Wine Grapes

Varietal Definition
Varietal Definition
Sauvignon Blanc White grape, second only to Chardonnay for table wines in many quarters. Used around the world for its ability to produce fine wines in regions a little too warm for the best Chardonnays. Often blended with its sister variety, Semillon. In recent decades New Zealand has emerged as a nation producing Sauvignon Blanc in its “natural” form showing all of the grape’s wild citrus and spice notes.
Saint-Emilion Synonimous with Ugni Blanc.
Sangiovese Italy’s most planted varietal as well as one of its most noble red grapes. Sangiovese is famously used in Tuscany where it is the primary variety of Chianti. Various clonal varieties produce Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and many others. Sangiovese is used throughout Italy and is no being found increasingly outside of Italy. In California the variety is growing in popularity. At it’s best Sangiovese produces wines with balance over power offering accents of earth and herbs with dense, dry fruit.
Rulander Synonym for Pinot Gris, Pinot Grigio, or Grauerburgunder. This is a white wine grape which has just enough color in the skins to make the appearance not yellow or green, but grey. It is grown in Germany, Alsace, Italy, Switzerland and in several places in the new world. Makes a nice wine under the right conditions.
Roussanne A white varietal associated with France's Rhone region where it is an important blending component in both Southern and Northern appellations of the region. Roussanne contributes unique and racy fruit aromas and flavors as well great acidity. The grape is also prized for its ability to age far better than the average white varietal.
Rodinella A native red grape of Italy’s Veneto region and an important component of Valpolicella/Amarone second only to Corvina. Rodinella contributes deep color and weight to the red wines of Veneto.
Prosecco A white variety best known for the fresh, crisp sparkling wines produced in Italy's Veneto region.
Riesling Without doubt one of the world’s greatest white wine varieties. Native to Germany and grown throughout the world enjoying it’s greatest success at home and in France’s Alsace region.
Pinotage A red hybrid of some fame in South Africa. A cross of Pinot Noir and Cinsaut released in 1925. Recently it has been used with varying degrees of success in the US, Canada, and New Zealand.
Primitivo A successful and robust red variety from Italy’s Apulia region. In the US, Primitivo gained recognition when it was first discovered that it was a close relative to California’s beloved Zinfandel. Primitivo is gaining in popularity as many new labels, often available at competitive prices, have found there way to US stores and restaurants. The wines are rich and rustic with blackberry and raspberry flavors.
Pinot Nero Synonimous with Pinot Noir.
Pinot Noir A noble red variety from France's Burgundy region, as well as being an essential player in Champagne, where it produces some of the world's most famous and pricey wines. Pinot Noir is planted throughout the world with varying degrees of success. The varietal undoubtedly prefers cooler regions thriving in California's Russian River Valley as well as Oregon's Willamette Valley and the Yarra Valley of Australia (among others).
Pinot Gris A white variety of confused origin grown with great success in France's Alsace region. It is planted in many countries and has had some success in then US Pacific Northwest.
Pinot Meunier A red variety most noted for its work in Champagne along with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Pinot Meunier is noted for the body and richness as well as acidity it brings to the wines of the region. The varietal was once important in the Loire Valley but is now just sparsely planted in the region. Pinot Meunier is also found in cooler growing regions in both Germany and Switzerland.
Pinot Grigio Synonymous with Pinot Gris. Perhaps Italy’s most popular export white variety where it produces wines of varying interest. At its best Pinot Grigio produces wines with fresh fruit flavors and great balance. Sadly, the variety is often over-cropped making wines that are thin, lifeless, and instantly forgettable.
Pinot Blanc A popular and successful white variety widely grown in France's Alsace region where it is noted for its dry, crisp wines used in both still and sparkling wines. Pinot Blanc was once important in Champagne and Burgundy as well but its now using sparingly in both regions. Pinto Blanc is used in Austria where it known as Weissburgunder as well as Italy and Spain where it is called Pinot Bianco.
Pinot Bianco Synonymous with Pinot Blanc. This variety is typically found in Italy’s northern regions.
Petite Sirah A red variety with great popularity in California. Once a variety of mysterious origins it is now known to be synonymous with France's Durif. Petite Sirah produces dark, robust, and somewhat tannic wines. See Durif.
Picpoul This unique white variety is native to the Languedoc-Roussillon region. Picpoul is one of the 13 permitted varietals in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Petit Verdot A dark and intense variety found in France’s Bordeaux region. In years past Petite Verdot playing a significant role in the wines of Bordeaux but today it is typically a small portion of the blend if included at all.
Petit Manseng This white grape originates from the Jurancon district in Southwestern France. Petit Manseng is prized for its unique aromatic qualities offering scents reminiscent of cinnamon and brown spices with sweet tropical fruits. To our knowledge, wines made from this variety can be found only in the state of Virginia.
Pecorino A terrific Italian variety that was nearly lost. In the era of cooperative driven winemaking when years were king Pecorino was ripped out and replaced with varietals like Trebbiano that produce tons of fruit with little effort. By the 1970s it was thought by many to be extinct but in the 80s a small wine producer in the Marche region found a few vines while searching for native grapes. In the 90s a handful of producers in Marche and Abruzzo had enough mature vines to produce small quantities of Pecorino based wines. The results were very favorable as Pecorino wines just flow over you with their distinctive floral tones and bright natural acidity. This is rapidly becoming one of favorite white grapes. In the 21st century Pecorino plantings have grown in Central Italy with the region of Lazio becoming a real player along with Marche and Abruzzo. Recently in 2011, the Marche region DOC of Offida was elevated to DOCG status (the top) for white wines made primarily with Pecorino or Passerina (this is another grape you should know). Pecorino means “little sheep” and it is said that the name was given as sheep flocking in vineyards favored the small green berries. Of course there is a cheese of the same name made also in Central Italy. Luckily the wine and the cheese pair beautifully.
Passerina A thick skinned white varietal from Italy's Marche region. The wines are very floral with fresh herbal accents and a generous dose of acidity.
Palomino Predominant grape variety used in the Jerez, or Sherry region of Spain. It is also found elsewhere in Spain, being used for common table wines there. The same is true for California, where it is called Golden Chasselas and makes everyday table wines. As a table wine variety, Chasselas often tastes flat and lifeless. It is naturally a low acid grape and is best used in blends with other varieties.
Niagara White hybrid American wine grape. The flavor is one of the strongest of all the American wine grapes now used for wine. A little goes a long way.
Norton American hybrid grape variety, not as strongly flavored as others and, because of that, better suited to winemaking. Doesn't typically age as well as many vinifera varieties.
Nero d'Avola Nero d’Avola is Sicily’s most noted red variety and is now grown in several southern Italian regions. The variety is growing in popularity thanks to a good number of exports sold at value prices. Synonymous with Calabrese.
Negroamaro An increasingly popular variety from Italy’s Apulia region. Grown throughout the south of Italy where it produces fruity, dark, and often assertive wines.
Nebbiolo One of Italy’s most noble red varieties. Most prominent in the Piedmont region where it is responsible for the tremendous DOCG (Italy’s top official classification) wines Barolo and Barbaresco as well as the lesser appreciated Gattinara and Ghemme. Synonymous with Spanna. Fro the grower, Nebbiolo has a reputation of being difficult. The wines are often light in color but don’t be fooled. Nebbiolo wines are often robust with high tannin levels. Flavor and aroma characteristics include: violets, herbs, cherry, raspberry, tar, truffles, and dried berries.
Muscat A white, spicy, and aromatic variety family of grapes that are often used for sweet wines but can produce dry whites as well. As there are countless variations of the varietal the origins are often disputed with France, Greece, and Italy claiming to be the ancestral home.
Muscadet Not to be confused with Muscat or Muscatel, this under-appreciated varietal is synonymous with Melon de Burgogne in its native country, France. This is one of the rare instances where the appellation and it's sole white wine varietal have become synonymous. The wines are crisp, and light and an ideal companion to shellfish and seafood dishes popular in the region.
Muller-Thurgau White wine grape originally produced by crossing the Riesling variety with Sylvaner. Now probably the most abundant grape variety in Germany. It is also planted widely in Alsace and in many other regions of the world, including Oregon, South Africa, coastal California, Austria, Australasia and Chile.
Mourvedre Red wine variety grown in warm climates in the south of France where it is often blended with Cinsault and Grenache. While this is an important variety in the Rhone it is likely that Mourvedre is a native of Spain where it is known as Monastrell. Mourvedre produces wines with density, power, and a generous dose of acidity. In California this variety was first known as Mataro where it was used almost exclusively in blends. Mourvedre has earned a cult following here thanks largely to the "Rhone Rangers."
Montepulciano An ancient and increasingly popular variety grown in central and south Italy. Quite confusingly, this variety has no relation to the Tuscan town of the same name that is produced from Sangiovese.
Monastrell A popular red variety throughout Spain that is believed by many to be synonymous with Mourvedre.
Molinara An important red blending variety in Italy's Veneto region where it is prized for its firm acidity. Most notably used in Valpolicella.
Merlot Merlot is an essential varietal in France’s Bordeaux region where it at times takes the lead role particularly on Bordeaux right bank in the appellations of Saint-Emillion and Pomerol. Merlot is most often softer, and less tannic than Cabernet Sauvignon requiring less aging to achieve peak maturity. Merlot has also become an essential varietal in many New World wines being both blended with Cabernet and a remarkable solo performer. Despite the proclamations made by some overrated Hollywood movie, Merlot is one of the world's great red wine grapes!
Mataro Synonymous with Mourvedre.
Marsanne A popular white variety from France's Rhone region where it is an important blending component in both Southern and Northern appellations of the region. Marsanne has gained popularity in the New World in recent decades where it produces dry, fruity wines with great aromatic qualities.
Malvasia A prolific white variety, probably of Greek origin, that is responsible for fresh bright wines in Italy to the US and fortified wines from Maderia (where it is known as Malmsey).
Malmsey English name for the Malvasia grape variety of Italy and Malvoisie of France and Portugal. The reason it is important to the English is that it is used to make Madeira wines (from the same variety) on the Portuguese island of Madeira.
Malbec One of the five major red varieties of Bordeaux and the primary varietal in France's Cahors appellation, the under appreciated wine of Southwest France. It is widely planted in Argentina where it produces deep, dense, wines often displaying both finesse and intensity. Today the varietal is far more associated with Argentina than its native France.
Lemberger Synonymous with Blaufrankisch Lemberger produces thick and sturdy wines at a handful of USA wineries.
Macabeo A white variety native to Spain. It is synonymous with Viura and is widely planted in Rioja and Penedes where it is used to produce Cava.
Lambrusco Red wine grape variety and also the name of the wine produced from the same grape. Not to be confused with Labrusca (though it sometimes is). Produced in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy, Lambruscos are lightly sparkling red wines, usually sweet, light, fruity and pleasant to drink especially at a BBQ or a picnic.
Lagrein A red variety long appreciated in Italy’s Trentino-Alto Adige district. The wines can be quite high in acid and sometimes astringent. The wines are deeply colored with dense berry and earth notes. The variety is a rarity outside of Italy but we have seen a lovely example from California that gives up hope that this quirky variety may grow in popularity.
Kerner A white hybrid developed in 1969. It is a cross of Riesling and Schiava Grossa (aka Trollinger) which is actually a red variety. Kerner is prized for its early ripening, deep flavors, and bright acidity. In the hands of a careful grower Kerner can be very much like its parent, Riesling. This hybrid is now finding favor outside of its native Germany notably in British Columbia and the North of Italy.
Johannisberg Riesling (pronounced rees-ling) Synonym for White Riesling, this grape is responsible for wines of the same name in California. In Australia, wines from the same grape are called "Rhine Riesling." The most famous regions in the world where this grape is grown for wine are along the Rhine and Mosel rivers in Germany. (The name Johannisberg Riesling comes from the fact that many superb riesling wines have been produced by the Schloss Johannisberg estate near the Rhine river.) Susceptible to noble rot (Botrytis), this grape has produced some of the world's finest dessert wines.
Isabella American wine grape variety, used primarily in blends for sparkling wines in New York State and other eastern American wine regions. Although the grape skin is dark, it doesn't often produce big, heavily colored wines. Other hybrid varieties have been produced by crossing Isabella with still other varieties.
Iona Native American wine grape variety developed as a hybrid in New York. It has a "foxy" or labrusca type flavor, but is more subdued than others and can be used effectively in a blend for sparkling wines.
Grignolino A red variety that was once a fashionable variety in Italy’s Piedmont region where it still is employed to produce light, fruity wines near the town of Asti.
Gruner Veltliner Perhaps Austria's most popular white variety where it produces wines with great orchard fruit notes complimented by a healthy dose of minerality.
Grenache Blanc This white variety is the sibling of Grenache Noir (most often referred to simply as Grenache) and is a native of Spain. It ranks fourth in France among white varieties and is an important varietal in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. While this grape is most frequently used as a blending grape it is capable of performing solo creating wines with crisp orchard fruit flavors with a refreshing dose of acidity.
Grenache A prolific red variety that is essential to the great wines of the southern Rhone including the famous Chateauneuf-du-Pape. It is also responsible for some of the best Rosé wines from the south of France. Grenache is also widely planted in Spain where it is known as Garnacha. In the USA this variety is still used primarily in blends.
Garnacha Synonimous with Grenache.
Gewürztraminer This is a noble mutation of the ancient Traminer variety that developed in France's Alsace region. Gewürztraminer literally translates to spicy Traminer. This varietal is now grown around the world but it arguably reaches its greatest potential in the Alsace where it produces dry wines that are very fruity, complex, spiced, and uniquely aromatic.
Garganega A white variety native to northwest Italy where it is primarily responsible for the famous Soave among other wines of the Veneto region. At their best the wines are rich in orchard fruits with a good dose of acidity and complex dried fruit notes.
Gamay A red variety, grown throughout the world but especially known in the Beaujolais region of France. Gamay is most often fruity and soft best consumed young. In the crus of Beaujolais, Gamay produces wines with great depth and character and can rival Pinot Noir.
Gaglioppo An ancient variety that is both flavorful and delicate reminiscent of fresh crushed wild berries. Gaglioppo is popular in Italy’s Calabria region where it produces the great DOC Ciro and Donnici as well as contributing to many other wines of the region. The wines are full-bodied while relatively light in color. Gaglioppo wines are often at their best with moderate bottle aging that allows the tannins to mellow and the flavors to harmonize.
Fume Blanc Synonymous with Sauvignon Blanc the name Fume Blanc was used by New World winemakers.
Furmint A white variety widely grown in Eastern Europe most notably Hungary where it is responsible the world famous dessert wine, Tokaji.
Forastera A white variety found in Campania.
Freisa A red varietal native to Piedmont where it contributes to dry and sparkling wines.
Folle Blanche White grape variety, used in several countries for table wines, but with better success when those wines are distilled into brandy, perhaps most notably in Armagnac. Although not widely used in any country, the wines can be very nice noted for its tremendous aromatic qualities.
Fiano An ancient white varietal, known as Apianum to the Romans and Vitis Apiana due to the fact that the sweet grapes are irresistible to bees. Fiano is used most prominently in Campania’s Fiano di Avellino. The wines show exotic fruit notes with a generous dose of natural acidity. It is a classy aperitif.
Falanghina An ancient white variety grown primarily in Italy’s Campania region. The wines are quite unique being fruity and exotic while crisp with bright acidity. The flavors are unique and expressive but very approachable making Falanghina a perfect “rut-busting” wines and a clever alternative to Pinot Grigio.
Dutchess A New York native variety and member of the Lambrusca family. It grows very well but is not as hearty in cold weather as many other native varieties. The flavors tend to be clean and fresh without the foxy notes found in many Lambrusca grapes.
Elvira A white Labrusca variety that appears to have come from Missouri. A very hearty variety that is most often used as a blending grape.
Duriff This variety is named for the Doctor that developed this hybrid, a cross between Syrah and Peloursin. Today it is rarely seen in its native France and is now better known as Petite Sirah. The name is greatly misleading as the wines from this grape are anything but petite but rather dense and hardy with power and flare.
Durella A white variety used in Italy's Northeast.
Diamond An American hybrid grape (a cross of Iona and Concord), used both for white wine and for table grapes. Also called Moore's Diamond for the horticulturist, Jacob Moore, who produced the variety in 1885.
Diana An American hybrid wine grape used for white wines in the eastern wine regions of the USA.
Dolcetto A popular red variety grown in Italy’s Piedmont region where it produces varietally labeled wines grown primarily in and around the towns of Alba and Asti. The resulting wines are softer, fruitier, and less tannic than the region's best known varieties, Nebbiolo, and Barbera. This variety is growing in popularity in California where it tends to make darker, and richer wines than found in its native Italy.
Delaware A popular American variety of the Lambusca family. The skins are bright pink when ripe but the subsequent wines are most often white. It takes the name from the Ohio town where it was discovered.
Croatina Synonymous with Bonarda. The primary red varietal in Oltrepo Pavese.
De Chaunac A red French-American hybrid that is technically known as Seibel 9549. It is most often seen in the Northeast USA and Canada. The wines are fruity and low in tannin often used in blends if at all.
Counoise This variety is known only by the mot diehard Rhone fanatics. Despite its lack of name recognition Counoise is an important player in Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine. This is a beautiful blending grape marrying perfectly with both Syrah and Grenache.
Cot The Loire (France) local name for Malbec.
Corvina A popular and greatly significant red variety grown in Italy's Veneto region and throughout the northeast. Corvina is the primary grape responsible for Valpolicella (including Amarone) and Bardolino. The quality movement in these areas has resulted in a new appreciation for Corvina recognizing it as one of Italy’s noble red grapes. The wines of Corvina are most often medium-bodied with a fresh and sometimes tart cherry flavor with low tannins and a great balance of acidity.
Cortese A popular and ancient white variety grown in Italy's Piedmont region where it produces the famous northern wine, Gavi. Outside of Piedmont the variety is important in Oltrepò Pavese, Veneto, and Lombardy. Cortese is rarely seen outside of Italy (although we have seen a few California versions at BevX). The wines are often light and dry with crisp acidity and it is often paired with seafood.
Concord Most of you are probably most familiar with Concord in your jellies and jams or perhaps in your kids grape juice. Concord is used in northeast USA to produce fruity wines most often purchased in tasting rooms in quaint New York and New England wineries.
Colombard A prolific white variety that is the major component of many "generic" white wines. Colombard (often called French Colombard outside of France) is also an important player in the production of brandy most notably Armagnac, and Cognac to a lesser degree.
Clairette Blanc This is a workhorse white varietal in the Southern Rhone and much of the Southwest of France. Clairette Blanc is a blending varietal adding heft and strength to wines while contributing little acid.
Cinsault A popular red variety widely grown in Southern France including the Southern Rhone where it can be found in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Cinsault is vigorous in the field giving great yields. The wines are juicy with low tannin and a pleasing spice note. This variety has great potential in California as both a blender and a solo performer. Cinsault is also an important varietal in Morocco, Algeria, and Lebanon where it is important in the famous wines of Chateau Musar.
Ciliegiolo A red varietal of Central and Southern Italy, primarily Tuscany and Umbria. The variety was nearly extinct until its recent revival. Ciliegiolo's origins are unknown although most evidence points to Spain.
Chasselas A white variety of confused origins that is grown around the world. It is almost always used in blends with the exception of Switzerland where it has been used to create light, pleasant wines. Chasselas is also found in France’s Savoie and Alsace regions.
Chenin Blanc A terrific white varietal widely planted in many regions of the world but most famously in France's, Loire Valley. In the Lorie Chenin Blanc is vital in many appellations most notably: Saumur, Savenniéres, and Vouvray. When made with care Chenin Blanc offers great floral and fruit qualities while possessing tremendous natural acidity that show well in still, sweet, and sparkling wines. The best made examples can age gracefully for decades.
Chardonnay Clearly the world's most popular white wine variety, so much so that in the US it virtually synonymous with white wine. The sole component of the top white wines from France's Burgundy region and a key component to Champagne. It is hard to find a wine producing nation that does not grow Chardonnay and produce this varietal. It best performs in regions that supply cool nights that extend the growing season developing complex flavors while retaining natural acidity.
Chancellor A French-American hybrid red variety that was once used extensively in France's Rhone Valley. It is now most commonly grown throughout the eastern USA It produces a fruity, medium bodied red wine.
Charbono A red variety of Italian origin, many believe it to be Dolcetto, which was once modestly available in California. Sadly, scandalously under produced and under appreciated. The wines are fruity while firm and potentially tannic with balancing acidity. Please... somebody get some guts and grow more of this stuff!
Cayuga White An American hybrid white grape grown in the eastern USA wine regions. In the right hands this variety can produce wines with more finesse and complexity than many Native American varieties.
Chambourcin A French/American red hybrid grape grown extensively in northern US states and Canada. It is considered by many to be one of the best hybrid varieties producing wines with deep color, expressive aromatics and lacking the simple, “grapey” flavors associated with native American varieties.
Carmenere A red variety that was once widely planted in Bordeaux but is now quite scarce in the appellation. The variety is gaining popularity in Chile where it is being touted as the missing Bordeaux varietal.
Carricante The primary varietal in Sicily’s Etna Bianco.
Catawba An American hybrid wine grape grown in the eastern USA wine regions and used to make sparkling wines, rose and very fruity white wines.
Carignan Synonimous with Carignane, this prolific grape is the key component of many bulk wine produced in the South of France. However, if this varietal’s yields are kept low Carignan can produce wines with depth, style, and charm.
Cannonau The primary red varietal of Sardinia where it is used in the production of both dry and sweet wines. Cannonau is synonymous with France’s Grenache and Spain’s Granacha.
Canaiolo Red variety, grown in Tuscany and most recognized for its contributions to Chianti where it was traditionally second to Sangiovese. The grape is rarely seen as a solo performer, instead it is used as a blending component. The variety is seldom seen outside of Italy.
Calabrese Synonymous with Nero d’Avola.
Cabernet Sauvignon A noble and omnipresent red variety native to Bordeaux but has since been adopted by virtually every wine producing nation in the world. When grown in ideal soils and climates (such as Bordeaux) Cabernet Sauvignon can produce wines of incredible strength and elegance. Outside of Bordeaux terrific examples are being made in several California Appellations as well as Washinton State, Australia's Coonawarra, and in a number of regions in South America.
Brachetto A red variety most commonly used to produce sparkling, semisweet, red wines in Piedmont. The variety is scarcely seen outside of Italy.
Cabernet Franc Cousin to Cabernet Sauvignon, with many similarities, both in the vineyard and in the wine bottle. One of the big three varieties in Bordeaux (Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot being the others). Cabernet Franc is also very important France’s Loire where it is the dominant varietal in the vastly underrated Chinon. This varietal can be difficult to master as at times it can become excessively herbal or green. When done right Cabernet Franc is wonderfully floral and fruit driven with complex herbal accents.
Bourboulenc This white varietal plays an important role in the wines from Corbiéres and Minervois. Bourboulenc is also one of the 13 permitted varietals in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Bonarda A red variety native to Piedmont’s Novara Hills where it contributes to several DOC wines. Bonarda is also widely planted in Argentina. Many believe it to be synonymous with Charbono grown in California. The wines are often rich and fruity with soft tannins and a refreshing dose of acidity.
Blaufrankisch Austria's best known and most successful red variety. Once thought to be France's Gamay but this belief was proven false. It is grown in Germany where it is know as Limberger or Lemberger.
Bombino Bianco The primary variety of Apulia’s San Servo Bianco. Bombino Bianco is also grown in Emilia Romagna and Lazio with incresing importance. This grape is also known as Ottenese.
Bombino Nero The primary variety of Apulia’s Castel del Monte Rosato.
Biancolella A very old varietal found sparingly in Campania being used in the production of Ischia DOC.
Baco Noir A French hybrid wine variety, used primarily in the eastern USA for dry, red table wines.
Barbera A tremendous red variety native to Italy's Piedmont region where it enjoys official (DOC) status. Barbera follows Sangiovese as Italy’s most widely planted variety. It was once a very popular variety in California where it often produced wines of distinction. Sadly, Barbera planting in California has been greatly diminished although it is well suited to many of the popular appellations. The wines typically have deep color, intense fruit, low tannins, and generous amounts of acidity.
Auxerrois The local name for Malbec in Cahors, France and not to be confused with Auxerrois Blanc a grape that is widley utilized in Alsace.
Auxerrois Blanc Synonymous with Pinot Blanc.
Bacchus A white hybrid variety that is a cross of Muller-Thurgau, Riesling, and Sylvaner. A very popular variety in Germany, bred in and very popular in the Pfalz.
Arneis A white variety grown in the Italian region of Piedmont where it produces primarily dry, zesty, and fruity wines in the hills of Roero. The wines are typically dry and medium to full-bodied offering wonderful aromatics akin to spring flowers, apricot, and Asian pear. This stylish grape is now seeing limited use in California and New Zealand.
Alicante Bouschet A red variety, originally from Spain, used in France's Burgundy region to add color to Burgundy blends. Also used in central California primarily for table wines. While this is a variety that is known for adding heft to wines, it is capable of making remarkable wines.
Aligoté A white wine grape used in various blends in many countries but best known for its fruity, light wines from France's Burgundy where it pays second-fiddle to Chardonnay. The grape is noted for its high acidity and early ripening making it a frequent choice in sparkling wine blends.
Albariño A white variety best known for it's resulting crisp and fruity wines produced in NW Spain. It is also grown in Portugal where it is sometimes known as Alvarinho.
Aleatico A red variety of Italian origin typically used most often for sweet dessert wines such as Aleatico di Gradoli in Latium and Aleatico di Puglia from Apulia.
Albana A white grape native to Italy’s Romagna Hills in Emilia-Romagna. It is a high acid variety that is most commonly used to produce dry whites and contributes to semisweet and sparkling wines.
Abouriou A variety found in France's Southwest region particularly in the Cotes du Marmandais. This varietal is noted for it's high tannins and low acidity. For a time it was believed that Abouriou was a sibling to , if synonymous with, Gamay but DNA evidence suggests otherwise.
Aglianico A red grape variety of ancient origin, likely Greek. A favorite among Roman and Greek scholars. Grown primarily in Central and South Italy most notably in Campania and Basilicata. The resulting wines are most often medium to full-bodied and sturdy. Taurasi and Aglianico del Vulture are the most recognized wines. This great grape variety is now finding a home in California and Australia. Aglianico produces wines that are dense in fruit with generous tannins and acidity.
Scheurebe A hybrid variety named for its German breeder, Georg Scheu. It is a cross of Sylvaner and Riesling. It is popular in the German Pfalz where it ripen in early October. The wines of Scheurebe are most often fragrant with great natural acidity and a pronounced fruity character.
Semillon One of the primary white wine grapes of the Bordeaux area (Graves and Sauternes) where it pairs with Sauvignon Blanc. It doesn't have a large following in the US, but it should as some historic uses of the grape in California have been big favorites of mine.
Sercial One of the primary wine types produced on the island of Madeira. The wine name and the name of the varietal grape are identical.
Seyval Blanc French Hybrid grape variety grown primarily in France and in the eastern USA. The wines can be quite good when carefully produced.
Spatburgunder The German equivalent of Pinot Noir. Perhaps a Pinot Noir clone which was taken to Germany from France’s Burgundian vineyards many decades ago.
Sylvaner A light variety that is quite prolific on the vine. It produces primarily bulk whites in France and Germany.
Syrah Syrah is an important red wine grape, grown in France’s Rhone region where it primarily responsible for the wines of the Northern Rhone and important in blends in the Southern Rhone. In recent decades Syrah, synonymous with Shiraz, has become a major player in the New World most notably in Australia and the USA. At its best, Syrah can produce some of the most profound red wines in the world. The wines are stuffed with dense berry flavors and aromas with tannin and structure to add complexity and longevity. Many of the best Syrah wines have complimentary flavors of earth, smoked meats, and leather.
Tannat This native of France's Southwest is the national red grape of Uruguay. At home Tannat is best known for it's use in the Gascony appellation of Madiran where it produces concentrated wines with deep fruit and firm tannins. In recent years the grape has gained some traction in California.
Tempranillo A noble red variety used with great success in Spain and to a lesser degree in Portugal. Some have likened Tempranillo's flavor to a rustic and robust Pinot Noir. It is known by several other names including Tinto de Toro
Tocai Friulano A widely grown white variety in the Italian region of Fruili. Its wines are floral and crisp with nutty like flavors.
Torrontes A white variety of growing popularity used most notably in Argentina. The wines are fragrant and floral with Viognier like characteristics.
Trebbiano The Italian equivalent of the French Ugni Blanc or Saint Emilion. This is a workhorse grape, being grown all over Italy, in Cognac (for Brandy), and in southern France as well as in a large number of other countries around the world. The wines are dry and crisp, with a distinctive, rather harsh varietal flavor unless there is enough heat summation to fully ripen the grapes. It is surprising that the grape has not been successful anywhere in California, despite the fact of its being considered a standard in many Italian vineyards.
Ugni Blanc The French equivalent of the Italian Trebbiano. This is a workhorse grape, being grown all over Italy, in Cognac (for Brandy), and in southern France as well as in a large number of other countries around the world. The wines are dry and crisp, with a distinctive, rather harsh varietal flavor unless there is enough heat summation to fully ripen the grapes. It is surprising that the grape has not been successful anywhere in California, despite the fact of its being considered a standard in many Italian vineyards.
Verdelho A white variety grown throughout Portugal but best known for it’s use in Madeira where it lends its name to a fortified wine it produces. It is also cultivated in Portugal’s Douro Valley where it is known as Gouvelo. Verdelho is also grown throughout Australia. It was originally brought there to produce sweet, fortified wines but it has recently made its fame producing spicy, dry white wines of note.
Verdicchio An ancient white variety of distinction most prominently used in Italy’s Marches. The variety is best showcased in the areas of Castelli di Jesi and Matelica where they produce wines that are noted for their complex ripe green apple notes and distinctive nutty accents. Recently, we have seen Verdicchio in California! Stay tuned.
Vermentino A white variety producing unique wines from Tuscany to Sardinia and Liguria. The variety is also important in the South of France. This versatile produces dry, crisp white table wines as well as sparkling and sweet wines.
Vernaccia A white variety of some distinction most notably known for its wines produced in and near the Tuscan town of San Gimignano, Vernaccia di San Gimignano. Vernaccia produces wines with a pleasing fruity character matched with generous acidity and a fresh, clean finish. It is rarely seen outside of Italy while we have lately seen a handful of US examples.
Vidal Blanc A hybrid white grape variety developed by Frenchman Jean Louis Vidal in the 1930s. Vidal Blanc is a cross of Ugni Blanc and Rayon d'Or. It is noted for its ability to produces substantial sugar levels in cool climates while maintaining goo acid levels. In the right hands Vidal Blanc can produce wines on par with vinifera varieties. Although developed for potential use in France’s Cognac region it is widely planted in US eastern states and Canada.
Viognier Viognier is known as the Rhone’s exotic white varietal. It is most at home in the appellation of Condrieu where it produces wines with incomparable aromas and flavors reminiscent of a unique hybrid of apricot, peach, and lush tropical fruits. Viognier is best grown in relatively cooler where it can retain its vibrant, bright acidity that all but disappears when it becomes overripe.
Weissburgunder Synonymous with France’s Pinot Blanc. In Germany it is grown primarily in Baden, Pfalz and the Sachsen. The wines are most often rather neutral but some stellar examples have been seen in recent years.
White Riesling True name of the so-called Johannisberg Riesling or Rhine Riesling grape and its wines. Viewed at a distance in the field, there is a distinctly whitish natural cast on the fruit as if powdered by a Japanese make-up artist. Immediately recognizable, this grape looks like no other on the vine.
Zinfandel Zinfandel is an important red varietal in California known both for its sturdy, intense, and rustic reds as well as light, and fruity rosé wines. For years the origins of this varietal were greatly debated but it has been proven (to some degree) that Zinfandel is related to Italy’s Primitivo both decedents of Croatia’s Plavac Mali.

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