Classic Wine Grape Varieties:
A Glossary of Classic Wine Grape Varieties
Classic Wine Grape Varieties - Extracted from The Super Gigantic WWW Wine Grape Glossary by Anthony J. Hawkins
"Wine is Bottled Poetry" - Robert Louis Stevenson
CLASSIC WINE GRAPE VARIETIES:
Clone of Pinot Noir widely grown in Germany and Austria. Also known as Spatburgunder in Austria.
A "noble" grape famous as one of the main varietals, along with Merlot, Cabernet Franc and others, (many of which are distantly related), used to create the magnificent french Bordeaux region blended red wines. Helps make wines of classic breed, intensity and complexity that often need to bottle-age for at least 5-10 years in order to reach peak flavor condition. The most successful plantings in North America are mainly on Long Island (N.Y.) and the cooler regions of northern California. In the warmer regions of California, grapes made into a single varietal wine will often produce higher than optimum levels of alcohol and, conversely, lower than optimum acid levels in most years and so may tend to age less successfully than the blended french versions. Aromas and flavors include: Black-currant, blackberry, mint (etc). In the last decades of the twentieth century many other countries have seen their regions develop into prime producers - (e.g: Australia, Argentina, Chile, Italy and New Zealand).
This grape is the best-known white wine grape grown in France and is more correctly known as the same Pinot Chardonnay grape widely grown in the Champagne region. The Chardonnay is also widely planted in the Burgundy and Chablis regions. There, as in the cooler regions of North America and California, the wine made from it is often aged in small oak barrels to produce strong flavors and aromas. Possessing a fruity character - (e.g: Apple, lemon, citrus), subsequent barrel-influenced flavors include "oak", "vanilla", and malo-lactic fermentation imparted "creamy- buttery" components. Australia and New Zealand have succeeded in producing world-class wines from this grape in recent years by using cold fermentation methods that result in a desired "flinty" taste in the dry versions.
A widely grown white-wine grape variety, known as Steen in South Africa, and Pineau de la Loire in the Loire region of France. Often made in a variety of styles with or without some residual sugar. It is the favored grape of the Anjou region of France and, although naturally a hard acidic grape slow to mature, is made into fine sweet wines that age well for a least ten years in the bottle. In the U.S. the grape all too often ends up in the generic jug wines of bulk producers as acidity enhancer for otherwise flabby high sugar/alcohol blends.
A clone of the parent Traminer varietal. Widely grown, and one of the mainstay grapes for which the Alsace is famous, the popular Gewurztraminer produces white wines with a strong floral aroma and lychee nut like flavor. It is often regarded as somewhat similar in style to the Johannisberg Riesling - (below) - when vinified as slightly sweet yet tart. Occasionally it is made into a "botrytized" late harvest dessert style wine. Does well in the cooler coastal regions of Western U.S., Australia and New Zealand.
JOHANNISBERG RIESLING (aka Riesling in Germany and Rheinriesling in Austria)
A white-wine variety widely grown along the Rhine river and tributaries - (e.g: Rheingau, Rheinhessen, Mosel, Nahe regions etc.) - in Germany and also in other temperate regions of Europe. It is also grown in N. America, where it can produce a flowery, fruity dry wine with high acid and low alcohol not unlike the german "Kabinett" version or a semi-dry style with some residual sugar similar to the german "Spatlese" version. If infected with appropriate amounts of "botrytis", it can make outstanding late-harvest wines - (e.g: comparable to the german "Auslese" series). The Finger Lakes region of New York state in the U.S. produces excellent versions in the Mosel style and the North-West coast of N. America seems to have the right conditions for creating the richer, earthier Rheinhessen taste, as do the cooler regions of California. Australia now produces excellent versions of the dry, crisp Alsation-style, as well as fruitier semi-sweet Mosel-type wines, as has New Zealand in recent years.
Classic grape widely grown in the Bordeaux region of France and elsewhere. The red wine bears a resemblance to Cabernet Sauvignon wine, with which it is sometimes blended, but is usually not so intense, with softer tannins. Matures earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon. In California it is a popular varietal on its own and also as a percentage constituent of the red wine blend resembling Bordeaux claret called "Meritage". It does extremely well in the state of Washington and shows great promise on Long Island, N.Y. Other countries such as Chile, Argentina and New Zealand also seem to have the right climate for this variety.
Another "cepage" family of clone varieties, making both red and white wines. Most are of the muscat type, having the unique aromatic character commonly associated with muscat wines. These include the Muscat Blanc, (aka Moscato di Canelli and Muscat Frontignon). Mostly these grapes are made into medium-sweet and dessert style table or fortified wines. Producers of sparkling wines often use the Muscat grape to create wines in the style of Italian Spumante.
NEBBIOLO (aka Spanna grape)
Grape responsible for the long-lived, fine red wines of the Piedmont region of Italy. The role of honor includes "Barolo", "Gattinara", "Barbaresco" and "Ghemme"; all huge, tannic wines that at their best can take decades to mature when vinified in the traditional manner.
PINEAU DE LA LOIRE
Alternate name for Chenin Blanc. (See above).
Better known as the Chardonnay grape. (See above).
PINOT NOIR (see Gamay)
The premier grape "cepage" of the Burgundy region of France. It produces a red wine that is lighter in color than the Bordeaux reds (such as Cabernet and Merlot). In the attempt to produce the best wines from cooler regions, it has proved to be a capriciously acting and difficult grape for N. American west coast wineries. Cherished aromas and flavors often detected are cherry, mint, raspberry, truffles, and the ubiquitous gamey odor in new wines often referred to as "animale'" by the french winemaker.
Premier white wine grape of Germany, known as Rheinriesling in Austria. (See Johannisberg Riesling above).
Austrian name for the Riesling grape of Germany. (See above).
Classic white-wine variety commonly planted in the Bordeaux and eastern Loire regions of France. Still a widely grown varietal in the U.S., its production has declined in favor of the popular Chardonnay. It shows a tendency towards a grassy, herbaceous flavor in the wine when the grapes are grown in temperate regions. In warmer regions, the flavors and aromas tend to be more citruslike, (e.g: grapefruit or pear), plus the characteristic "earthy" taste. New Zealand has had much success with the grape in recent years.
Semi-classic grape widely grown in the Bordeaux region of France and also elsewhere. This grape variety has a distinct fig-like character. In France, Australia and increasingly in California it is often blended with Sauvignon Blanc to cut some of the strong "gooseberry" flavor of the latter grape and create better balance. Wineries in many countries also use the grape to create dry single-varietal white wines. When infected by the "noble rot" fungi, (Botrytis cineria), it can be used to produce first-class sweet white wines such as those of the french Sauternes.
Alternate name for the french Syrah clone grape grown in Australia and responsible for very big red wines that are not quite as intense in flavor as the french Rhone versions.
Alternate local name for the Nebbiolo grape grown in the Piedmont district of Vercelli in Italy.
(see Blauburgunder above).
(see Chenin Blanc above).
A grape variety associated with the Rhone Valley region of France, famous for creating "Hermitage" red wine. In the cooler regions of Australia a similar grape is grown successfully and called the Shiraz. The parent grape is thought to have originated in ancient Persia. In the state of California, depending on location, vintage or fermentation technique, it is used to either produce a spicy, complex wine or a simple wine. The Petite Sirah, which produces a very dark red, tannic wine judged simple in comparison to the true Rhone Syrah, has no relationship other than the name.
South African name for the true Riesling grape of Germany. Also called the White Riesling. The Cape Riesling, aka Paarl or South African Riesling, is actually the Crouchen grape that originated in the Pyrenees region of France and was relocated to South Africa where it can be legally sold under the name "Riesling".
While the origins are not clear it has been tentatively identified as the Primitivo (di Gioia), a grape species common to southern Italy. An important grape variety grown in California that is used to produce robust red wine as well as very popular "blush wines" called "white Zinfandel". Zinfandel is noted for its peppery, fruit-laden, berry-like aroma and taste characteristics in its red version and pleasant strawberry reminders when made into a "blush" wine.