Grape Varieties

Agiorgitiko (Red)
(St George) Red-wine grape native to Greece. Used to produce intense, fruity wine in dry and sweet versions. Also blended with Cabernet Sauvignon to create a wine capable of aging well.

Aglianico (Red)
Underrated, lots of weighty, berry flavours. The grape is also used to make good bronze-coloured rosé-style wine. Italy

Albariño (White)
(Alvarinho) Used to create a serious varietal wine with pleasant citrus fruit aroma. Fashionable and expensive in Spain. Portugal, Spain

Aligoté (White)
Burgundy’s second-rank white grape. Used to make a superior white wine, with little or no aging ability and best drunk young, for blending or as a good dry wine in the better vintage. France, E Europe, N America

Arinto (White)
Naturally high acidity, therefore always lemony-fresh and tangy. Used in the production of Portugal’s ‘vinho-verde’ wines. Portugal

Arneis (White)
Aromatic, high-priced grape, lacking sufficient acidity to age well. Italy, Australia

Baga (Red)
(Tinta Bairrada) Produces acidic, fruit-packed, tannic wines capable of aging well. Portugal

Barbera (Red)
Usually produces an intense red wine with deep colour, low tannins and high acid. At its best in Piedmont, used in California to provide ‘backbone’ for so-called ‘jug’ wines. Italy, California, Australia, Argentina

Bical (White)
Grown in the Beiras district of Portugal, a crisp, mildly aromatic varietal but most often is used in sparkling wine blends. Portugal

Blaufränkisch (Red)
Mainly grown in Austria to produce dry, fruity red wines, at best a considerable red. Austria, Germany, Hungary

Bonarda (Red)
Cherry-jam flavours, easy drinking. Argentina, Italy

Bourboulenc (White)
Makes some of the Midi’s (S Rhône) best wines, creates acidic balance in blends. France

Brachetto (Red)
Used to make spritzy, light red dessert wines with fruity, strawberry aroma. Best when young and served chilled. Italy

Brunello (Red)
See Sangiovese

Bual (White)
Makes top-quality sweet Madeira wines. Portugal

Cabernet Franc (Red)
(Bouchet) Wine from these grapes has a deep purple color, when young, with a herbaceous aroma. Traditionally used in Bordeaux-style blends, but increasingly bottled as a varietal. France, S Africa, Australia, USA

Cabernet Sauvignon (Red)
Main constituent of a Bordeaux blend. Can provide super-premium wines – rich, full and complex and capable of long ageing. Flavours of blackcurrant, cherry, chocolate, black pepper. Australia, France, Italy, NZ, S Africa, Argentina, Chile, USA

Cannonau (Red)
See Grenache

Carignan (Red)
Dull but harmless red wines. Used in California’s blends and ‘jug’ wines. Some old plantings allow small lots of premium extract wine to be made. France, Spain, California, N Africa

Carmènere (Red)
Similar to Merlot, but spicier and more savoury. Chile

Chardonnay (White)
Burgundy and Champagne grape. Fruity character; barrel-influenced flavours of oak/vanilla; creamy, buttery components from malolactic fermentation. Hugely successful in many regions due to its mid-season ripening and versatility. Mostly bottled in S Africa as varietal. France, Australia, S Africa, NZ, USA, Spain, Italy

Chasselas (White)
(Fendant/Gutedel) Little aroma, mainly grown for eating. NZ use it for popular sweet wines. Switzerland, Germany, France, NZ

Chenin Blanc (White)
(Steen) Makes crisp, fresh dry wines and rich, honeyed sweet wines. In warm regions notes of melon, fig, pear and guava. S Africa, France, Argentina, Spain

Cinsaut (Red)
(Cinsault) Used as blend component in many red or rosé wines. Crossed with Pinot to make Pinotage. Pale wine but quality potential. France, Italy, South Africa, Australia

Clairette (White)
A low-acid grape, part of many S France blends. Used with Muscat grape to create dry/off-dry sparkling. Best known product: “Clairette de Die”, comes from the E Rhone region of France. France, Australia

Colombar (White)
(Colombard) Widely grown in S Africa. Fruity, high acidity, interesting in both dry and sweet versions. Used for Californian jug wine; certain Bordeaux and Gascony AOC’s and for distilling into brandy. S Africa, California, France, N America

Dolcetto (Red)
Usually made into fast maturing, fruity and robust dark red wine with faintly bitter flavour, everyday wines that have become fashionable. Italy

Dornfelder (Red)
Usually succulent, fruity, early-drinking reds although it is increasingly available as a bottled varietal with aging potential. Germany

Favorita (White)
(Favorito) Plantings are increasing. Top wines are citrussy and mountain fresh, mainly used in white blends. Italy

Fernão Pires (White)
Used to make aromatic and somewhat spicy-tasting dry, sweet and sparkling wines. Portugal

Fiano (White)
Makes balanced, elegant white wine with attractive nut-like hints in the aroma. Very sturdy and long-lived, it makes peachy, spicy wine in Campania. Italy

Folle Blanche (White)
High acid/little flavour makes this ideal for brandy. W Loire use to produce an often light, sharply acidic wine called “Gros Plant du Pays Nantais”. France, California

Furmint (White)
Widely grown in Hungary and used to make the ultra-sweet “Tokay” wines. Hungary, Austria, Slovenia

Gaglioppo (Red)
Excellent, robust wines, best un-oaked. Italy

Gamay (Red)
Predominant grape of Beaujolais. Light-bodied, juicy upfront flavours of red cherries, bananas, plums and bubble gum. Made for early drinking. France

Garganega (White)
Gives Italy’s Soave blend its personality. Is also a major portion of the popular “Gambellara” blend; top wines, especially sweet ones age well. Italy

Gewürztraminer (White)
Pungent, rich and soft wines, spicy aromas and flavours of lychees, nuts, ginger, roses, melon. Usually dry wines but made in sweeter styles in S Africa. France, Germany, Australia, Italy, NZ, Spain (minimal plantings in S Africa)

Grecanico Dorato (White)
Becoming more popular. Grassy and pungent; similar to Sauvignon Blanc. Italy

Grechetto/Greco (White)
Ancient grape of Italy, noted for the vitality and stylishness of its wines. Italy

Grenache (Red)
(Alicante/Cannonau) Often used in Rhone-style blends but good on its own. Produces strong, fruity but pale wines with black and red fruits, smoke, nuts, chocolate, leather, mud and coffee. Australia, France, Spain, Italy, California

Grignolino (Red)
Commonly grown in the Piedmont region. Makes good table wines – light red colour wine with very fruity aroma and strong acid/tannins. Italy

Grüner Veltliner (White)
Predominant grape in Austria. Light, dry and peppery, excellent young but has very good aging potential (up to 15 years) when made from the finest vintage year grapes. Austria

Hárslevelü (White)
Adds softness and body to Tokay blend. Hungary

Kadarka (Red)
(Gamza in Bulgaria) Used to make ‘Egri Bikaver’, Hungary’s best-known dry red wine blend. Hungary, Bulgaria

Kékfrankos (Red)
See Blaufränkisch

Kéknyelü (White)
Flavourful grape, one of Hungary’s best whites, has potential for fieriness and spice. Hungary

Kerner (White)
(Schiava Grossa) Used to produce a Riesling-like white wine. Early-ripening flowery (but often too blatant) wine with good acidity. Italy

Lagrein (Red)
Used to make varietal and rosé wines of good character – full-bodied and velvety, reds have sour black cherries, unripe plums and dark chocolate. Italy

Lambrusco (Red)
Produces a number of wine styles – dry or off-dry wines or cheerful sweet and fizzy red. Italy

Lemberger (Red)
See Blaufränkisch

Macabeo (White)
Workhorse white grape of N Spain, widespread in Rioja, produces mildly acidic and young white wines for early consumption or blends. Spain, France

Malbec (Red)
(Cot) Dark, dense and tannic, if it’s made well has wonderful gamey, spicy, black fruit character. Badly made examples are very rustic. Commonly used in Bordeaux blends. France, California, Argentina, Australia, Chile, NZ

Malvasia (White)
Used to produce dry and sweet white, and light red wines with high alcohol content and residual sugar. Is one of two white wine grapes allowed in Chianti Classico production. Italy

Marsanne (White)
Principal grape in N Rhône blends. Full-bodied and soft wines that age well. Australia, France, USA

Mencía (Red)
Light red wine variety widely grown in N W Spain. Early-drinking, usually high in acidity. Tastes of raspberries. Spain

Merlot (Red)
Often used in blends with Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux blends. Varietal – blackcurrants, chocolate, black cherries and pepper, the finest have astonishing finesse, structure and depth. Canada, Chile, France, Italy, NZ, S Africa, USA, Argentina, Australia, Spain

Montepulciano (Red)
(D’Abruzzo) Usually made into a blend with Sangiovese in order to produce a fruity, round, yet balanced red wine with attractive aroma that reportedly can improve with up to 6 years aging. Also used to produce a popular rosé named ‘Cerasuolo’. Italy

Morellino (Red)
See Sangiovese


Moschofilero (White)
Widely grown in the Peloponnese region of S Greece, usually vinified to give a light, aromatic, dry white or pink varietal wine. Greece

Mourvèdre (Red)
(Mataro) Pungent, rustic and aromatic, bursting with ripe black fruits. Mainly used to introduce color and body to red wine blends. France, Spain, Australia, California

Müller-Thurgau (White)
Produces a flowery, yet acidic white wine which, if yields are kept low, gives inviting floral, nutmeg aromas and flavours. However most are dreary owing to over-cropping. Germany

Muscadelle (White)
(Muscadel) Grown in the Gaellac region of France, used in local white sweet wine blend. In Victoria, Australia it’s called Tokay and used for Rutherglen Muscat. France, Australia, S Africa

Muscadet (White)
(Melon de Bourgogne) Dry, tart wines, light and fresh with distinctive fruit in good vintage. Early drinking. France, California

Muscat (White)
Has various synonyms (Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, Muscat de Frontignan etc). Excellent for dessert and fortified wines, can be used to touch up blends. Australia, Italy, Portugal, S Africa, Spain

Nebbiolo (Red)
(Spanna/Chiavennasca) One of Italy’s best red grapes making deep, complex, tannic wines. Can have a long life and need a few years to soften before ready to drink. Italy, Australia, Chile

Negroamaro (Red)
Used to produce the base wine of the “Salice di Salento” and other S Italian red wine blends of good repute and aging potential. Means ‘black bitter’, intense flavours of dark chocolate, black cherry and prunes, slightly bitter aftertaste. Italy

Nero d’Avola (Red)
A very big wine, becoming very trendy. Used as one of the wines blended into a well-regarded Sicilian red wine with complex aromas capable of aging well. Italy

Palomino (White)
(Listán) Makes all the best sherry but poor table wine as wine-must has a tendency to oxidise quickly. Spain, S Africa, California, Australia

Pedro Ximénez (White)
(PX) Widely grown in Spain, used in blending sweet Sherries. Also found in Australia where it is used, along with Palomino, to produce fortified wines. Spain, Australia, Argentina, the Canaries, California, S Africa


Periquita (Red)
Produces popular, firm-flavoured reds. Portugal

Petit Verdot (Red)
Mainly grown in Bordeaux (sometimes included in Bordeaux blends), but attracting attention for its gorgeous violet scent. France, Australia

Petite/Gros Manseng (White)
Used for producing both dry and sweet white wines. France

Pinot Blanc (White)
Usually makes easy-drinking, fruity, not aromatic dry wines. Similar to, but milder than Chardonnay. Used in many of the better champagne style sparkling wines of California because of its acid content and clean flavour. France, Germany, Italy, California

Pinot Gris (White)
(Pinot Grigio/Ruländer) Can be light, crisp and spicy, or intense and pungent with a ripe peach character and a whiff of smoke. Oaked or not, sweet or dry. Canada, France, Germany, USA, Argentina, Australia, Italy, NZ

Pinot Noir (Red)
(Pinot Nero) The premier grape of Burgundy. Difficult to cultivate but creates very elegant wines with finesse. Light in colour, strawberry, raspberry, plum and cherry flavours in youth that mellow to a gamey style with maturity. Canada, Chile, France, Germany, NZ, USA, Australia, Italy, S Africa, Spain

Pinot Noir (White)
(See Red Grapes) White: Used in Champagne and elsewhere for making white, sparkling, or very pale pink “vin gris”. France

Pinotage (Red)
Developed in South Africa, this is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut (Hermitage). Smooth flavours of bananas and redcurrants in youth, more earthy as it matures and Pinot Noir character emerges. If not well made it can be slightly bitter and jammy. S Africa, NZ

Primitivo (Red)
Minor variety mainly confined to Apulia in southern Italy where it is used to produce a heavy, robust port like red wine made from raisined grapes. Italy

Refosco (Red)
Made into what is often considered to be a robust, very intense red wine with moderate complexity that can match the heartiest meal course. Italy

Riesling (White)
Sweet styles are most common and when young are floral-scented, peachy and appley. But becoming very popular through drier wine style, exhibiting good aging potential. Germany, Australia, France, NZ, S Africa, Canada, Spain, USA

Roussanne (White)
(Bergeron) Rhône grape, incorporated into white wine blends because of its acidity and aroma. France, California, Australia

Sagrantino (Red)
Found in Umbria, Italy it produces big, bold wines full of cherries and wood smoke. Italy

Sangiovese (Red)
(Brunello/Morellino) Produced in Tuscany, Italy. Used to produce Chianti and other Tuscan red wines. Scents of violets, flavours of soft red fruits, plums, earth, tobacco, leather and herbs with a bitter twist and the end. Can be light-bodied and early drinking or powerful and age worthy. Italy, Argentina, Australia, Chile, USA

Saperavi (Red)
Acidic, capable of high sugar content makes a good, sharp very long-lived wine. In cool climates it’s mostly used as a blending wine. Georgia, Ukraine

Sauvignon Blanc (White)
Grassiness and gooseberries in temperate regions. In warmer regions, the flavours and aromas tend to be more citrus like. Often green pepper and cat’s pee (lovely!). Pungency varies from country to country. NZ, S Africa, Chile, France, Spain, Australia, Italy

Scheurebe (White)
Spicy-flavoured, possible cross of Riesling and Silvaner. Full bodied, citrus and tropical fruit. Can be dry or sweet. Austria, Germany

Sémillon (White)
Distinctive fig-like character. Young – lean, grassy, citrus notes, fig, pear, melon. Aged – lanolin, rich honeyed. Grapes are susceptible to botrytis so it also is used for some of the world’s finest dessert wines. Australia, France, S Africa, USA

Sercial (White)
Makes the driest Madeira. Portugal

Seyval Blanc (White)
Attractively fruity, popular in Eastern States and England, banned by EU from “quality” wines.

Silvaner/Sylvaner (White)
Easy wine with lightly spicy, floral flavours and mild intensity. Once very popular in California, it seems to have fallen victim to changing fashion in recent years and been replaced by (Johannisberg) Riesling. Germany

Spätburgunder (Red)
See Pinot Noir

Steen (White)
See Chenin Blanc

St-Laurent (Red)
Used in Austria to produce a rich-looking red wine with pronounced fruity, flowery aromas. Austria, Canada

Syrah/Shiraz (Red)
The great Rhône red grape: tannic, purple, peppery wine which matures superbly. Heady aromas of spice, violets, leather, herbs and chewy flavours of wild berries, ripe plums, liquorice, black pepper and chocolate. Australia, France, S Africa, USA, Argentina, Chile, Italy, NZ, Spain

Tannat (Red)
(Harriaque) Deeply coloured and tannic grown in the Pyrenees region of France. Blended to make the full-bodied red wine known as ‘Madiran’. Also widely grown in Uruguay, S America, where is used to produce a popular varietal wine. France, S America

Tempranillo (Red)
Fine wine grape used in best quality red wines of Rioja, Spain. Can be light or full-bodied. Becoming very fashionable, elegant in cool climates, beefy in warm. Spain, Argentina, Portugal

Tocai Friulano (White)
Widely grown in the Fruili region of Italy. Used to produce light bodied white wines with flowery and nut-like flavours, should be drunk when young. Italy

Torrontés (White)
Fragrant grape widely grown in Argentina, mainly used in the production of S American fortified Brandy and as a dry table wine with good acid content. S America

Touriga Nacional (Red)
Regarded as the premier grape for use in fortified Port wines. Great for blending, complex aromas and flavours. Portugal, California, S America, S Africa

Trebbiano (White)
(Ugni Blanc) Widely grown in Italy and S France, produces a fruity, acidic white wine, best drunk when young and chilled. Used to bolster blends. Italy, France

Trincadeira (Red)
Grown in the Alentejo region of Portugal and used to make a somewhat spicy varietal wine. Portugal

Verdejo (White)
Extensive plantings in Rueda, Spain. Can make good wines capable of aging well. Spain

Verdelho (White)
Madeira grape making excellent medium-sweet wine, and rich dry wine. Australia, Portugal, Spain

Verdicchio (White)
(Verdeca) Grown in the Italian provinces of Apulia, for use in a local dry, fruity blend. Italy

Vermentino (White)
Early drinking, full-bodied, dry white wines that go well with seafood. France, Italy

Viognier (White)
Graceful and elegant, usually apricots, peach and almonds. Can vary from Riesling-like to almost Chardonnay character, depending on production method. Not noted for aging ability and is best drunk while young. France, S Africa, Argentina, Australia, Chile, USA

Zinfandel (Red)


Noted for the fruit-laden, berry-like aroma and prickly taste characteristics in its red version and pleasant strawberry reminders when made into a ‘blush’ wine. Italy, USA, Australia, Chile, S Africa

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