One of the most important aspects in establishing the wine's flavor is the grape variety.
Understanding the major characteristics between the most commonly used grapes in the winemaking process is critical in giving a guide for a rewarding wine journey.
One of the significant dark grape varieties around the world, Cabernet Franc is essentially grown for mixing with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to produce Bordeaux. Lighter than Cabernet Sauvignon, it is a shiny, light red wine that adds a peppery fragrance to more strong mixes, as well as notes of tobacco, raspberry, chime pepper, cassis, and violets.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the most frequently cultivated wine grape variety in the world, thanks to an accidental cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc in 17th century southwest France. In cooler areas, it creates wines with blackcurrant, green bell pepper, mint, and cedar flavors. In mild climes, blackcurrant, black cherry, and black olive notes can be found in the wine, although in really hot climates, the current flavors can turn 'jammy.'
Chile supplies the majority of Carménère wines available today, and it is a member of the Cabernet family. Carménère is one of Bordeaux's original six red grapes, and as the Chilean wine industry grows, more research is being done on the grape's potential as a blending grape, particularly with Cabernet Sauvignon.
Gewürztraminer is a pink-to-red skinned aromatic white wine grape variety. It thrives in cooler areas, producing wines that are typically off-dry and have a lychee bouquet. It goes well with cheese and fatty, meaty game.
Chardonnay is a green-skinned white wine grape variety that is a key component of many sparkling wines around the world, including Champagne.
The grape itself is quite neutral, with oak and terroir influencing its flavors (the landscape and geology in which it is grown). A medium to light body with green plum, apple, and pear flavors is produced in cool areas. Warmer climates produce more citrus, peach, and melon flavors, while hotter climates provide fig and tropical fruit flavors.
Grenache is one of the most extensively planted red wine grape varieties in the world, growing in hot, dry climates such as those found in Spain, Sardinia, the south of France, Australia, and California's San Joaquin Valley. It produces a wine with a high alcohol percentage and raspberry and strawberry flavors, as well as a slight white pepper spice note.
Malbec is primarily a red wine grape variety planted in South West France, but it is also grown all over the world as an Argentine varietal wine. It ripens in the middle of the season and can give claret blends a deep color, plenty of tannin, and a plum-like flavor.
Dessert wines from Austria, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, and Serbia, as well as dry wines from Alsace and Hungary, are made from this white wine grape variety. Muscat Ottonel is thought to be a hybrid of Chasselas and Muscat de Saumur, and was first planted in Alsace by Loire grower Moreau-Robert in 1852.
Merlot is said to be derived from merle, the French word for blackbird. Made across the globe, there are two primary kinds of Merlot wine. Full-bodied, high-alcohol, inky purple wines with strong plum and blackberry fruit are produced by the late-harvested 'International style.'
Early harvesting to preserve acidity results in more medium-bodied wines with modest alcohol levels, red fruit flavors, and a vegetal touch in the traditional 'Bordeaux style' of Merlot.
Pinotage, South Africa's signature red wine grape variety, was developed in 1925 as a hybrid between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut (known in South Africa as 'Hermitage' at the time, thus the name). It makes deep red varietal wines with smokey, bramble, and earthy flavors, as well as notes of banana and tropical fruit. Pinotage is frequently mixed, fortified, and even produced into red sparkling wine.
Nebbiolo is an Italian red wine grape type that yields light-colored red wines that can be quite tannic with smells of tar and roses. Its name comes from the Italian word nebbia, which means "fog."
Violets, tar, wild herbs, cherries, raspberries, truffles, tobacco, and prunes are some of the smells and flavors that mature wines produce. To blend the tannins with other characteristics, Nebbiolo wines can take years to age.
Pinot Noir grapes are produced in cooler areas all over the world, but especially in the Burgundy region of France. Despite being difficult to grow and develop into wine, Pinot Noir is also utilized to produce the Italian wine Franciacorta. Pinot noir wines contain red fruit scents of cherries, raspberries, and strawberries when they are fresh. Pinot noir can develop more vegetal and 'barnyard' smells as it ages, adding to its depth.
Pinot Grigio / Pinot Gris
This white wine grape variety with grey-blue fruit, also known as Grauburgunder, is supposed to be a mutant clone of the Pinot Noir variety. Grown over the world, the wine’s characteristics range from ripe tropical fruit notes of melon and mango to some botrytis-influenced flavours (also known as ‘Noble Rot’) Botrytis is a fungus that dries out the grapes, thereby concentrating the sugar and flavors.
Sauvignon Blanc is a green-skinned grape variety that produces a crisp, dry, and refreshing white varietal wine in numerous wine areas across the world. The grape is also used in the famous Sauternes and Barsac dessert wines. The flavor can range from aggressively grassy to pleasantly tropical, depending on the climate. It goes well with fish or cheese, especially chèvre, and is one of the few wines that goes well with sushi when served slightly chilled.
Riesling is an aromatic white grape type with flowery aromas and high acidity that originated in the Rhine area of Germany. It's utilized to make white wines that are varietally pure and rarely oaked, such as dry, semi-sweet, sweet, and sparkling white wines.
Shiraz / Syrah
Syrah, commonly known as Shiraz, is a dark-skinned grape variety planted largely for red wine production around the world. Medium to full-bodied wines with medium-plus to high levels of tannins and notes of blackberry, mint, and black pepper are produced in moderate temperatures (such as the northern Rhone Valley and areas of Washington State).
Sémillon is a golden-skinned grape from the Bordeaux region that is mostly used to make dry and sweet white wines in France and Australia. It's also necessary for making sweet wines like Sauternes. The grapes must have been afflicted by Botrytis in order to be used in the creation of sweet wine.
Syrah from hot climates like Crete and Australia's Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale is typically full-bodied, with softer tannins, jammier fruit, and spice aromas of liquorice, anise, and earthy leather.
This white wine grape variety, like Chardonnay, may create full-bodied wines with a lush, delicate flavor. Unlike Chardonnay, Viognier offers more natural aromatics, such as peach, pears, violets, and minerality.
Tempranillo is a black grape varietal that ripens early and grows on chalky vineyard soils like those found in the Ribera del Duero region of Spain. Because of its rather neutral taste, it's frequently mixed with other grapes like Grenache and Carignan (known in Rioja as Mazuelo) or matured for long periods in oak, where the wine quickly absorbs the barrel's flavor. The grape is known as Tinto Roriz and Aragonez in Portugal, where it is mixed with other grapes to make Port wine.
Zinfandel (also known as Primitivo) is a black-skinned wine grape that is planted in more than 10% of California vineyards. The grapes create a powerful red wine, while a semi-sweet rosé wine called White Zinfandel has six times the sales of the red wine in the United States.
The taste of red wine is determined by the maturity of the grapes: red berry fruit flavors predominate in wines from cooler climates, whereas blackberry, anise, and pepper notes predominate in wines from warmer climates and wines from the Primitivo clone, which ripens earlier.