Category Archives: Grape Varieties

The wine grape variety used to make a wine accounts for a large part of the style and quality of the finished wine, which is why it is now common for wines to be labelled by their grape variety.

How many different grape varieties grown is hard to calculate due to the nature of cloning, the crossing of varieties and hybrids, however, it is safe to assume that the number of different grape varieties will be in the thousands rather than hundred’s.

Many of these grape varieties will only have relevance to the locality in which they are grown and as such you will probably never hear of them or even taste them; however, there are a large number of grape varieties that are grown globally because they are responsible for the production for one or more of the world’s greatest wines.

In our guide to wine grape varieties we have attempted to list the most important white and black grapes used in the production of the most popular wines and relative to the wine in which we sell.

Semillon | Grape Variety

Semillon Main Pic

Semillon Vineyard Marker at Chandon

Semillon is a white grape variety that is susceptible to ‘noble rot’ in Sauternes and Barsac and as a result it can produce great sweet white wines.

The best dry styles come from the Hunter Valley, Australia where the lime fruit characters of the grape work well together with the use of oak.

Semillon is often blended with Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc which help to provide body and help sustain fruit flavours.

Zinfandel | Grape Variety

Zinfandel Main Pic

Zinfandel Vineyard Marker Post

Zinfandel is a black grape variety that is growing in popularity as it produces many different styles of wine, both red and rosé.

Although it was once thought that Zinfandel was an indigenous American grape variety, popular in California, it has now been confirmed that it is the Primitivo grape of southern Italy.

In red wine, this grape shows characters of black fruit such as blackberry and prune. The Zinfandel Rosé wines are often medium sweet, refreshing and taste of strawberries.

Viognier | Grape Variety

Viognier Main Pic

Viognier Vineyard Marker Post

Viognier is a white wine grape variety that used to be confined to a tiny part of the Rhône Valley, where it produced the famous white wines of Condrieu. In recent times its popularity has spread into countries such as Australia, New Zealand and California whilst at the same time becoming increasing popular in the Languedoc – Roussillon region of France.

The best examples of Viognier have a lush, aromatic quality with a distinctive peachy character. A variety that is low in acidity so expect a softer more rounded style of wine that is often matured in oak.

Tempranillo | Grape Variety

Tempranillo Main Pic

Tempranillo Vines

Tempranillo is a popular grape in Spain and the most important grape variety in the production of Rioja, where it is traditional to blend grapes, although many pure Tempranillo wines of excellent quality are now being made. It is capable of making long-lived wines of finesse and complexity. The wines made from Tempranillo often have big red and black fruit flavours of raspberries, ripe strawberries, plum and blackberry, giving the wine a softer taste.

Shiraz / Syrah | Grape Variety

Shiraz Main Pic

Old Bush Vine Shiraz

The name Syrah is derived from Shiraz (the grape name adopted by Australia) and is a black grape variety that makes dark, spicy red wines in many countries. The wines from this grape variety can generally be categorised into two basic styles: the classical French style (often referred to as northern European) with its cracked black peppercorn fruit; or the bigger, brasher and distinctively oaky new-world styles as epitomised by the Barossa Shiraz.

Syrah is an important grape variety in the production of Rhône Valley wines particularly those in the north such as St. Joseph, Cornas or Hermitage. It also performs very well in the South of France where in the Languedoc Roussillon region it has great success.

In Australia, where it is known as Shiraz, the Barossa valley is happy hunting grounds for first class examples, however, do not discount some of the cooler climate examples to be found in Victoria and beyond.


Sauvignon Blanc | Grape Variety

Sauvignon Blanc Main Pic

Sauvignon Blanc grapes on the vine

Sauvignon Blanc is a major white grape variety that is planted widely in Bordeaux, the Loire Valley and the New World, particularly New Zealand.

If planted in cool regions on poor soils it has the classic green herbaceous flavours often reminiscent of gooseberries, green peppers, grass, passion fruit or elderflower. These wines are very dry and mouth watering with fresh fruity acidity. In warmer regions, the grape can fail to develop much aromatic character and often presents just hints of peach.

Oak is sometimes used to give the wines more body, a practice particularly popular in the United States, where the oak aged wines are frequently labelled as Fumé Blanc. These styles are now becoming common-place in New Zealand too.

Most Sauvignon Blancs’ are best consumed while young and fruity, yet those that simply do not fade can develop vegetal aromas of asparagus and peas as they age.

The classic regions for Sauvignon Blanc production include: Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé from the Loire Valley in France, Marlborough in New Zealand as well as fine examples from South Africa, Chile and Bordeaux.

Riesling | Grape Variety

Riesling Main Pic

Fresh Riesling grapes hanging on the vine

Riesling is a white grape variety widely planted around the world, and has in recent years, become more fashionable again as a growing number of consumers have come to appreciate the quality of wine it produces.

It is a fruity, aromatic grape variety that retains its acidity. It ripens late, but is very hardy, making it an ideal source for late-harvest wines. It can produce great wines in a range of styles and in a range of climates.

In cool climates, such as the Mosel in Germany, it can have a very fresh grape and apple fruit character and the high natural acidity is often balanced with some sugar. Late-harvested grapes from these regions and vines grown in warmer regions such as Alsace (France), Austria and the Clare Valley (Australia), result in more citrus and peach fruit notes. Some Australian Rieslings do have a distinct lime fruit character.

Riesling has a very distinct fruit character and so unlike Chardonnay it does not benefit from techniques such as oak-ageing to add flavour or character to the wine.

Due to their high acidity, even quite modest Riesling wines can age very well, developing notes of honey, smoke and sometimes petroleum.

Classic regions for the production of Riesling are the Mosel, Nahe, Rheingau, and Pfalz in Germany; the Wachau in Austria; Alsace in France; the Clare and Eden Valleys in Australia; and Marlborough and Nelson in New Zealand.

Pinot Noir | Grape Variety

Pinot Noir Main Pic

Pinot Noir Vineyard Marker Post

Pinot Noir is a black grape variety that is difficult to grow, but in the right place and under the right climatic conditions it can produce the most delicious in taste, richest and velvety smooth wines in the world.

Pinot Noir is one of the classic grape varieties used in the production of Champagne, alongside Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, but it is perhaps more famous for the truly great red wine grand crus of Burgundy.

Young Pinot Noir typically displays a fruity perfume of raspberries, strawberries or red cherries and because the grape is thin-skinned it usually has soft light tannins and is seldom deep in colour.

Great Pinot Noir is also made away from France in California, Oregon, Yarra Valley (Australia) and particularly the Wairarapa and Central Otago regions of New Zealand.

Pinot Gris (Grigio) | Grape Variety

Pinot Gris Main Pic

Pinot Gris Vineyard Marker Post

Pinot Gris is a white wine grape variety that is the widest-cultivated mid-coloured grape in the world. The finest examples of wine made from this grape come from the Alsace region in France, where it produces succulent, rich and spicy wines of great complexity. Other great examples of this style of Pinot Gris can be found from New Zealand and Australia, amongst others.
In north-east Italy a different approach is taken with the Pinot Gris grape where it is known as Pinot Grigio. The grapes tend to be harvested early to retain acidity and avoid the development of too much fruit. The resulting wines are generally light and more neutral in character with crisp acidity. This popular, light and crisp style is increasingly being copied in many New World wine regions.

Merlot | Grape Variety

Merlot Main Pic

Merlot Vineyard Marker Post

Merlot is a very popular black wine grape variety with big red and black fruit flavours of raspberries, ripe strawberries, plum and blackberry, giving the wine a softer taste. It is invaluable in the production or red wines from Bordeaux, particularly those from Pomerol and St.Emilion, where it helps to provide nicely coloured wines, soft in fruit and capable of great richness.

Merlot has proven to be very successful as a single grape variety in Chile and is often blended together with the Cabernet Sauvignon grape adding a velvety quality to wines that may otherwise be hard and austere.