Wine information vault
A quality black variety which thrives in hot conditions. Grown widely in the south of Italy, and in Australia and California. Wines produced from Aglianico are tannic and full bodied.
A white variety grown in Galicia in north western Spain. In Portugal, where it is known as Alvarinho, it is sometimes used to make Vinho Verde. Wines made from Albariño are aromatic and have a high acidity
Grown in Burgundy, especially in the Chalonnais and the Mâconnais, where it is the secondary white variety to Chardonnay. Also planted widely in Eastern Europe. Has a high acidity and is sometimes used to make Sparkling wines such as Crémant de Bourgogne.
An Italian white variety, found mostly in Piemonte where it is used to make the white wines in the Langhe hills. Grown also in California, especially in the Sonoma Valley. Produces aromatic, gentle wines with a low acidity.
An early ripening white German variety produced from a Sylvaner/Riesling crossing and Müller-Thurgau. Grown widely in Germany and also in England – its naturally low acidity is an advantage in northern climates. Produces floral, easy drinking wines.
A leading Italian red grape grown extensively in Piedmont where it is second only to Nebbiolo. Also found in Argentina and California and to a lesser extent in Australia. Wines from Barbera have good colour, tannins and acidity
The second most widely grown red variety in Austria. Also cultivated widely across Central Europe especially in Hungary where it is used to make Egri Bikavér, and in the USA, where it is called Limburger. Produces rich and spicy wines.
Once a staple variety in Italy, although it is now something of a rarity. Best known for its performance in Argentina where it was only recently overtaken by Malbec as the most widely planted vine type. On its own it is light and fruity but it is often blended with other grape types to make a more substantial wine.
This white variety is widespread in the southern Rhône Valley and in the south of France, especially in the Languedoc. Somewhat lacklustre in character, it is often blended with Grenache Blanc or Maccabeo.
A fine variety which is an essential component in countless Bordeaux red wines, especially so on the right bank in St Émilion. Also grown in the Loire Valley where it has an attractive, lighter style. Much admired for its adaptability and class, it can be found in almost every red wine region in the world, often as part of the so styled ‘Bordeaux Blends’. Unlike Cabernet Sauvignon, it is seldom seen as a single varietal. Has the dark, spicy, green peppery character of Cabernet Sauvignon but is a touch less austere.
The most famous and widely admired red grape in the world. Forms the major component in most, if not all, of the Cru Classé wines in the Medoc, Bordeaux, including the First Growths and is an essential part in many others. There is virtually no major red wine area where Cabernet Sauvignon cannot be found. Often blended with other varieties, but can be highly successful as a varietal. Produces wines with body, richness, acidity and firm tannins with a pronounced green bell pepper flavour. Pairs well with Merlot. Stands up well to, and benefits greatly from, ageing in oak, new or old.
Once the major grape used to Chianti and although it is still used by some producers, it has largely given way to Sangiovese. Now a minor variety in Central Italy.
Found mostly in the south of France (where it was at one time largely responsible for France’s wine lake) and in Spain, where it is called Carineña or Mazuelo. This can be a rather lacklustre variety except when the vines grow old and produce a more concentrated, pungent style, it can then makes a valuable contribution to many a blend. Can be found in Chile and Argentina. At its best, has a southern, spicy flavour, with gentle tannins.
A red variety that originated in France, Carmenère is now widely grown in Chile, where it was once mistaken for Merlot. It is only in recent times that it was properly identified. It is also cultivated in California. Produces wines with the warmth and charm of Merlot, but more than a hint of the spicy tannins found in Cabernet Sauvignon.
A white grape widely cultivated in Sicily, where it makes decent, if unexciting table wines. It is also used to make Marsala.
A highly adaptable variety that is grown in every country where vines are cultivated, so well known and enjoyed that it hardly merits further mention. Does well in chalky soils and cooler climates (Champagne and England’s South Downs for example) but is extremely tolerant of other terrains and warmer conditions. The main white grape by a huge margin in Burgundy, responsible for the greatest white wines in the world and many excellent lesser ones. Often benefits from oak aging and is capable of maturing well in bottle. Has generous fruit flavours and good balancing acidity.
A white variety that prefers cool conditions. This is the main variety in Switzerland, where it is thought it may have originated. In France it is used in Alsace, and in the Loire Valley to make Pouilly sur Loire, the lesser wine from the Pouilly Fumé region. Grown in Germany also, mostly in Baden. Although it exists in New Zealand, it is felt that it is not suitable for wine making. In Australia, it is used mostly as a table grape. Makes wines that are light and fruity with low acidity.
An important wine grape grown extensively throughout the world. In the central Loire Valley this is the main white variety, making dry, sweet (conditions permitting) and sparkling wines. Especially successful in South Africa, where it was once called ‘Steen’. Thrives in California. Has a good acidity, making fresh, elegant, wines. Can also have a capacity for ageing.
A Mediterranean variety, widespread in the South of France, especially in Languedoc-Roussillon where it is used to make both red and rosé. Cinsault has been crossed with Pinot Noir to make Pinotage, a favoured variety in South Africa. Produces wines of medium depth which are low in tannins.
A white variety found in the south west of France. Used with others to make both Cognac and Armagnac. Also a part of many table wine blends in the south west. Thanks to its high acidity it is good for producing sparkling wines. It is grown widely in both California and South Africa.
An Italian white grape grown mostly in the Piemonte region. Makes fresh wines with a good acidity.
An Italian red variety used to make both Valpolicella and Bardolino. Has a high acidity, making fresh, cherry red, lively wines. Also used to make Amarone.
A red variety grown almost exclusively in the Piedmonte region in Italy where it comes third in line after Nebbiolo and Barbera. Has been tried in South Australia and Argentina but does not seem to have made much of an impression in either country. Makes wines of medium intensity with low acidity which should be drunk young.
A relatively new German red variety which suits northern climates. Hardy and high yielding. In Germany it is grown mostly in the Pfalz and Rheinhesse. Popular in England where it is often blended with Pinot Noir. Makes medium bodied wines with strong colour. Sometimes used to make rosé.
An Italian white grape grown in the south of the country, above Naples. Makes wines which are fresh and zesty, with firm fruit flavours.
A white Portuguese grape grown in the central part of the country, notably Bairrada (south of Oporto) and Tejo (north east of Lisbon). Makes aromatic, slightly exotic wines best drunk young.
An Italian white variety, high yielding with a good acidity, once called ‘Prosecco’ and used to make the wine of that name. Grown mostly in Veneto, north east Italy.
A Spanish red variety grown in the Ebro Valley where it is often part of the blend used to make wines in Rioja and Navarra. However, due to its low yields it is gradually falling out of favour. Found in tiny quantities in the South of France where it is called Morrastel. Wines made from Graciano have a strong colour, rich tannins and fruit extract and age well.
Grown in central Italy; especially important in Umbria where, blended with Trebbiano, Malvasia, and Verdello, it is used to make Orvieto.
An Italian white variety grown in Campania, used to make Greco di Tufo in the village of that name.
A notable variety, used in the southern Rhône Valley as part of the blend to make Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Vacqueyras Blanc, and in the Languedoc-Roussillon where it is often teamed with Rolle and other southern white grapes. Known in Spain as Garnacha, it is common in the north east, especially in Navarra and Priourat. Makes full flavoured, gently spicy wines.
A premium French red variety, grown widely in the southern Rhône Valley where it is frequently blended with Syrah and Mourvedre, and in the south of France generally. Cultivated in Australia and California where it is increasing in popularity, and also in many Spanish wine regions, where it is called Garnacha. Makes intense, warm hearted, spicy, medium coloured wines.
A white Italian variety grown in Sicily where it survives due to its ability to withstand heat. Blended with Inzolio, it is used to make Marsala but its fortunes have declined with that of Marsala. Produces robust, somewhat rustic, white wines.
An uninspiring, high yielding, French red variety grown in the central part of the Loire Valley. Largely employed to make sparkling wines and rosé. Not permitted under the appellation regulations to make red wines.
A prominent white grape in the south west of France, where it produces dry wines in Jurancon and IGT Côtes de Gascogne. Has a high acidity, and produces aromatic, soft white fruit flavours.
Austria’s star variety, grown widely throughout the country and also in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. In the right position, and when yields are kept low, capable of making something dry, fresh, slightly spicy, and intense. Higher yields produce wines that are light, easy drinking.
A white German variety which is becoming increasingly important. Cultivated widely in Germany, especially in the Pfalz, Rheinhesse, and the Mosel. Also grown in northern Italy, Austria and England. Often forms part of blends but stands up well on its own. Makes aromatic wines with a fresh acidity.
A white variety grown in the Rias Baixas region, in North West Spain, and also in the north of Portugal where it is the main grape used to make Vinho Verde. Produces delicate, aromatic wines with fresh acidity.
Also known as Viura. A white grape grown widely in Spain especially in the north where it is used to make white wines in Rioja. Found in southern France (Maccabeo) where it is often blended with Bourboulenc and Grenache Blanc. Produces spicy wines with a strong varietal flavour. Amongst the permitted varieties used to make Cava.
A French red grape best known for making wines in Beaujolais, where the granite slopes provide ideal ‘terroir’ for this variety. Gamay is one of the few high profile vines that are not grown very much elsewhere, although there is some in the Loire Valley and small pockets in other parts of the world. Makes lively, floral and aromatic wines which are like no others.
A white variety from the Loire Valley. Grown in Washington State in America, and in England. Makes wines that are crisp and aromatic with firm acidity.
A red grape of the south west of France, best known for producing the wines of Cahors. Now a major variety in Argentina where growers have made it their own. Also found in Chile but there it is less prominent. Makes fulsome wines which have warm varietal character, similar to Cabernet but a shade softer.
The anglicized name for the Malvasia grape when grown in Madeira, and used to make the fortified wine of that name. When grown on the volcanic slopes of the island it gains good sugar levels producing the richest, most luxuriously sweet Madeira of all.
There are many different types of this variety, both red and white. Various versions are grown in Italy, Northern Spain, Portugal, California and Australia, and it is often added to a blend to give flavour and character. Normally wines from Malvasia are dry but there are sweet, dessert, styles. Makes the Malmsey style of Madeira.
A Northern Rhône Valley variety which is often blended with Marsanne, and sometimes Rolle. Used to make make Hermitage Blanc. Also grown in California and Australia. Has a rich texture and offers good levels of fruit.
Melon de Bourgogne
The variety used to make Muscadet in the Loire region of France. Thought to be a very distant cousin of Chardonnay although it demonstrates few, if any, of its characteristics. Now cultivated in the USA in Oregon. Produces zesty fresh wines.
A traditional variety, somewhat overlooked, but now growing in stature due to its recent success in Galicia, north western Spain, particularly in Bierzo. Produces strong coloured wines with good acidity and tannins.
A major red grape from the south west of France. The principal variety of the Bordeaux area, it is an essential part of the blend that is used to make all the Cru Classé wines in the Medoc. It is the most important part of the mix on the right bank, and is the sole variety responsible for the success of some of the grandest names in Pomerol. Cultivated increasingly in the Languedoc-Rouissillon department of France. Grown all over the world, it is highly successful in South and North America, especially in Chile. Has played a large part in creating the ‘Super Tuscans’ in northern Italy. Has a strong varietal character not dissimilar from Cabernet, although it is softer with less austere tannins.
Widely grown in the central part of Italy. The wines made from Montepulciano in Abbruzzo are the best expression of this variety. Confusingly, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, which is named after the town rather than the grape, is not made from Montepulciano.
The Spanish word for Muscatel. Makes easy, sweet aromatic wines, many of which come from Valencia.
This red variety enjoys hot conditions and is grown in southern France, Australia (where it is known as Mataro) and in Spain (where it is called Monastrell). In the southern Rhône it is often blended with Grenache and Syrah.
This white variety is grown extensively in Germany, principally in the Rheinhesse, the Pfalz and Baden. Also cultivated in Austria and Luxembourg where it is called Rivaner. Has found a place in English vineyards as it is tolerant of northern conditions. Makes easy, aromatic wines with low acidity.
An aromatic white grape that helps to make Sauternes although the amount used is small. Contributes to the blend in Monbazillac but here the proportion employed is of more significance.
A aromatic variety used widely in France and elsewhere to make rich, sweet, sometimes lightly fortified, wines. Produces sparkling wines, notably Italy’s Asti Spumante. Can produce intense, fragrant dry wines, Muscat d’Alsace being one of the best of these.
Muscat Blanc à Petit Grains
A variety of Muscat which makes many of the lightly fortified, aromatic, intensely sweet, French ‘vins doux naturels’, such as Muscat de Beaume de Venise, Muscat St Jean de Minervois, and Muscat de Frontignan. Also produces liqueur Muscat in Victoria, Australia, and Italy’s Asti Spumante. Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, together with Muscat d’Ottonel, is responsible for the dry, fragrant, Muscat d’Alsace.
Italy’s most noble red grape which is responsible for the grand wines of Piedmonte, notably Barolo and Barbaresco. Wines from Nebbiolo are of medium colour, with strong flavours and varietal character, which need ageing to fulfil their potential.
As the traditional varieties used to make Madeira (Sercial, Bual and Malvasia) declined and so became more expensive, Negra Mole (better known as Tinta Negra Mole) has largely replaced them and this is now the most widely grown variety on the Island. It is used now to make almost all commercial Madeira (see separate section on Madeira).
One of the major grape varieties used to make red wines in Sicily. Produces wines with a lively red colour, soft tannins and good red fruit flavours.
A variation of Muscat which, although thought to be of European origin, is grown mostly in Australia. Makes characterful, aromatic dry wines, but is best known for the rich, luscious sweet wines that it produces.
A red grape grown in Chile, producing light, insubstantial, wines largely for domestic consumption which are rarely exported. Now being overtaken by international varieties of superior quality.
A white grape best known as the main variety used to make Sherry in Jerez, in the south of Spain. Grown also in South Africa and Australia. Well suited to producing fortified wines.
Together with Xarello, Macabeo and Chardonnay, this white Spanish variety is used to make Cava in the region of Catalonia and elsewhere in Spain.
A white grape best known for its part in the production of rich lusciously sweet Sherry. Makes dry wines in Catalonia, Extramadura other regions of Spain. Grown in Australia in small quantities, where it is used to make both fortified and table wines.
A red variety grow widely in the south of Portugal.
A white grape found mostly the South West of France, especially in the IGT Côtes de Gascogne, where it is one of the main varieties used to make dry white wine. Also produces white wines, both sweet and dry, in Jurancon.
A robust, tannic red grape, this makes a valuable contribution to the blend of varieties used by many of the top Bordeaux Châteaux, especially those in the Medoc. It is cultivated also in Australia, California and Argentina.
Best known for making Picpoul de Pinet, a generous, floral white wine produced in the Languedoc region in southern France.
Pinot Bianco (known as Pinot Blanc in France) is grown in the Trentino/Alto Adige, and Friuli regions in the north of Italy. It makes crisp rather acid wines which are best consumed young.
A French white variety producing aromatic, dry, easy drinking wines in Alsace. Grown as Weissburgunder in Germany (mostly in the Rheinhesse and the Pfalz), and Klevner in Austria.
A major variety in Alsace, France, where it was once called Tokay d’Alsace but, to avoid any confusion with the Hungarian wine also called Tokay, the name was changed to Pinot Gris. Makes a rich, generous white wine with a spicy character. Grown in Chile in the Casablanca Valley, and in New Zealand where plantings over the past few years have been prolific.
A red French variety which, together with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, is used to make Champagne. Generally thought to be less fine than Pinot Noir but contributes acidity and flavour. Grown in North America and in New Zealand for the production of sparkling wines.
The Italian name for Pinot Noir. Not widely planted but can be found in the northern regions of Veneto, Friuli, and Trentino.
The grape used to make the great red wines of Burgundy, which are some of the most sought after in the world. Also an important constituent of Champagne. Has been exported all over the world with varying results, but is having much success in New Zealand, especially in South Island. The Casablanca Valley in Chile makes increasingly good wines from Pinot Noir, and there some fine examples being produced in Tasmania. At best, this variety has pungency and delicacy with fine aromas. The finest wines benefit from ageing in oak and keep well.
A crossing of Pinot Noir and Cinsault. Has good acidity with gentle blackberry fruit and spiced plum flavours. Although this is South Africa’s very own red variety, it is beginning to find its way to other parts of the world.
A red variety grown in the north Italian region of Veneto. Robust and tannic. Now often used to make pink Prosecco style wine.
A white Italian variety grown principally in Friuli-Venezia. Makes fragrant wines with good acidity.
A noble white grape, forever associated with the wines of Germany. In its element in the Mosel Valley and the Rheingau, where it is the major variety, producing gloriously fresh, often semi dry and sweet wines which are relatively low in alcohol. Capable of ageing exceptionally well, although as it loses its freshness it gains a wonderful patina of age. Alsace Riesling is dry with higher alcohol content. Also found in Austria, Luxembourg and Northern Italy. Gaining ground in Australia, California, South Africa and New Zealand where its spicy fresh style is becoming increasingly popular.
A white grape cultivated in the northern Rhône where it is often blended with Marsanne. In the northern Rhône it is used to make Crozes Hermitage, Hermitage and St Joseph, and in the southern Rhône it is one of several permitted varieties in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Produces wines that are aromatic and generous with medium acidity. Also found in the southern French region of Languedoc.
An Italian red grape grown in Tuscany where it is the main variety used to make Chianti. Grown in the United States in California and Oregon, and to a lesser extent in Argentina. Makes light coloured wines with intense flavour and good acidity. Quality wines made from Sangiovese benefit from some ageing in wood.
A classic French white grape well liked for its aromatic, ripe gooseberry style freshness. Planted widely throughout France. It makes some of the best dry white Loire Valley wines, in Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé; and in Bordeaux, in combination with Semillon and Muscadelle, it produces the fine wines of Sauternes. Has found fame in New Zealand, especially in Marlborough. It is grown widely in the New World, notably in California and Chile although in warmer climates, the varietal character becomes less pronounced. Generally a much sought after variety.
Used in Bordeaux, in partnership with Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle, to make the great sweet wines from Sauternes (it is an easy target for Noble Rot) and the dry white wines of Graves. Widespread throughout the New World, especially in Chile and Australia, where it is frequently blended with other varieties. Makes wines with easy, warm white fruit flavours and a flattering style.
The Portuguese white grape used in Madeira to make the dry style of fortified wine that carries its name. Sadly, it is now in decline and true ‘Sercial’ is becoming rare and expensive.
Although a non permitted variety in the EU as far as quality wines (appellation controlee) are concerned, Seyval Blanc is grown in England where it is often used to make Sparkling wines. Also grown in New York State America and in Canada.
Grown in Alsace although this is not one of the ‘noble’ varieties. Makes refreshing easy, ‘Café’ wines, rather than something profound.
Syrah is grown throughout the Rhône Valley but is at its best in the north of the region where it produces the red wines of Hermitage and Côte Rotie. Cultivated widely (as Shiraz) in the new world, it is especially successful in California and Australia where it is often paired with other varieties. In the northern Rhône, it makes wines that have firm tannins, good acidity, with spicy blackberry and dark fruit flavours which age well. In the southern hemisphere, the wines are gentle and pungent with less pronounced tannins.
A French red (‘black’ would seem to be more appropriate) variety, which is used to make the dark, tannic, uncompromising wines of Madiran. Not much cultivated anywhere else, although there is some to be found in South America, especially in Uruguay.
Spain’s premium red variety which is grown all over the country but best known for producing the red wines of Rioja and Ribera del Duero. In Rioja there are several quality levels, depending on the length of time spent in oak. It is known as Cencibel in other Spanish regions, and as Tinto Roriz in Portugal where it is one of the better grapes used to make Port. Although happiest on its own turf, it has had some success in Mendoza, in Argentina, and elsewhere.
A tannic red grape variety with good acidity, also known as ‘Baga’, grown in Portugal’s Bairrada region.
A red variety, grown in the Douro Valley in Portugal. Used as one of the varieties to make Port. Also cultivated in the Western Cape in South Africa.
Tinta Negra Mole
Most Madeira is made from this variety which has largely taken over from the traditional grapes, Sercial, Bual and Malvasia. These are only now on the way back again having fallen into decline.
The Portuguese name for Tempranillo.
A white grape of uncertain origin, grown in Argentina, especially in Mendoza. Has a soft white fruit, floral aromatic flavour, not dissimilar to Muscat. Used as a varietal, but sometimes added to blends to give character.
One of the principal varieties used to make Port, admired for its weight and structure. Also makes table wines in the Douro Valley and the Dão region. Has a dark colour, full tannins and a strong varietal character.
One of the primary varieties used to make Port. Grown in the Douro Valley and the Dão region it is also produces table wines which are full bodied and stylish with rounded tannins.
One of the principal white grapes grown in Italy, widely cultivated in Umbria where it is used to produce Orvieto. Once added to Sangiovese to make Chianti, but this practice is now dwindling. Grown in Argentina, and in Australia, mostly in New South Wales and South Australia. Called ‘Ugni Blanc’ in France and ‘St Emilion’ when used in the production of Cognac; also one of the varieties in Armagnac. Has a naturally high acidity, a useful attribute when destined for distillation.
Pronounced Tre-sh-dora. One of the white varieties used to make Vinho Verde in northern Portugal. Also grown in the north western Spain, especially in Rias Baixas and Ribeiro regions. Adds fresh, citrus fruit flavours and weight to the wine.
A French red grape grown in the Jura where it is often blended with Poulsard. Known in Portugal as ‘Bastardo’, it is one of the varieties used to make Port.
A white grape widespread in the South West of France. Has a naturally high acidity, at best making fresh, light wines with crisp, citrus fruit characteristics. Sometimes wines made from Ugni Blanc are allowed a few grams of residual sugar. Normally part of the blend that makes the white wines of the Côtes de Gascogne. One of the varieties distilled to make brandy, both in Cognac (where it is known as ‘St Émilion’) and in Armagnac. Grown widely in South America. Called Trebbiano in Italy.
A white local grape variety that has been planted in the Castilla e León region of Rueda for centuries. Has a high acidity and produces rich wines with herbal, spicy white fruit flavours. Any wine labelled Rueda Verdejo must be made with at least 85% Verdejo.
One of the big four grapes used in Madeira. Wines made from Verdelho, which are sweeter than Sercial but drier than Bual, have a velvety texture and a spicy acidity. Grown in Australia’s Hunter Valley, Western Australia and South Australia, Verdelho turns out full, well rounded wines with a strong varietal flavour
A white grape grown in the Marche region in Central Italy. Produces Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi from vineyards close to the Adriatic, and the more refined Verdicchio di Matelica, which is made further inland where yields are lower.
Grown mostly in Sardinia, this Italian white grape is also cultivated in Languedoc and in Corsica where it is sometimes known as Malvoisie de Corse or Malvasia a Bonifacio. Often blended with other varieties, producing floral, aromatic wines which have good acidity.
The fullest expression of this white grape is to be found in Condrieu, a rounded, delicately perfumed, full bodied wine with wonderfully intense white fruit flavours, made near the town of that name in the northern Rhône Valley. Also allowed to contribute up to 20% to the Syrah used to make Côte Rôtie. On the increase almost everywhere, it needs careful handling with skill full wine making if it is to display its true character. Often combined with other varieties, bringing with it elegance and floral pungency.
The Spanish name for Macabeo. See entry under that name.
Pronouned Sh-re-lo. A pungent white variety which, together with Parellada and Macabeo, produces the Spanish sparkling wine, Cava. Especially highly regarded in the main Cava region, Penedès.
An Italian synonym for ‘Muscat of Alexandria’.
Planted extensively in California where it makes rich top class red wines through to the semi sweet blush style. Grown to a limited extent in Australia. In general, wines produced from Zinfandel are easy, uncomplicated and for immediate drinking. In Puglia, the ‘heel’ of Italy, it is known as Primitivo.
A relatively new red vine crossing, of Blaufrankisch and St Laurent, which has become the most widely cultivated red grape in Austria. Plantings are now second only to Grüner Veltliner overall. It is spreading to other countries, including England, largely on an experimental basis. Produces wines with gentle tannins with warm soft red fruit flavours.
A low yielding, traditional variety used to make a fine style of fortified Madeira. Limited in quantity this is now something of a rarity.