What grapes are used to make wine?
The Story of Wine from the Walkerhill Sommelier
What grapes are used to make wine?
Of the approximately 2,500 grape varieties worldwide, only about 200 varieties are used to make wine. The vast number of varieties make it difficult for anyone but a true wine enthusiast to identify its names, and remembering the flavor profile of each one is an even greater challenge. Amateur wine consumers can still enjoy wine every bit as much as the professionals, however, with just a little bit of knowledge of the most popular grape varietals. To help you appreciate the finer aspects of wine, we present to you descriptions of six of the most popular wine grapes.
One of the most popular grapes for wine production, Cabernet Sauvignon is a hearty grape that flourishes in a wide variety of climates. This classic varietal is originally from Bordeaux, France but now is grown around the world, including the United States (California), Chile, Australia, South Africa and Argentina. Hints of black cherry, black currant, cedar, black pepper and mint are common, and its high tannin content gives wines made from Cabernet a strong nose as well as mouthfeel.
Vineyards with signature Cabernet Sauvignon wines include Lafite Rothschild, Screaming Eagle & Sassicaia.
Along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot is one of the most popular varietals and is also grown in many parts of the world, though it originated from France. Raspberry, black cherry, plum, blueberry, chocolate, cedar scents all come through in this medium to full-bodied varietal which has a “heavy” mouthfeel.
Vineyards with signature Cabernet Sauvignon wines include: Petrus, Le Pin & Amuse Bouche
Originating from the French region of Rhone, Syrah is an incredibly popular varietal in Australia, with over 60% of the Australian red wine production coming from this grape. There they call it ‘Shiraz’, and while they originally immitated the Rhone style of production, now Australian Shiraz wines have a unique style all their own. Also boasting sharp tanins and a heavier mouthfeel, Syrah wines have undertones of blackberry, blueberry, tobacco, leather, spice, green peppercorn, olive and violet flowers.
Vineyards with signature Syrah wines include: Henschke Hill of Grace, E.Guigal Cote Rotie La Landonne, Marc Sorrel Hermitage
Originating from France’s Burgundy region, Pinot Noir is much more challenging to cultivate than other grapes, so it is produced exclusively in locals that are very conducive to wine production. It is used to create some of the finest red wines available. Pinot Noir red wines tend to have a more delicate flavor than other reds as they are typically single-varietal wines. It has hints of cranberry, cherry, raspberry, red cherry, violet and other fragrance, and due to its low tannin content the astringency is very subtle. Pinot Noir basically has a light feel, which is usually the preferred varieties for beginners and women, but also a favorite among wine lovers.
Vineyards with signature Pinot Noir wines include: Romanee Conti, Georges Roumier Musigny, & Marcassin Pinot Noir
Known as the ‘star of white wine’, Chardonnay is the most produced varietal of green grapes, just as Cabernet Sauvignon is the most frequently produced red wine. It is uniquely used in a wide caliber of wines, from simple table wines to fine white wines. While the grape originates from Burgundy, France, Chardonnays from California are now regarded as some of the best in the world. White wines can vary greatly in style according to the fermenting cask, so fine white wines made from chardonnay are primarily aged in oak barrels. With a smooth texture, delicate acidity and well-rounded mouthfeel, hints of lemon, yellow apple, quince, pear, citrus flowers, pineapple and butter will gently massage your taste buds.
Vineyards with signature Chardonnay wines include: Etienne Sauzet Montrachet, Christian Moreau Chablis
Primarily produced in the Loire River Valley in France, this varietal is also used in terrific wines from Chile, Australia and the United States. New Zealand in particular has become well known for its exceptional Sauvignon Blanc wines. Crisp, fresh aromas of grass, gooseberry, green melon, grapefruit, lime, peach, and fashion fruit make up the nose of this citrusy wine, which pairs perfectly with seafood, particularly all varieties of shellfish.
Vineyards with signature Sauvignon Blanc wines include: Didier Dagueneau Pouilly Fume, Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc, Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc.
[WINE PICK: Barone Ricasoli]
A Treasure From Chianti
The oldest winery in Italy, Barone Ricasoli, invented modern chianti blending and is considered the founder of Chianti wines. The most popular Chianti from Barone Ricasoli is primarily made from the Sangiovese grape, but is also blends in many smaller varieties. As with other Chiantis this wine has delicate tannins and a pleasant acidity, yet is sumptuous as only a Barone Ricasoli wine can be. Rich fragrances of violet, rose flower, and ripe red fruit give it a fresh, light mouthfeel. This wine pairs well with almost anything, but it is ideal with steak, duck and smoked cheese.