Wine Grape Varieties - What You Need to Know

When it comes to wine, one of the most important factors that contribute to its taste, aroma, and overall quality is the grape variety used. There are hundreds of different grape varieties that are used to make wine, each with its own unique set of characteristics and flavor profiles.

In this article, we will take a closer look at some of the most popular grape varieties used in wine production, including red wine grape varieties, white wine grape varieties, and champagne grape varieties. As well as some very specific grape varieties like Glera, Xarel and Rondo. 

We will also look at grape varieties from different regions like California, Italy and Australia. 

How Many Wine Grape Varieties Are There?

There are thousands of different grape varieties that are grown around the world, but only a few 100 that are used to make wine. There are new ones being discovered and developed every year. 

What Grape Varieties Are Used to Make Wine?

The grape varieties that are used to make wine are chosen based on their ability to produce high-quality grapes that are suitable for wine production. These grape varieties are typically characterized by their thick skin, high sugar content, and high acidity levels. Some of the most popular grape varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Riesling.

Red Wine Grape Varieties

Grape Varieties Red

Some of the most popular red wine grape varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Syrah. These grape varieties are known for their rich, full-bodied flavors and high tannin levels. They are often used to make red wines that are aged for several years before being consumed.

Cabernet Sauvignon Grape Varieties

Cabernet Sauvignon is known for its dark, rich flavors and high tannin levels. It is often used to make full-bodied wines with a strong structure.

Merlot Grape Varieties

Merlot is known for its soft, round flavors and low tannin levels. It is often used to make medium-bodied wines that are easy to drink.

Pinot Noir Grape Varieties

Pinot Noir is known for its delicate, nuanced flavors and low tannin levels. It is often used to make light-bodied wines that are perfect for sipping.

Syrah Noir Grape Varieties

Syrah is known for its rich, spicy flavors and high tannin levels. It is often used to make full-bodied wines with a strong structure.

White Wine Grape Varieties

Grape Varieties - White

Some of the most popular white wine grape varieties include Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Grigio. These grape varieties are known for their crisp, refreshing flavors and high acidity levels. They are often used to make white wines that are consumed young.

Chardonnay Grape Varieties

Chardonnay is known for its rich, buttery flavors and high acidity levels. It is often used to make full-bodied wines with a strong structure.

Riesling Grape Varieties

Riesling is known for its crisp, refreshing flavors and high acidity levels. It is often used to make light-bodied wines that are perfect for sipping.

Sauvignon Blanc Grape Varieties

Sauvignon Blanc is known for its crisp, grassy flavors and high acidity levels. It is often used to make light-bodied wines that are perfect for sipping.

Pinot Grigio Grape Varieties

Pinot Grigio is known for its crisp, refreshing flavors and high acidity levels. It is often used to make light-bodied wines that are perfect for sipping.

Champagne Grape Varieties

The most popular grape varieties used in the production of champagne include Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. These grape varieties are known for their high acidity levels and ability to produce high-quality sparkling wines

Glera Grape Variety

Glera is a white grape variety that is most commonly associated with Prosecco, a sparkling wine from Italy's Veneto region. The grape is known for its high acidity and delicate floral and fruit flavors, including notes of green apple and peach. Glera grapes are typically harvested early, before they reach full ripeness, to preserve their acidity and freshness.

Xarel-lo Grape Variety

Xarel-lo is a white grape variety that is most commonly associated with Cava, a sparkling wine from Spain. The grape is known for its high acidity and complex flavors, including notes of green apple, lemon, and nuts. Xarel-lo grapes are typically harvested late, after they have reached full ripeness, to develop their full flavor profile.

Varieties by Popular Regions

There are several regions that well known for their wine production.  We review a few, but that is not to say that wines from other regions can't be quality wine options.

Australian Grape Varieties

Australia Grape Varieties

Australia is home to a diverse range of wine grape varieties, including Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay.

Australian Shiraz is known for its rich, full-bodied style and flavors of dark fruit, spice, and pepper.

Australian Cabernet Sauvignon, on the other hand, is known for its firm tannins and flavors of dark fruit, cassis, and cedar. Chardonnay is a versatile grape variety that can produce a wide range of styles, from crisp and mineral-driven to rich and buttery.

Grape Varieties in Italy

Italy is home to a wide variety of wine grape varieties, including Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, and Pinot Grigio. Sangiovese is a red grape variety that is most commonly associated with Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino, and is known for its bright acidity and flavors of red fruit and spice.

Nebbiolo, on the other hand, is a red grape variety that is most commonly associated with Barolo and Barbaresco, and is known for its firm tannins and complex flavors of dark fruit, tar, and truffle.

Pinot Grigio is a white grape variety that is most commonly associated with the northeastern region of Italy and is known for its crisp acidity and flavors of green apple and lemon.

French Wine Grape Varieties

France is home to some of the world's most famous wine grape varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay.

French Cabernet Sauvignon is known for its firm tannins and flavors of dark fruit, cassis, and cedar.

Merlot, on the other hand, is known for its soft tannins and flavors of dark fruit and plum.

French Chardonnay is known for its rich, buttery style and flavors of apple and citrus.

California Grape Varieties

California Grape Varieties

California is home to a wide variety of wine grape varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Zinfandel.

California Cabernet Sauvignon is known for its rich, full-bodied style and flavors of dark fruit, cassis, and cedar.

Chardonnay is a versatile grape variety that can produce a wide range of styles, from crisp and mineral-driven to rich and buttery.

Zinfandel is a red grape variety that is known for its high alcohol content and flavors of dark fruit, spice, and pepper.

California is also known for its unique growing regions, such as Napa Valley and Sonoma County, which are renowned for producing high-quality wines from specific grape varieties.

Misc Grape Varieties

We've covered all types of grape varieties from different types to different regions.  We have couple that were worth mentioning.

Rondo Grape Variety

Rondo is a red grape variety that is relatively new and it's grown in Germany. It's a cross between two red grape varieties, Dornfelder and a Pinot Meunier.

Rondo grapes produce a medium-bodied wine with a good balance of tannins and acidity. The wine has a dark red color and a complex aroma of red fruits and spice. The wine is versatile, it can be enjoyed young or aged, and it pairs well with a variety of foods.

Grape Variety Authorized for Bordeaux

For you New York Times crossword enthusiast we figured we would add this to the list as it comes up as a clue quite often.  

Bordeaux is one of the most famous wine regions in the world, known for its high-quality red and white wines. The most commonly used grape varieties for red Bordeaux wines are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. These grape varieties are known for their firm tannins, complex flavors, and aging potential. White Bordeaux wines are typically made from the grape varieties Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. These grape varieties are known for their high acidity and flavors of citrus and tropical fruits.

Grape Variety Flavor Profiles

Different grape varieties have distinct flavor profiles that are influenced by factors such as terroir, climate, and winemaking techniques. For example, Pinot Noir grapes are known for their delicate, nuanced flavors of red fruit, floral notes, and earthy undertones.

Shiraz grapes, on the other hand, are known for their rich, full-bodied style and flavors of dark fruit, spice, and pepper.

Understanding the flavor profiles of different grape varieties can help you identify the specific flavors and aromas that you enjoy in wine and make more informed purchasing decisions.

What Type of Grapes are Used to Make Popular Wines?

Many popular wines are made from specific grape varieties. For example, Champagne is typically made from the grape varieties Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier.

Pinot Noir grapes are used to make red Burgundy wine and Pinot Grigio grapes are used to make white wine from the region of Veneto in Italy.

Chardonnay grapes are used to make white wine from the region of Chablis in France and Sauvignon Blanc grapes are used to make white wine from the region of Sancerre in France.

Grape Varieties Conclusion

Understanding the grape varieties used to make popular wines can help you appreciate the nuances of different wines and make more informed purchasing decisions. 

Each grape variety has its unique characteristics and flavor profiles, influenced by factors such as terroir, climate, and winemaking techniques. Whether you prefer red or white wines, sparkling or still wines, there is a grape variety that will suit your taste. 

 

Photo Credits:

Photo by David Köhler on Unsplash  

Photo by Manuel Venturini on Unsplash

Photo by Eva Fan on Unsplash

Photo by Adele Payman on Unsplash

Shop All