Principal Grape Varieties: Red and White
Smoky dry, fairly full-bodied wines that last and mature well. Classic for white Burgundy such as Chablis, Montrachet and Macon but also grown extensively in California and increasingly in all fine wine regions.
The other great white that can develop wonderful complexity with age. Flowery fragrant when young, sharper overtones when older. The grape of all great German wines and known elsewhere as Rhine Riesling and Johannisberg or White Riesling. Italian, Laski and Olasz types not related.
Very popular as a crisp dry white for early consumption. Smells of under-ripe fruit. Known as Fume Blanc in California. At its most typical in Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume.
Most wines are medium dry and slightly honeyed. Best established on the Loire at Vouvray and Anjou but commonly sold in the newer wine regions, especially South Africa where it is also known as Steen.
The grape of the very dry and tart wine.
A grape producing all degrees of sweetness and strength, and many local variants such as Moscato, Moscatel, Muscadelle.
Germany’s most widely planted grape, turning out Riesling-inspired wines that are noticeably lower in acidity and character and must be drunk young.
Exotically perfumed grape producing relatively high-alcohol wines. Known best in Alsace but planted in many wine regions outside France.
Everyday slightly Chardonnay-like dry whites. Grown notably in Alsace, and northern Italy as Pinot Bianco.
High in acidity and often fairly low in fruit. Basic Alsace and known as Silvaner in Germany.
The classic claret grape is dry, tannic when young and long-lived, with an aroma of blackcurrants and/or cedarwood. This grape has travelled furthest and most successfully from its homeland, Bordeaux, especially Medoc and Graves. Now the most respected red grape in places as diverse as California, Australia, Greece and France’s southerly wine regions.
Providing a nice contrast with Cabernet Sauvignon, the classic red grape of Burgundy responds badly to being transplanted. At its finest it produces wines that are rich and heavily perfumed, with the scent of raspberries when young and truffles or violets when more mature. Examples include Chambertin, Beaune, Nuits-St-Georges.
This grape makes dense, concentrated, very dry wines in the northern Rhone including Hermitage and some Cotes-du-Rhone, and much softer, sweeter, looser styles in Australia where it is known as Shiraz.
Across the river from Medoc and Graves, the ‘right bank’ Bordeaux areas of St Emilion and Pomerol rely heavily on the plummy, spicy Merlot. Also grown on the West Coast of the USA and in northern Italy.
A lighter cousin of Cabernet Sauvignon grown extensively in the Loire, Bordeaux and northern Italy. Found in Chinon and many Italian Cabernets.
The light-bodied, crisp, very fruity grape of Beaujolais, designed to be drunk young.
Deep-coloured, tannic, pruney grape grown in Piedmont in northern Italy for wines like Barolo and Barbaresco.
The chief red grape of Chianti with an attractively open fruity flavour.
Sweet, light-coloured red, relatively high in alcohol. Found in Chateauneuf, C6tes-du-Rhone and Rioja.