

 

Carignan

This late ripening, high yielding grape likes warm climates but is commonly affected by rot. It has high acidity, tannins and often undergoes a carbonic maceration (a wine making technique focusing on extraction flavour without tannin).

Aka Mazuelo, Carignane, Carignano, Carinena, Samso

 

Carménère

Historically a Bordeaux variety now commonly found in Chile where is was long mistaken for Merlot.

Aka. Cabernet Gernischt (in China, however many believe it may have been Cabernet Franc.)

 

Castelão

Also known as Periguirta this red grape is native to Portugal. It is grown throughout Portugal but is more common in the south. It grows best in the warmer climates on dry, sandy soils. It can produce good wines with layers of complexity and high levels of tannin, acidity and fruit intensity when the grapes are from older, lower yielding vines.

 

Cinsault

Light skins and soft perfume make it particularly suitable for roses and fruity, early drinking reds.  Widely planted in Southern France and Corsica (but also N. Africa, Lebanon, Israel and S. Africa due to being drought resistant). Easily picked by a machine. Often added to wines to improve perfume.

Aka. Ottavianello in S. Italy

 

Charbono

An uncommon variety identical to the Argentinan grape Bonarda grown in California especially in Napa valley (although its far from the dominate grape!)

 

Corvina

The best known area using this grape is Valpolicella Italy, producing red fruity style of wine. Its best quality lies in its ability to make passito wines, these are from grapes that have been picked and then dried concentrating the flavours, acidity and sugars.

 

Croatina

A late ripening, high yielding juicy wine with bite mainly in Lombardy.

 

Dolcetto

The most famous location for this grape is Piemonte in N.W Italy. Where it produces Dolcetto d’Alba DOC. The grape has flavours of dried herbs and cherry with both drinking young and aging potential.

 

Dornfelder

This is a crossing from Germany, most famous in Pfalz and Rheinhessen. A high yielding, easy to grow grape.

 

Gamay

Beaujolais depends entirely on this grape. Beaujolais Nouveau (race). It ripens early, relatively high in acidity and can be both light in colour and tannin so drinks well young and slightly cool. Its strong hold is Beaujolais but also grown in the Macconnais.

 

Graciano

This is a grape variety that is rarely seen outside of Rioja where it adds perfume to the blend.

Aka Morrastel, Graciana and Tinta Miuda  

 

Grenache

Another variety known commonly by two names, Grenache and the Spanish name Garnacha. This grape can be planted all over the world as long as it receives its required warm weather and lots of sunshine. The unusual characteristic of this heat loving grape is its thin skins, a feature often seen in cooler climate varieties. This allows it to make pale rose wines common in Navarra. The grape is commonly blended and adds alcohol, body and red fruit flavours, but is low in acidity and tannin.

Aka. Garnacha

 

Grolleau

This is most commonly known for the Rosé d’Anjou in the Loire Valley France. It's high yielding and often blended with better known grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.

 

Malbec

Originally associated with S.W. France but now more commonly with S. America. Often deeply coloured, juicy, spicy and velvety texture. Argentinian often high alcohol and fruit.

Aka. Cot (commonly planted in France under this name in France until 1956 where a severe winter killed many of the vines). Auxerrois, Pressac (Malbec on Bordeaux’s right bank)

 

Montepulciano

A variety that is often confused with the more famed Tuscan town.

Mazuelo

See Carignan

 

Merlot

Conventionally makes lush, plummy, velvety wines that can often be used to soften Cabernet. Homeland is in Bordeaux with key regions producing very different wines. Noticeably lower tannins and acidity thus Cabernet making it more voluptuous and fruity. Ages very well. The vines ripen earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon but are less rot resistant. Planted world wide, very common in France  

 

Mourvedre

This late ripening, sun loving grape produces high in tannins and bursting with black fruits. A deep purple colour is often seen when the wine is young, that changes with age adding aromas of game and meat. It’s the principle grape variety of Bandol, Provence France.

Aka. Mataro, Monastrell  

 

Nebbiolo

Good Nebbiolo is very hard to find outside of its home in N.W Italy - Piemonte, it is still very tricky to grow its heartland is the tiny Barolo region, the best vines are planted on S.W facing slops at altitude of 250-450m as it needs maximum sunshine for the late ripening grapes (but early ripening flowers). It also grows in other regions on N. Italy but they are often less good examples. It's also extremely sensitive to soil. It's one of the few grapes that can be identified by its colour- brick orange tinge at the rim and blackish ruby in colour. Its perfume is intensely aromatic, roses, autumn undergrowth, wood smoke, violets and sometimes tar. High acid and tannins.

Aka. Spanna the Valtellina name

 

Petit Verdot

Late ripening in the classic Bordeaux blend. Warm years can have a peppery spice. Grows well in New world regions and can often be seen in single varietal wines in countries like Argentina, USA or Australia.

 

Pinotage

South Africa’s cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut. Produces vibrantly fruity wines, often with a heavy oak influence.  

Aka. Hermitage in S. Africa.

 

Pinot Noir

A relatively early ripener, suits cooler to medium climates due to needing time to develop the unique characteristics. Thin skinned, makes light wines but can be extremely difficult to grow as often affected by rot. The greatest Pinot Noir is the greatest red Burgundy. Flavours include raspberries, strawberries, cherries, violets and with time game, liquorice and autumnal undergrowth can appear.

The parent to many other grape varieties (Gamay, Chardonnay, Melon deBourgogne)   

Aka. Spatburgunder (Germany) Blauburgunder (Austrian and Swiss German name)

 

Ramisco:

With high tannins and acidity, this is a grape best destined to age rather than drink young. It is really only found in the small Portuguese DOC Colares where it is hit hard with poor weather and often rot. The notable attraction to the variety and the area is the fact the vines are not grafted onto American rootstocks. This is due to the area being phylloxera free as the soil is mainly sandy

 

Sangiovese

A famous Italian grape most known for its starring role in Chianti. It has the potential to make both terrible and brilliant wines ranging from confected sweets to cherry, plum leather and tobacco. Due to the high acidity and tannins the use of oak is very common and actually part of the law in Chianti DOCG.

Aka. Nielluccio

 

St Laurent

An Austrian variety descended from Pinot Noir commonly oak aged and blended.

Aka Vavrinecke

 

Syrah

Also commonly referred to as Shiraz as anyone from Australia will remind you. This grape is key in the Northern Rhone producing the finest wines of Hermitage and Cote-Rotie. The ability to grow in a wine range of countries and climates mean that Syrah can show a wide range of variety, but the characteristic note that will be seen in all of these grapes is black pepper. It is commonly blended with other varieties such as Grenache and Mouvedre.

 

Tannat

A very distinctive tannic variety known as the main ingredient in Madrian but also grown in other French regions. They are naturally astringent due to thick berry skins.

Aka. Harriague (in Uruguay)

 

Tempranillo

This grape is best known for its starring role in Rioja Spain. Its has savoury flavours (rather than fresh ripe fruits) and great aging potential, showing notes of leather, tobacco. It is often blended with other grapes like in Rioja where Grenache, Graciano and Mazuelo are its partners.

Aka. Tinta Roriz in Portugal

 

Tinta Amerla

See Trincaderia

 

Tinta Barroca

A grape used in the production of port in Portugal

 

Tinto Cao

A grape used in the production of port in Portugal

 

Touriga Franca

A grape used in the production of port in Portugal

 

Touriga National

The most famous variety used in the production of port. High tannin, acid and deeply coloured wines. Its also grown in Spain, USA, Australia and South Africa.

 

Trincaderia

Depending on whether you are in the Douro Valley (Tinta Amerla) or the rest of Portugal (Trincaderia) the grape goes under two names. It is planted throughout Portugal and can produce a complex, fruity style of wine when the grape reaches full ripeness. It grows best in the sunnier locations without the threat of rain as it is prone to rot.

 

Valdiguie

Prolific vine originally from the S.W France also known as Napa Gamay

 

Xinomavro

The grape that makes the Naoussa PDO wine in northern Greece. High tannin, acidity and fresh fruit flavours.

 

Zinfandel

Often regarded with cheap, pink, sweet rose from the USA, but this isn’t always the case. An uneven ripening grape that causes many issues for the growers. The wines burst with red berries and red fruits. Old vines tend to produce the best and most complex wines.

Aka Primitivo in Italy