Agiorgitiko [St. George, Mavro Nemeas] is a red grape variety that has traditionally been cultivated in the Nemea region of the Peloponnese on the east coast of Greece. The wines can range from complex age worthy reds to fresh, light easy drinking table wines to rosés. They generally are spicy and earthy with low acidity with a medium to full body and graceful texture. It is often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon to make the popular table wine Katoi.
Tasting Notes: floral, plum, cherry, red and black current, Mediterranean herbs, exotic spices
Aglianico has one of the longest histories of any red wine grape, thought to have been brought to Italy by the Greeks approximately in the 6th century BC. It was famous in the ancient world for its part in Falernum, a wine revered by kings and poets. Recent genetic research has suggested that Aglianico may have even been the ‘grandfather’ of Syrah. It ripens late in the harvest, and if done properly, will produce wines that are inky black, with firm tannins, high acidity and a dense, complex, powerful structure that benefits from 5-10 years or more of cellaring. Aglianico thrives in the volcanic soils of southern Italy, specifically in the Campania region. Aglianico hailing from hillside vineyards in Taurus and Taburno tend to be harsh and bold when young, and require a few years to open up. However, Aglianico from the Irpinia region with its lower elevation produces wines that are ready to drink earlier on.
Tasting Notes: candied fruit, blackberry, black cherry, black currant, blueberry, prune, chocolate, coffee, leather, wild mushroom, earth, smoke, ash, tobacco, cigar box spice, lead minerals
Albana a white Italian grape variety planted predominately in the Romagna region of northern Italy. Known as “gold in the vineyard, gold in the glass” the Albano grape can range from light and dry to a sweet passito style. The grape is entwined with the history and legends of Romagna. It was described by Pliny the Elder and the Younger as a fine wine. Galla Placidia, the daughter of the Roman emperor Theodosius I, and regent of the Western Roman Empire from 425 to 437 AD, referred to it as liquid gold.
Tasting Notes: floral, apricot, magnolia, peach, apricot, citrus, honey, almond, cashew, minerals, passito versions express orange peel and candied fruit
Albariño [Alvarinho, Cainho Branco] is a white wine grape grown primarily in the Rias Baixes region of Spain. Its origins are up for debate still, the predominant theory is that it was brought to Spain by Cluny monks in the 12th century, the name translates to “the white wine from the Rhine”. It generally produces light wines with distinctive peach/apricot aromas, a subtle creamy texture, high acidity and crispness. They are very rarely fermented or aged in wood, so the flavours stay vibrant.They are meant to be enjoyed very cold and are best when they are young.
Tasting notes: floral, vanilla, apricot, peach, kiwi, apple, pear, citrus, grapefruit, minerals, almond, ginger
Aleatico [Red Moscatel, Vernaccia Rosso] is a red wine grape grown mostly in Elba, Pugila, Lazio and southern Tuscany in Italy. DNA testing suggests that it is related to Muscat Blanc a Petits Grain, more likely a parent-offspring relationship then a mutation. Its origins are just as unclear; some historians believe the ancient Greeks brought it to Italy, whilst others believe it is indigenous to Puglia in southern Italy. It has elevated levels of sugar and alcohol [even prior to fortification] so it is most often used to produce desert wines. It is known for its characteristic floral aromas and flavours and a well balanced acidity.
Tasting Notes: rose, violet, berries, lychee, strawberry, plum, tea, nutmeg, clove
Arneis [Bianchetta] is an ancient white Italian grape variety indigenous to Piedmont. Its name translates to “little rascal” as it is difficult to grow. It is predominately found in the hills of Roero northwest of Alba, and also in the Langhe DOC. In the past it was most often utilized as a blender grape to soften tannins in red wines, such as with Nebbiolo, although today winemakers are crafting it as a standalone varietal. It produces wines that are highly aromatic, dry, crisp, full bodied along with a characteristic almond note on the finish. They are best enjoyed young.
Tasting Notes: floral, chamomile, citrus, pear, melon, apricot, peach, almonds, hops
Assyrtiko is a Greek white grape varietal indigenous to the island of Santorini. It is cultivated in the volcanic ash rich soil in some of the world’s oldest vineyards [dating back 3500 years] with many of the vines aged between 70 and 150 years. It is grown on other Aegean islands such as Paros and other regions in Greece, particularly Macedonia and Attica. It is highly productive and versatile, causing it to be considered by many as the greatest white grape in Greece. Assyrtiko posses the unusual quality of not losing its acidity, even if it is very ripe. Two distinct types of wine are produced, one an intense, dry version with citrus and minerals, the other a sweet type called Vinsanto [made since the time of the Byzantine Empire] where the grapes are dried in the sun before fermentation, resulting in a wine similar to port. Wines from Santorini tend to be robust and earthy, whilst wines from other regions in Greece are lighter with floral notes and a waxy softness. Although usually enjoyed young, it possess a long ageing potential.
Tasting Notes: citrus, lemon, saline, minerals, earth
Barbera is the most widely planted red grape in Piedmont, northwest Italy. For decades it was coarse and unsophisticated, and then in the1980’s several winemakers in the Piedmont region began planting it in better sites, limiting the yield and aging the wine. They discovered that Barbera could be a luscious fruit filled wine. It is known for producing good yields, deep colour, good tannins and high acidity. Many centuries old vines still exist in Piedmont and allow for robust wines that have intense fruit and long cellaring capabilities. The lighter versions are filled with flavours of fresh and dried fruits and are meant to be consumed young. Bottles with a good balance between acid and fruit, high alcohol content and addition of oak, can be cellared. Many producers often utilize toasted oak barrels which increase the complexity and aging potential. Barbera d’Asti is a red wine made from Barbera grapes and produced in the provinces of Asti and Alexandria. It received DOC statues in 1970 and DOCG in 2008. The wine must be made before the date of March 1 immediately following the harvest, and must reach an alcohol content of at least 11.5%. Barbera d’Asti Superiore must have an alcohol content of at least 12.5% and be aged for at least one year. It has a much longer aging potential and can be cellared for 3-8 years.
Tasting Notes: violet, blackberry, black cherry, black raspberry, blueberry, plum, currents, toast, vanilla, anise, cinnamon, spice, mineral, smoke, oak, leather, balsamic, menthol
Blaufränkisch [Hungary: Kekfrankos, Germany and the United States : Lemberger] Literally translated as “Blue Franconian” it dates from Medieval times when the word Franconian referred to high quality grapes. It has been called the Pinot Noir of Central Europe due to its widespread production and popularity there. It is a late ripening black grape variety, consisting of dark ripe berries, bold spice, smooth firm tannins and sometimes vibrant acidity. Young wines are deeply fruity and become more powerful in character, velvety and complex with age.
Tasting Notes: blueberries, black cherry, blackberry, anise, black pepper, smoky spices/fruit
Cabernet Franc is one of the two parents of Cabernet Sauvignon, a cross between it and Sauvignon Blanc. It is principally grown for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the Bordeaux style, but can also be bottled alone. Cabernet Franc is lighter than Cabernet Sauvignon, and depending on vineyard practices, the flavor profile can be both fruitier and sometimes more herbal or vegetative than Cabernet Sauvignon, although lighter in color and softer in tannins.
Tasting notes: violet, black current, raspberry, strawberry, current, plum, bell pepper, olive, herbs, sage, mint, licorice, vanilla, oak, tobacco, smoke
Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the world’s most widely recognized red grape varieties. It is grown in nearly every major wine producing country, most notably California and France’s Bordeaux region. The aroma of black currants is one of the most distinctive and characteristic element of Cabernet Sauvignon that is present in virtually every style of the wine across the globe. The taste of Cabernet Sauvignon is strongly influenced by the ripeness of the grapes at harvest. When more on the unripe side, the grapes are high in pyrazines and will have pronounced green bell peppers and vegetal flavors; when harvested overripe the wines can have concentrated jammy flavours. Some winemakers choose to harvest their grapes at different ripeness levels in order to incorporate these different elements to add layers of complexity to the wine. When Cabernet Sauvignon is young, the wines typically exhibit strong fruit flavors of black cherries and plum. Styles from various regions and producers may also have aromas of eucalyptus, mint and tobacco. As the wines age they can sometimes develop aromas associated with cedar, cigar boxes and pencil shavings. In general, New World examples have more pronounced fruity notes while Old World wines can be more austere with heightened earthy notes.
Tasting Notes: jammy, black current, black cherry, blackberry, plum, eucalyptus, bell pepper, green olive, green and black peppercorn, ginger, cinnamon, coffee, earthy, oak, toast, cedar, leather
[In 2006, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology published a study conducted at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine that showed the beneficial relationship of resveratrol, a compound found in all red wine, in reducing the risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s. The study showed that resveratrol found in Cabernet Sauvignon can reduce levels of amyloid beta peptides, which attack brain cells and are one of the causes of Alzheimer’s.]
Canaiolo [ Canaiolo Nero, Uva Canina] is a red Italian grape grown throughout central Italy but is most noted in Tuscany as it is possibly native to there. Together with Sangiovese and Colorino it is often used to create Chianti wine and is an important but secondary component of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.It has been used as a key blending grape since it contributes fruit flavours and softens tannins without detracting from the wine’s aromas. It was once required by law to be included in all Chianti production. Now that its presence is optional, many Chianti producers no longer include it. Today there are renewed efforts by Tuscan winemakers to find better selections and re-introduce the variety into popular usage.
Tasting Notes: floral, strawberry, leather
Carignan [Carinena, Mazuelo] Although it originated in Northern Spain, it was the most common vine variety planted in France until it was overtaken by Merlot in the late 1980’s, even though most wine drinkers are unfamiliar with its name. The grape is difficult to work with because it’s so high in rough tannins and acidity, yet its popularity is due to its ability to produce in exceptionally large amounts. When blended, it’s usually with Syrah and Grenache, as they are considered best capable of producing a softer wine with rustic fruit and perfume. Interestingly, it is going thru a small renaissance in France, as modern producers are finding new balanced yet rustically casual blends. Tasting Notes: violet, rose petal, cherry, strawberry, raspberry, black fruits, black pepper, licorice, oak
Carmenѐre was incorrectly thought to be Merlot until 1994 when it was identified correctly as a pre-phylloxera grape that was once widely grown in Bordeaux and thought to be extinct, but is now found primarily in Chile. A member of the Cabernet family, Carménère originates from the French word for crimson [carmin], which refers to the crimson foliage the leaves turn in autumn. It produces wines deep red in colour, soft tannins and a medium body. It is mostly used as a blending grape, but some winemakers are know bottling it on its own quite successfully, as it can be quite complex with a range in flavour from herbal to gamey. It is best enjoyed young.
Tasting Notes: Bell pepper, mushroom, cherry, leather, earthy, dark chocolate, tobacco, spice, smoke
Catarratto is a white wine grape grown primarily in Sicily, where it is the most widely planted grape [nearly 6o% of vineyards are of Catarratto]. It is used mainly in blends and as a blending grape for Marsala. There are two varieties, Catarratta Bianco Comune and Catarratta Bianco Lucida. According to Joe Bastianich, there are subtle differences between the two, the Lucida variety is a bit higher in quality and “can occasionally recall Viognier with its spicy, beeswaxy aromas”. It is low in acidity and known for full bodied, citrus driven wines with a bitter finish.
Tasting Notes: sage, thyme, banana, pineapple, citrus
Cesanese is a red grape varietal thought to be indigenous to the Lazio region in Italy. It is an ancient varietal that may have been used by the Romans for winemaking. There are two sub varieties of the grape Comune and d’Affile [originating and unique to the nearby town of Affile]. There are notable differences between the two varieties, including size and colour. Currently there are three DOC regions for Cesanese, d’Affile, di Olevano and di Piglio, the wines must contain at least 90% Cesanese. The wines tend to be dry with elegant tannins, light bodied, and a slightly bitter undercurrent. They are produced in a variety of styles, including sparkling and sweet, and usually recommended to be enjoyed soon after release.
Tasting Notes: violet, forest floor, cherry, mulberry, blueberry, blackberry, juniper, spice, black pepper, clove, tobacco, earth, leather
Cinsault its heat tolerance and productivity make it important in the Languedoc-Roussillion. Low in tannins, it is often blended with grapes such as Grenache and Carignan to add softness and bouquet and tone down the harsher edges. It is used frequently as one of the 6 grapes in Rhône wines, and it is also one of the 13 grapes legally allowed to be included in Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines, though only a few producers actually use it. It does really well on its own for Rosé wines, and is seen as a stand alone varietal or in blends.
Tasting Notes: floral, strawberry, cherry, pepper, musk, tar
Chardonnay has been the most successful white wine grape in the world for many decades. It is the grape for white French Burgundy, Chablis and Champagne. It is famous for its big flavours, rich textures and creamy, lush, full body. The grape itself is actually quite neutral, although it is exceptionally malleable, which leads to its many flavours being derived from oak and terroir. If aged too long in oak it becomes flabby and overdone with flavours of oak and toast overpowering the grape. It can be vinified in many different ways; lean, crisp and with a fresh minerality such as the wines of Chablis, to that of New World wines that are filled with tropical fruit flavours and toasty oak.
Tasting Notes: Vanilla, butter, butterscotch, apple, pear, peach, banana, kiwi, pineapple, lemon, lime, orange, coconut, mint, custard, flint, minerals, buttered toast, smoke, oak, hazelnut
Chenin Blanc [South Africa: Steen] is a very fragrant French white wine grape variety. Its first mention is in the 9th century when it was described as growing on the left bank of the Loire River. It is one of the most versatile of all grape varieties; producing wines that are crisp and dry, light and sparkling, and heavy and sweet. Over processing and over cropping can lead to bland, neutral wines. France and South Africa tend to produce the better bottles, although California is also now making its mark. Aging in oak introduces a greater complexity and richer, almost creamy texture. Quality Chenin Blanc can cellar for about 5 years or so as the grape is high in acidity, although most bottles are produced to be enjoyed young.
Tasting Notes: floral, apple blossom, lemon, honeysuckle, honey, apple, melon, grass, mint, hay, flint, minerals, wet wool, vanilla, bitter almond, smoke
Colombard was traditionally grown in the Charentes and Gascony, France for distilling into Cognac and Armagnac. In addition to being included in white blends Vin de Pays and Cotes de Gascogne wines, it is also a permitted variety in Bordeaux wine. Easy to grow with a rather meek character, it is generally used only in blends, although innovative winemakers in Gascogne have recently had much success with creating fresh, Sauvignon Blanc type singular varietal wines.
Tasting notes: flower blossom, citrus fruits, green apple, minerals
Cortese [Bianca Fernanda] is a white Italian grape predominantly cultivated in southeastern Piedmont and most recognized in the Cortese di Gavi wines from the Gavi region. Documentation within viticulture records date the grape to 1659, although it’s history presumably reaches back farther in time. With it’s bright acidity and light, crisp flavours, it is a favourite pairing with seafood.
Tasting Notes: lime, lemon, grass, herbs, apple, peach, honeydew melon, almond, minerals
Corvina is mainly grown in the Veneto region of Italy. It is used as blending grape for Valpolicella and Amarone [where the grapes are dried on straw mats prior to fermentation] wines. It produces light to medium body wines with a mild fruity flavor and hints of almond. Naturally high in acidity, the wines can be somewhat tart with a bitter almond and sour cherry finish. Barrel aging can add structure and complexity.
Tasting Notes: violet, blackberry, cherry, strawberry, herbs, almond, leather, prune, fig
Dolcetto is a black grape variety widely grown in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy where many of the top estates produce Dolcetto as an “early to market wine” to generate some income for the winery while the Nebbiolo and Barbera are being matured. There are seven DOCs: Acqui, Alba, Asti, Diano d’Alba, Dogliani, Langhe Monregalesi and Ovada. Wines from Dogliani are known to be powerful and exhibit the most floral characteristics, those from Alba are the most full bodied, and Dolcetto from Diano d’Alba are admired for being a well balanced blend of Dogliani and Alba.The Italian word dolcetto means “little sweet one”, although the wines are normally dry with bright fruit flavours. It is possible that the name derives from the hills where the vine is cultivated. While it is a soft, light, easy drinking wine; the tannic nature of the grape contributes a characteristic bitter finish. They are jammy with soft tannins, moderate levels of acidity and the most fruit forward of Piedmont reds. They are approachable and drinkable upon release, but can age for 3 to 4 years after release.
Tasting Notes: grape, black cherry, blackberry, black currant, blueberry, plum, prunes, orange peel, dried violet petal, licorice, coffee, bitter almond, black pepper, black tea
Erbaluce is a white Italian grape variety indigenous to the Piedmont region. The name is derived from two Italian words, ‘erba’ meaning herb and ‘luce’ meaning light, referring to the wine’s bright colour and characteristic herbaceousness when young. It is known for its combination of bright acidity, dryness and bountiful fruit flavours, most commonly those of apple. It can be crafted into a variety of styles, from crisp and bone dry, to sharp and fragrant, to a sweet passito that still displays a bright acidity.
Tasting Notes: floral, green apple, pear, apricot, lemon, rosemary, sage, minerals
Falanghina is one of the oldest cultivated grape varieties in Italy, with many believing it is of ancient Greek origin. The white wine grape thrives in volcanic soils of the Irpinian Hills in Campania, southern Italy. Recently there has been a revitalization of the grape, as it produces vibrant, easy drinking wines with distinctive apple, orange peel and vanilla characteristics that compliment a wide variety of dishes. Falanghina can also express a distinct salinity, along with intense fruit aromatics. Acidity can range from soft and round to bright and lively.
Tasting Notes: citrus blossom, bitter orange, lemon, pine, herbs, apple, pear, pineapple, vanilla, spice, minerals
Fiano [Apiana] is an Italia white grape variety grown primarily in the Campania region of southern Italy and Sicily. Vineyards in Australia have begun production recently, also in Argentina. The grape has a long history in Campania and is beloved to have been the grape of the ancient Roman wine Apianum. In addition to the grapes being small and thick-skinned, they also produce low yields and very little juice, causing the varietal to be rather unprofitable to grow. It produces light to medium weight wines with intense aromas and flavours, moderate to high acidity and the potential to age for several years after the vintage date; ageing will develop the spice and nutty notes.
Tasting Notes: honey, floral, apple, pear, herbal, fennel, toasted pine nuts, hazelnuts, smoky spice, flint
Frappato is an Italian red wine grape varietal that is planted predominately in Sicily and is believed to be native to the island. It is thought that it is a cross between Sangiovese and another, so far unidentified indigenous grape variety. It is excellent as a blending grape and is used in the famous Cerasuolo di Vittoria of Sicily wines along with Nero d’Avola. Vinified on its own it produces tart, light bodied wines with brightly aromatic strawberry and grape aromas.
Tasting Notes: grape, wild strawberry, cherry, candied orange peel, herbs, nutmeg, cinnamon
Freisa is cultivated in the Piedmont area of northwest Italy, primarily in the Monferrato, Langhe, Turin and Biella areas. It is one of the oldest varietals in Piedmont, dating back to the 16th century. The name is said to have derived from the French word for strawberry [fraise], which is a characteristic aroma of the wine. DNA studies at the University of California, Davis show that “Freisa has a parent-offspring relationship with Nebbiolo”. It is a light, fruity red that has been compared to Pinot Noir, although similar to Nebbiolo, it possesses a good amount of acidity and robust tannins. It can be made in dry, sweet and frizzante styles. It is best enjoyed with a slight chill.
Tasting Notes: strawberry, raspberry, cherry, sour cherry, violet, earth, sandalwood, peppery spice
Friulano [Tocai Friulano, Tocai, Sauvignon Vert] is an Indigenous Italian white wine grape that probably originated in the Veneto region. It was exported to Hungary in 1632 and later returned to Italy with the name Tocai Friulano. Today it is the most widely planted grape in Friuli, northeastern Italy. Friulano produces light to medium bodied aromatic wines with an acidity and savoriness that balance out its inherent softness. [In 2007 a decree by the European Union forced Italy to drop the name Tocai as they feel it will cause confusion and competition with the Hungarian Tokaji, even though Tocai Friulano is floral, citrusy with a slightly bitter almond finish and Tokaji is a heavy and sweet dessert wine, the name change became law, although the rest of Europe is able to still use Tocai singularly.]
Tasting Notes: wildflowers, citrus, hay, apple, almond
Gaglioppo [Lacrima Nera, Montonico Nero] is a red wine grape grown in southern Italy, predominantly in Calabria. It was previously thought to be of Greek origin, but DNA studies in 2010 confirmed that it is an offspring of Sangiovese and therefore of Italian origin. It is a robust and hearty grape that produces full bodied wines with high alcohol and tannins that typically need a few years in the bottle to soften. Its characteristics are often compared to that of Nebbiolo. Currently it is still ambiguous if Gaglioppo is the very same grape as Lacrima; the strain of Lacrima grown in Morro d’Alba may actually be a mutation of Lacrima Nera that is more of a distant cousin than a twin to Gaglioppo. [In Calabria Lacrima is used as a synonym for Gaglioppo.]
Tasting Notes: dog-rose, candied cherry, citrus zest, mixed berries, minerals, licorice, earth, smoked meat, tar
Garnacha Peluda is a variant of the Garnacha (Grenache) grape, although there isn’t a clear consensus if it’s a mutation or relative vine of Garnacha. It produces a lower alcohol content and colour then Garnacha. It gets its name from the underside of its leaves which appear hairy (peluda).
Tasting Notes: black cherry, red licorice, espresso
Gamay [full name is Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc] is the source of the French wine Beaujolais. It is a very old cultivar, thought to have appeared in the village of Gamay in the 1360’s. It produces quite prolifically, and creates easy drinking, bistro-style wines. Carbonic Maceration is generally used to soften the naturally high acidity, this allows for the vibrant fruit and delicate floral aromas to shine through. It is typically fermented quickly, not aged, and consumed young in order to appreciate its fresh, fruity qualities. It is super fruity, lacks tannins, and should be served slightly chilled. In contrast, when whole-berry maceration is utilized, the wines will be modestly aged and have more complexity and body. These are produced mostly in the designated Cru Beaujolais areas, resulting in dried fruit flavours, spice and minerals.
Tasting Notes: violet, rose petal, cherry, strawberry, raspberry, peaches, banana, vanilla, earth, black pepper
Gewürztraminer is a white wine grape variety that performs best in cooler climates. While the French [Alsace] have achieved the greatest success with this grape and its name may be German, the history of Gewürztraminer began in Italy’s Tyrollean Alps, near the village of Tramin in Alto Adige. Its parent variety Traminer has been cultivated there since the Middle Ages; although it’s possible it originated in the Pfalz region of Germany. Gewürz means spice, and the wines are spicy in that its aromas and flavours are bold and intense, so much so that it has been called a “powerhouse symphony” of flavour. It is incredibly fruity yet can be bone dry. The dark pink colour of the skin and pulp of ripe grapes can result in wines that are pale yellow to dark gold with copper highlights, depending on the ripeness of the grape. Old World wines usually are full bodied with ripe, rich fruits accompanied by some bitterness at the finish. New World wines tend to have a light to medium body, light fruity flavours, with little or no bitterness. It has good ageing potential, up to 10 years.
Tasting Notes: lychee, honeysuckle, rose, grapefruit, peach, apricot, mango, all types of apple, passionfruit, mandarin orange, date, vanilla, nuts, gingerbread, butter, stone, mineral, cinnamon, smoke
Glera is an Italian white grape that is used to produce sparkling dry white wine, until 2009 it was referred to as Prosecco. It’s origin can be traced back to the town of Prosecco in Trieste; it was utilized by the Romans and is one of the oldest grapes in Italian history. It is cultivated primarily in the Veneto region of Italy and is predominately used for producing the sparkling or frizzante Prosecco wines, although still wines are occasionally produced. Prosecco is produced using the Charmat method in which the secondary fermentation occurs in stainless steel tanks making the wine less expensive to produce then Champagne. Also unlike Champagne, Prosecco has intense primary aromas and flavor, and is meant to be a light and simple wine. It is best enjoyed young, preferably within 3 years of the vintage, although some high-quality Prosecco can cellar up to 10 years.
Tasting Notes: apple, citrus, pear, apricot, peach
Graciano [Morrastell, Tintilla] is a Spanish red wine grape that is primarily grown in the Rioja region. It produces low yields and is mostly used as a blending partner, contributing structure, colour, aroma, and aging potential. Its high acidity makes it a perfect partner for the low acidic Tempranillo grape.
Tasting Notes: intense dark fruits, licorice, spice, menthol, mineral
Grechetto is an Italian white wine grape that is Greek in origin. It is planted throughout central Italy, particularly in Umbria where it is a blending grape in Orvieto wines. It is also used in the Tuscan dessert wine Vin Santo. It is primarily a blending grape, although recently winemakers are finding that the full bodied, thick-skinned, hearty grape has more potential than previously thought. It can produce smooth, dry wines with balanced acidity and structure.
Tasting Notes: wild flowers, lime, pear, minerals, nuts, bitter almonds
Greco is an Italian wine grape brought to Italy by the Greeks, it is thought to be the parent of many Italian varietals, including Trebbiano and Grechetto. It has a characteristic deep golden yellow colour, bright acidity and chalky minerality. Although generally a mild grape, it can produce elegant wines with juicy, tropical aromas and flavours and a refreshing minerality. These wines need food as they contain a lot of natural acidity and are not high in “fruit” flavors. They have an almond like quality and some background notes of pears. Although historically a sweet wine, they are almost always vinified completely dry and make great parings with sea food or salads. The red wine variety is called Greco Nero and is planted predominately in the Calabria region of Italy and is generally blended with the Gaglioppo grape.
Tasting Notes: floral, lemon, pear, golden apple, peach, green foliage, herbs, hazelnut, toasted almonds, minerals, cinnamon
Grenache (Spain: Garnacha) is one of the most widely planted red wine grape varieties in the world. It is generally spicy, berry-flavored and soft on the palate with a relatively high alcohol content, although it tends to lack acid, tannin and colour and is usually blended with other varieties. Grenache can be used in inexpensive wines that offer immediate satisfaction, such as many wines produced under the Cotes du Rhone appellation. But it is also successful in barrel-aged, cellar-worthy wines that don’t come cheaply. In the southern Rhone, Grenache is the dominant grape in the appellation of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, These wines are generally 75-80 percent Grenache, generally with some Syrah and Mourvedre blended in to provide color, spiciness, and complexity.
Tasting Notes: raspberry, strawberry, black current, black cherry, coffee, gingerbread, cinnamon, anise, clove, leather, black pepper
Grenache Blanc is a variety of white grape variety that is thought to be a mutation of the red Grenache grape. It originated in Spain then found its way to France, where it is now the 4th most widely planted white grape, and the most planted white in Côtes du Rhône and Chateaunuef du Pape. It produces straw coloured wines high in alcohol and with low, but crisp acidity. Although great on its own, its crispness and lengthy finish make it a good blending partner; it is most commonly blended with Roussanne, and occasionally even added to red blends. It plays a dominant role in the white wines of Chàteauneuf-du-Pape and Côtes du Rhône.
Tasting Notes: citrus, green apple, mandarin orange, peach, nectarine, pear, herbs, minerals, licorice, bitter almond
Grillo is a white wine grape thought to be indigenous to Sicily. It was historically used in the production of Marsala, but now is used in DOC blends and as a standalone varietal. It tends to have a high alcohol content and is known for its ability to be crafted into a wide variety of styles, from light and crisp to a creamy, full bodied expression. It’s characteristics have been compared to Sauvignon Blanc.
Tasting Notes: lemon, citrus, melon, peach, nectarine, aromatic herbs, earth
Groppello [Rossignola] is an italian red grape variety grown primarily in the Lombardy region of northern Italy, specifically in the area around Lake Garda. It tends to produce fruity, medium bodied wines with a distinctive bitter, nutty aroma and finish. Not often seen as a stand alone varietal, it is generally used in blends. It is best enjoyed young.
Tasting Notes: floral, citrus, cranberry, saline minerals, spice, almond
Grüner Veltliner is a white wine grape variety found primarily in Austria [where it is the most widely planted grape variety] and also in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Like Riesling it adapts easily to a variety of soil types and can be made into wines of many different styles; from bottles meant to be consumed young to sparkling wines to cellar worthy bottles. Until recently it was most widely known as a simple, easy drinking wine in the wine pubs of Austria, but now with higher production standards such as lower yields and higher ripeness levels, the wines can be not only crisp and fresh, but also intense and complex. They can display a silky smooth texture, medium body, ripe stone fruits and an interesting peppery finish.
Tasting Notes: Citrus, grapefruit, peach, strawberry, apple, nectarine, tropical fruits, rhubarb, vegetal, lentil, green beans, white pepper, tobacco, minerals
Lagrein is a red grape varietal native to northern Italy’s Trentino Alto Adige region. It produces straightforward, aromatic, medium bodied to rich, dark, dry reds [called scuro or dunkel], along with light rosés [kretzer]. In addition to a lively acidity, they are known for their balance of sweet and savoury elements and tend to display a clipped finish. It is occasionally blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and is currently experiencing something of a renaissance amongst Alto Adige winemakers. It can be enjoyed young, or with 5 or more years of ageing at which point a rich gamey element is present.
Tasting Notes: violets, plum, raspberry, cherry, cranberry, dark fruits, herbal, vegetal, spice, cinnamon, earthy, minerals, chocolate, coffee
Listan Negro is a Spanish black skinned grape that is predominately planted in the Canary Islands, especially on the island of Tenerife. The grape historically was widely planted in the Castile region of northern Spain, and it is believed that settlers to the Canary Islands brought the grape with them. The vines are planted in small pits in the volcanic soils, which serve to capture moisture and offer protection from the hot, strong dry winds of the area. A broad spectrum of styles can be produced from the grape, varying from light Rosé wines with soft tannins to rich reds loaded with smoky spice and dark fruits.
Tasting Notes: tomato leaf, wild strawberry, cranberry, raspberry, blackberry, black cherry, and ashy minerals, sea salt, almond, black pepper, chocolate, espresso, smoke
Malbec [Côt] is a purple grape variety with inky dark color and robust tannins, its characteristics fall somewhere between Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Known as one of the six grapes allowed in the blend of red Bordeaux wine, [although the average Bordeaux bottling today contains less than 2% malbec], it has mostly fallen out of favour in France with little being done to encourage its improvement or success. It is increasingly celebrated as an Argentine varietal wine where it is softer and more lush, similar to a merlot, to the extent that it has become Argentina’s signature grape. In warm climates, such as France and Argentina, it’s prized for its rich, ripe plum character and solid structure. In cooler climates such as California and Australia, it adds colour, dense fruit and acidity to Bordeaux style blends of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. French bottles are usually considered short-lived, whereas Argentine Malbecs have been found to age fairly well.
Tasting Notes: plum, blackberry, cherry, raspberry, currants, earthy, mushroom, tobacco, anise, dried leaves, leather, cedar
Malvar is a white wine grape variety that is indigenous to the Iberian Peninsula and predominately grown in Madrid, Spain. It is considered a regional variety but it even rather rare in Spain. It produces medium bodied wines with robust aromas and flavours, being described as combining “the acidity of Sauvignon Blanc with the body of an un-oaked Chardonnay”. Interest in Malvar is steadily increasing, especially as the Madrid region continues to establish an international presence.
Tasting notes: dried flowers, green apple, pineapple, melon, peach, nectarine, orange, lime, grapefruit, minerals
Malvasia is part of a group of white wine grape varieties including Malvasia Bianca and Malvasia Nero grown historically in the Mediterranean regions and traces its origins back to the ancient Greeks. Today it is widely planted in many countries, known by numerous names for both it and its sub-varieties, and is known for its ability to produce varied styles of wine, ranging from light to full-bodied, dry to sweet and also sparkling. In fact, given the broad expanse of Malvasia varieties [In Portugal alone there are 12 varieties that are considered to be Malvasia], it is difficult to establish specific characteristics of the wines produced. It is prominently used as a blending grape with Trebbiano, especially in the Friuli region of Italy, and also in the famous Vin Santo wines of Tuscany. Except for when used in sweet desert wines, it does not age well and is best enjoyed young.
Tasting Notes: honey, pear, nutty, allspice, vanilla
Malvasia Nera is an ancient grape and thought to be Greek in origin. Most varieties produce white wine, Malvasia Nera is the only strain that produces red wine. It’s used primarily as a blending grape in Italy, where it is valued for its dark colour and aromatic qualities. It is generally blended with Negromaro in southern Italy, although it can be found in its varietal form in Piedmont. Additionally Spain, France, Greece, Australia and the U.S. have also used it in single varietal form.
Tasting Notes: floral, dried cherry, black plum, earthy, chocolate, espresso
Mauzac [Mauzac Blanc] is a white grape variety grown predominantly in the Limoux region of southwest France. It buds and ripens late, which allows for a slow fermentation that preserves residual sugar, creating a mildly sweet sparkling wine. It is highly aromatic and used to create Blanquette de Limoux and often blended with Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay.
Tasting Notes: dried apple, apple peel, peach, pear, honey, spices
Mencia is a red wine grape primarily found in northwest Spain. DNA studies by the Department of Vegetal Biology of the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid have discovered that it is identical to the Portuguese grape Jaen du Dao, and was likely brought to Spain by pilgrims returning from the Santiago de Compostela in northern Portugal. It is naturally high in acidity, tannins and aromatics, and can produce character driven wines on its own, or added to blends. It is having a resurgence in Spain, with an increasing amount of winemakers utilizing new technology to craft wines in a wide spectrum of styles, from light and fruit forward to boldly spiced, earthy wines.
Tasting Notes: rose petal, raspberry, cherry, black cherry, herbs [mint, rosemary, thyme], minerals, black pepper, cayenne, balsamic
Merlot is a darkly blue-coloured grape that is used as both a blending grape and for varietal wines. Its softness and “fleshiness”, combined with its earlier ripening makes Merlot a popular grape for blending with the stricter, later-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon, which tends to be higher in tannins. Merlot is one of the primary grapes in Bordeaux wines, where it is the most widely planted grape in the region; it is also one of the most popular red wine varietals in many countries. As a varietal wine, Merlot can make soft, smooth velvety wines with rich plum flavours; on the negative side it can also be thin in taste and texture. There are three main styles of Merlot; a soft, fruity, smooth wine with very little tannins, a fruity wine with more tannic structure and a brawny, highly tannic style made in the profile of Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s best enjoyed young. Tasting Notes: violet, rose, plum, raspberry, blackberry, blueberry, baked cherries, raisin, caramel, bell pepper, olives, oak, smoke, leather, coffee, tobacco, clove, chocolate, cedar
Monica [Pascali, Pensale Nero] Grown on the Italian island of Sardegna, probably of Spanish origin. Along with a natural low acidity, it tends to be simple, easy drinking and made to be consumed young.
Tasting Notes: Baked dark fruits, cherry, raspberry, blackberry, plum, raisin, black olive, earth, balsamic, chocolate, black pepper
Montepulciano is an Italian red wine grape that after Sangiovese is the second most widely dispersed indigenous grape in Italy. It is widely planted in central and southern Italy, and should not be confused with the Tuscan wine Vino Nobile di Montepulciano which is made predominately from the Sangiovese grape. Montepulciano produces deeply coloured, spicy, wines with moderate to high levels of tannin. It is best known for its role in Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, where it is produced in all 4 provinces of Abruzzo. Montepulciano D’Abruzzos [up to 15% Sangiovese can be added] can be rustic and soft, highly aromatic, dry, with low acidity and best paired with food. Although it has aging potential it doesn’t gain complex secondary aromas and flavours over time, so it is best enjoyed young. Tasting Notes: blackberry, cherry, red currant, plum, earthy, tobacco, leather, black pepper
Moscatel Roxo [Roxo means purple] is thought to be a mutation of Moscatel [Muscat] and found primarily in the Setúbal region of Portugal.
Muscadet [Melon de Bourgogne] is a French white grape variety grown predominately in the Loire Valley in northwest France. Muscadet is named for the grape from which it is made, rather than its place of origin as is common. It has three regional appellations; Muscadet Sѐvre et Maine, Muscadet Coteaux de la Loire and Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu. In the late 20th century there was a revival in Muscadet, as winemakers experimented with new ways to bring out more flavour and complexity in the wine. The most common technique is ageing the wine sur lie, which means the wine stays in contact with the spent yeast cells left over after fermentation. Muscadet wines are straightforward, light bodied, crisp, dry, with a high acidity and a sometimes bracing finish. They are generally at their peak drinking ability up to three years after their vintage, although depending on the soil and vinification methods, they can have a potential to age up to and exceeding ten years.
Tasting Notes: green fruits, citrus, minerals
Muscat ranges in colour from white to nearly black. It was probably originally cultivated by the Greeks; the Romans brought it to southern France, and it was documented in Germany in the 1100’s. Hundreds of genetic versions or clones exist and it is known by many names. It is mostly associated with sweet wines, especially in the Mediterranean, although it can produce dry, crisp wines. Dry versions are found in Alsace where it is considered the best of the family; Muscat d’Alsace which has a full body and floral and citrus notes, and Muscat Ottonel which is lighter but more aromatic. The two are usually blended together. It is also the grape [Moscato Bianco] used to make Asti, a light fruity, sparkling wine in northern Italy.
Tasting Notes: grape, rose petal, orange blossom, honey, peach, orange peel, tangerine, coriander, musk
Mourvèdre [Monastrell: Spain]is a grape variety used to make both strong, dark red wines and rosés. It is an international variety grown in many regions around the world. Wines made from Mourvèdre are intensely colored, rich and velvety with aromas of leather, game, and truffles. They tend to be high in alcohol and tannin when young, and are well-suited to aging. Mourvèdre is traditionally found in Rhone style blends, with the warmth and fruit of Grenache and the structure, spice and tannin of Syrah. In Mediterranean regions such as Jumilla, Alicante, Yecla and Bullas Monastrell is seeing a resurgence due to a new understanding of the potential of the grape and improved viticulture.
Tasting Notes: violet, blackberry, plum, cherry, baked dark fruits, thyme, clove, black pepper, gamey, leather, truffles, smoke, toast, peppery spices
Nebbiolo is an indigenous Italian black grape variety grown nearly exclusively in Piedmont, where it makes the majestic Barolo and Barbaresco [referred to as the king and queen of Italian reds]. The name may derive from the thick fog [nebbia] that envelopes the hills in the late fall when the grapes are picked, or the frosted look the grapes have when ripe. It is sensitive to both soil and geography so the wines can vary widely depending on the location of the vineyards. It produces big, full bodied wines that when young are massively tannic, but with age develops into elegant, supple, velvety smooth yet powerful wines.
Tasting Notes: rose, violets, blackberry, cherry, sour cherry, cranberry, dried fruit, anise, licorice, espresso, tea, sandalwood, leather, truffle, earthy, oak, smoke, vanilla, cedar, cigar box, tobacco, tar
Negrette [Pinot Saint George, Petit Noir de Fronton] is a black-skinned red wine grape grown nearly exclusively in the Fronton appellation located between the cities of Toulouse and Montauban in southwest France. Legend has it that it originated in Cyprus, but currently experts believe that it is indigenous to southwest France. It has low acidity, soft tannins and contributes intense colour to both rosé and red blends.
Tasting notes: violet, black currant, raspberry, blackberry, licorice
Negroamaro means“bitter black” in Italian. [also referred to as Nero Amaro and Abbruzzese] It is a dark and spicy blending grape native to Southern Italy and grown almost exclusively in Puglia [Apulia]where it is heavily planted. It’s a regional specialty, but is gaining international popularity due to its fantastic value. Although it can be bottled on its own, it’s generally used as the dominant grape in blends including Malvasia Nera, Sangiovese and Montepulciano. It is rustic in character, having a medium body, firm tannins and high alcohol level. They can be cellared for 3-5 years generally.
Tasting Notes: plum, blackberry, black cherry, blueberry, prune, tropical spices, tobacco, vanilla, cinnamon, dark chocolate, licorice, balsamic, menthol, smoky herbs, earthy bitterness
Nerello is a name given to two varieties of red grapes that are grown primarily in Sicily and Sardinia. An Italian DNA study published in 2008 showed a close genetic relationship between Sangiovese on one side and ten other Italian grape varieties on the other side, including Nerello. It is therefore likely that Nerello is a crossing of Sangiovese and another, so far unidentified, grape variety. Nerello Mascalese is named after the Mascari Plain in Catania where the grape is thought to have originated. It has been described as having the structure of a Barolo and the elegance of a Burgundy. It is widely used in the Etna Rosso DOC as a blending grape to add colour, spice and alcohol. It is one of the three grapes used to make Corvo Rosso wine. Nerrello Cappuccio [aka Mantellato] is grown mostly in Puglia and northeastern Sicily and can be used for blending, especially with Nerello Mascalese.
Tasting Notes: flowery, dried black cherry, currant, earthy, tobacco
Nero d’Avola [Calabrese]is a hearty indigenous grape variety of Sicily and translates as “the black grape of Avola”. In the past few decades, Nero d’Avola has become the most popular grape grown in Sicily, making wines from 100% of the variety rather than blended, although it can be used in blends to add balance, spice and plum flavours. It is often compared to New World Shirazes, as it is velvety, dark and tarry, with rich fruit flavours and big aromatics of black fruits and violets. It’s easy drinking and usually best young, but can also take a bit of aging.
Tasting Notes: violets, cherry, plum, raspberry, chocolate, spice, smoke, earthy
Orange Muscat is a white grape variety with very little known about its origins. It was once grown in France and Italy, and is now seen predominantly in California and Australia. There is some disagreement about whether or not it is related to other Muscat varieties. It is a versatile grape that can be made into styles ranging from extremely light colour and body to sparkling to heavy, fortified wines amber in colour.
Tasting notes: orange blossom, apricot, orange, honey, orange zest
Pelaverga is a somewhat obscure red wine grape variety native to Piedmont, Italy. It is grown in the Verduno [the northernmost commune of Barolo] and Saluzzo regions of Piedmont. It tends to be light-bodied with a firm texture and good acidity, so it is very food friendly. It can also be made in a slightly fizzy style. It is currently experiencing something of a renaissance as a few passionate producers are revitalising it and bottling it on its own.
Tasting Notes: floral, strawberry, raspberry, cherry, bright fruit, mushroom, earthy, forest floor, leather, pink peppercorn, peppery tannins
Petite Arvine [Arvine] is a white grape variety most commonly grown in the Valais region in Switzerland and also to a smaller degree the Valle d’Aosta in Italy. The exact origins of the grape are still unknown, although both countries claim it as indigenous. It produces a wide variety of wines ranging from light and dry to semi-sweet to sweet. Younger wines are crisp and more fragrant, whilst wines aged 6-8 years can be richer, more complex with a salty finish.
Tasting Notes: grapefruit, mandarin, lime, floral, salty minerals, flint
Perricone is an ancient red grape indigenous to Sicily. It went from being the most widely planted in grape in Sicily to being on the verge of extinction. Thankfully, innovative winemakers on the island have worked steadfastly to preserve this native grape, with currently just over 800 acres of vines under cultivation. It is most commonly seen as an accompaniment to Nero d’Avola, due to its velvety texture, hefty tannins and inky dark colour.
Tasting Notes: red berries, herbs, earth
Petite Sirah Even though the origins are in France, California is the place to look for the best Petite Sirah. The “Petite” in the name refers not to the size of the vines but rather to the size of the grapes. In fact, the high skin to juice ratio that accompanies the small berries allows Petite Sirah to produce wines with high tannins and acidity, components that give them the ability to age well. Petite Sirah produces dark, inky colored wines that are relatively acidic, with firm texture; the bouquet has herbal and black pepper overtones, and typically offers flavors of fruit, plums, and especially blueberries. Compared to Syrah, the wine can be somewhat more dark and purplish in color, and typically rounder and fuller in the mouth, and offers a brightness that Syrah lacks. The wines are very tannic, with aging ability that can exceed 20 years. Petite Sirah can sometimes be rather short, that is, the flavor does not linger in the mouth, hence the benefit of blending with another grape which may lack mid-palate depth, but add length and elegance.
Tasting Notes: Dense blueberries, plum, vanilla, earthy, black pepper
Petit Verdot is one of the traditional 6 black grape varieties approved for blending in Bordeaux. Winemakers generally use the Petit Verdot grape as chefs would use seasoning as a little goes a long way; it adds dense fruit, dark color, powerful flavors, and heavy tannins. It is also useful in ‘stiffening’ the mid palate of Cabernet Sauvignon blends. Winemakers in the New World, especially in California, have had success with making it a single varietal wine as it ripens more consistently there. Tasting Notes: blackberry, pencil shavings, molasses, weeds, leather, smoke
Picolit [Piccolito] is an indigenous white Italian grape cultivated since Roman times. It is a rather scarce and unique white-wine grape grown predominately in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of northeast Italy. The only DOCG in which it is designated is Colli Orientali Del Friuli. Picolit gets its name from its extremely low-yielding vines, and plantings are very limited today. The historic reputation and the scarce supply have created high prices for its sweet, flowery wines. The Picolit grape balance of acidity and sugar lends itself well to dessert wine production. With passito wines, the Picolit grapes are normally harvested and dried to raisins on straw mats before pressing. The late harvest styles are picked several weeks later, just before the grapes raisin on the vine. In addition to being served after dinner, the wine is also considered a vino da meditazione or aperitif that can be served alone.
Tasting Notes: floral, peach, apricot, honey, raisins, figs
Picpoul [Piquepoul] One of the oldest Languedoc grapes, Picpoul has been growing near the salt water, oyster and mussel farms of the Thau Lagoon for centuries. It’s name means “lip-smacker” in the regional dialect which refers to its natural high acidity. White is the most common variety, although both blush and black grape varities are cultivated. It is an excellent companion to seafood, rich cheese and chocolate. Green-gold in colour, its zesty, full bodied flavours are best enjoyed young. Picpoul de Pinet is a designation or cru which is used by 6 specific communes within the Languedoc appellation for white wines produced exclusively from Picpoul.
Tasting Notes: white flower blossom, lemon, green apple, herbaceous
Piedirosso [Palombina] is a native red wine grape grown primarily in the Campania region of Italy. Its name translates to “red feet” which reflects its red vine stalks that are made up of three branches that can resemble the foot of a dove. It is generally utilized as a blending grape, but a few producers are now letting it shine as a stand alone varietal. It has balanced tannins, bright acidity and a light to medium body.
Tasting notes: strawberry, blackberry, blueberry, plum, black currant, sour cherry, licorice, chocolate, leather
Pinot Grigio [Pinot Gris] is a variant-clone of Pinot Noir. It generally flourishes in cool climates and high altitudes. The wines vary greatly and are dependent on the region and wine making style they are from. French Pinot Gris are medium to full bodied with a rich, somewhat floral bouquet with apricot, peach, and smoky flavors. They tend to be spicy in comparisons with other Pinot Grigios. Italy’s most popular white wine is Pinot Grigio; it is a light-bodied, crisp white wine that is intended to be consumed early on. It can range from bland with high acidity to rich and luscious flavors and bouquets.
Tasting Notes: apple, pear, melon, citrus, wildflowers, honey, ginger, almond, vanilla, oak
Pinot Meunier [Schwarzriesling] is a black wine grape known mostly for being one of the main varietals used in Champagne production. A mutated sibling of Pinot Noir, its name derives from the French word for “Miller” referring to the flour-like dusting the leaves have. It contributes fruitiness, brightness, spice and aromatics to the Champagne blend. It general it has a higher natural acidity than pinot noir, and produces lighter coloured wines. After France, Germany has the most plantings, followed by Australia and New Zealand. Tasting Notes: cherry, raspberry, apple, earth, smoke
Pinot Noir [Spätburgunder]is one of the oldest grape varieties to be cultivated for the purpose of making wine. Ancient Romans knew this grape as Helvenacia Minor and vinified it as early as the first century AD. Pinot noir grapes are grown around the world, mostly in the cooler regions, but the grape is chiefly associated with the Burgundy region of France. It is widely considered to produce some of the finest wines in the world, even though it can be problematic to cultivate and transform into wine. Difficulties plague it at every step, from propagation to even its bottle-aging characteristics; it’s genetically unstable, difficult to ferment, and retaining color can be a problem. However, a great Pinot Noir creates a lasting impression on the palate and in the memory. Its aroma is often one of the most complex of all varietals and can be intense with a ripe-grape or black cherry, emphasized by a spiciness that suggests cinnamon, sassafras, or mint. It is full-bodied and rich but not heavy, moderately high in alcohol, yet neither acidic nor tannic, with substantial flavor despite its delicacy. The most appealing quality of Pinot Noir may be its soft, velvety texture. Pinot Noir does not have the longevity in the bottle of the darker red wines and tends to reach its peak at five to eight years past the vintage.
Tasting Notes: violet, rose petal, cherry, strawberry, rosemary, oregano, rhubarb, cinnamon, green tea, black olive, mushroom, damp earth, truffle, leather, oak, cedar, cigar box spices, toast
Pinot Noir Précoce [Frühburgunder] is an early-ripening form of Pinot Noir. It is belived to be a naturally early ripening mutation that was selected and specifically cultivated for that purpose. Due to this close relationship, wines from Pinot Noir Précoce are considered indistinguishable from Pinot Noir and can be labelled simply as Pinot Noir if the producer desires.
Pinotage was developed in South Africa in 1925 as a cross between the hot climate Cinsaut and the cooler climate Pinot Noir. The goal was an elegant and acidic grape that was still very fruity. It has had its ups and downs over the years, but is now viewed as a success. There are several styles produced; one is similar to a Beaujolais being light and fruity, another is deep with ripe fruits such as in a Zinfandel, the other is more restrained with high acidity in a Bordeaux like manner.
Tasting Notes: banana, tropical fruits, blackberry, bramble, cinnamon, coffee, smoke, earth
Primitivo It is not known how or when it arrived in Italy, although it’s possible it came over with the ancient Phoenicians who settled in Puglia [Apulia]. DNA studies at the University of California show that the Zinfandel grape is the same as the Primitivo grape grown in Puglia; they are both clones [genetic subtype] of a Croatian grape called Crljenak. There is very little difference between the two that can’t be explained due to terroir or winemaking style; however Primitivo does ripen earlier than Zinfandel, which can result in lower-alcohol wines. Fittingly, it was the Benedictine monks in the 17th century who named it “Primitivo” because of its early maturity. Deeply coloured, rich, well structured with concentrated juicy fruit flavours, it can be cellared for over 20 years, however it’s preferable to consume within 5 years to enjoy its hearty, vibrant fruitiness.
Tasting Notes: violets, cherry, blackberry, raspberry, clove, black pepper
Ribolla Nero or Schioppettino is an indigenous Italian red grape grown predominantly in the Friuli region of northeastern Italy. The original name was Ribolla Nero, whilst Schioppettino refers to the wine it produces. Dating back to the 13th century, the name translates to “gunshot” or “little crack” and ripens rather late in the season, causing it to be planted at higher exposures. . Wines made from Ribolla Nero tend to be inky dark purple in colour, medium bodied with high acidity and tannins. Its qualities have been compared to Rhone wines; dark colour with intense floral and fruit flavours along with a high acidity.
Tasting Notes: violet, raspberry, blueberry, cherry, herbaceous, pepper
Riesling is a white grape variety that originated in the Rhine region of Germany, where it has been cultivated since 1400 or earlier. It is one of the “top three” white wine varietals, together with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. It produces dry, semi-sweet, sweet and sparkling wines that display flowery aromas and high acidity. It is often described as “racy” and is unique in that is has big, complex flavours, low alcohol and a light body all incorporated within a delicate, refined structure. As with Chardonnay, its character is directly dependent on its terroir [where it was grown]. Its naturally high acidity, range of flavours and ability to maintain varietal identity and reflect terroir make it suitable for extended ageing, although it can also be enjoyed young. It doesn’t grow well in warm climates, in fact the most elegant and refined wines come from Germany, Alsace and Northern Austria.
Tasting notes: rose petal, violet, peach, citrus,apple, pear, apricot, melon, honey, cut grass, vibrant minerality, flint, steel
Rondinella is an Italian red grape that is grown primarily in the Veneto region of northern Italy. It is used mostly as a blending grape in Valpolicella, Amarone and Bardolino wines. It is known for it large yields and relatively neutral fruit flavours and low tannins.
Tasting Notes: cherry, strawberry, herbs
Rondo is a red grape hybrid variety created in 1964 by crossing the varieties Zarya Severa and St. Laurent. It matures early, grows at lower temperatures, and has a high resistance to frost so it is rather popular in Northern Europe, including Denmark, Ireland, Sweden, Germany and most notably England. It was released for commercial use in 1997, so it is still relatively unknown. With its good colour and aroma, it is generally used as a blending grape, although strides have been made in England as a stand-alone varietal.
Rossese is a red Italian grape variety grown primarily in Liguria, northern Italy. Planted only in a small fraction of vineyards it is best known in the DOC of Dolceacqua [on the Italian-French border] where it is a local specialty. Best enjoyed young; it displays a blend of intense aromatics, rich fruit, and savory herbs and resins. It generally has a lower alcohol content, vibrant acid and light tannins, making it an excellent companion with varied light dishes and appetizers.
Tasting notes: wild strawberry, red and black raspberry, blackcurrant, sandalwood, black pepper, forest scrub, savory herbs
Ruché is a red Italian grape variety believed to be native to the Piedmont region of northern Italy. The grape and region have their own tiny DOC [Denominazione di Origine Controllata], Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato. The production zone is comprised of only about 100 acres of vineyards. Joe Bastianich describes Ruché as a “’farmhouse’ red unique to piedmont’s Asti region, it will grow in spots where even Barbera won’t mature”. It produces light, fruity, floral wines with moderate acidity and soft tannins, and is generally intended to be enjoyed young.
Tasting Notes: wild berries, flowers, cherry, minerals, pepper
Sangiovese literally means “blood of Jove” which is why many believe that Sangiovese grapes are among the earliest cultivated by the Romans, and perhaps were even by the Etruscans. In Italy, Sangiovese is the most widely planted red grape variety, popular for the production of mainly Chianti wines. Sangiovese is to Chianti as cabernet sauvignon is to Bordeaux. Both form the base of wines normally blended with other varietals and by themselves share a certain distinctive elegance and complexity when well-made.The flavors and aromas are strong in fruit, especially tart cherries, with floral notes, it also has firm tannins and high acidity.Chianti had a bad name up until rather recently due to its rather low price and quality. Not only has quality recently improved due in large part to Consorzio Chianti Classico’s project “Chianti 2000”, Tuscan winemakers have also been experimenting the past few years with blends of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Merlot and have succeeded in creating excellent Supertuscan blends.
Tasting Notes: rose petal, violet, carnation, blueberry, raspberry, plum, tart cherry, orange peel, vanilla, cinnamon, clove, thyme, oregano, olive, oak, earthy, smoke, toast
Sagrantino is a red wine grape indigenous to the Umbria region of central Italy. Its cultivation is primarily centered on a group of 5 communes in Montefalco in central Umbria. Even though it was granted DOCG status in 1991, there are only about 300 acres in production and is therefore not widely known. However, a handful of producers are now working diligently with this unique grape to make a comeback. It has one of the highest tannin levels of any grape in the world, giving it immense aging potential, along with being densely packed with dark fruits and a contrast of savoury and sweet elements.
Tasting notes: plum, currants, blackberry, earth, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, licorice, chocolate, pine
Sauvignon Blanc [Fumé Blanc] is a green-skinned grape variety which originates from the Bordeaux region of France. At some point in the 18th century, the vine paired with Cabernet Franc to parent Cabernet Sauvignon in Bordeaux. Sauvignon blanc is planted in many of the world’s wine regions, producing a crisp, dry, and refreshing white varietal wine. It is a bracing, invigorating, food-friendly wine and one of the easier varietals to recognize by its often sharp, aggressive smell. The wine is usually consumed young, as it does not particularly benefit from aging, except for some oak-aged Pessac-Léognan and Graves from Bordeaux that can age up to fifteen years. Depending on the climate, the flavor can range from aggressively grassy to sweetly tropical. Wine makers can influence the final product of Sauvignon Blanc through a lot of different decisions during the wine making process. French wines tend to be un-oaked, while California Sauvignon Blanc tends to be oaked to soften the acidic characteristics. French wine makers also tend to ferment Sauvignon Blanc, which enhances the mineral aspects of the flavour, while American wineries use colder temperatures to bring out the floral and fruity aspects. New Zealand has taken this grape to new heights in the cool Marlborough region, producing racy wines with tropical fruit and gooseberry flavors.
Tasting Notes: grass, lemon-grass, bell pepper, green olive, fig, apricot, peach, grapefruit, pineapple, lime, melon, honey, butter, mineral, vanilla, oak, toast
Schiava [Vernatsch, Trollinger, Black Hamburg] is an Italian/German is an ancient red wine grape grown in the Trentino-Alto Adige region of northern Italy, and also on the steep sunny slopes of Baden-Württemberg in southwestern Germany. It produces uncomplicated, easy drinking, light bodied wines with moderate acidity and low tannins. Similar to a light Pinot Noir, they are considered a “tavern wine” served alongside pasta, pizza white meats and cheese. Best enjoyed young, most wines are consumed within a year of the vintage date, although they can be enjoyed up to 3 years after. Schiava Gentile [also called Schiava Piccola, Kleinvernatsch] found in Alto Adige, Trentino and Lombardy, is a sub variety with smaller bunches. It produces small yields, the wines tend to be highly aromatic.
Tasting Notes: violet, strawberry, raspberry, wild cherry, red currant, pomegranate, cranberry, nutmeg, light spice, subtle smoke, savory meats, almond
Schioppettino see Ribolla Nero
Sémillon is a golden-skinned grape that is generally used to make both dry and sweet white wines, predominately in France and Australia. It tends to be a supporting grape rather than a standalone varietal. It is grown mainly in the Bordeaux region and southwest France and is usually blended with Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle in Bordeaux blanc blends. Low in acid, it also makes excellent sweet wines where it can be the predominant grape such as in the blends from Sauternes and Graves. It produces wines with a full body, low acidity, and sometimes with an oily or fatty texture. It takes to oak rather well, adding smoke and toast flavours to blends. Ageing can develop rich, honey flavours and a lush texture.
Tasting Notes: Apple, date, fig, lemon, pear, saffron, grass, apricot, quince, peach, honey, pineapple, vanilla, butter, cream, sweet wood, toast, smoke, oak
Sylvaner [Arvine, Arvine Grande, Gros Rhin, Johannisberg] is a white grape variety grown in Germany, Alsace, Italy [particularly in the Valle d’Isarco in Alto Adige] Austria, and a few other places in Europe. DNA testing has revealed that it is a cross between Traminer and Österreichisch-Weiss.It is an early ripening grape that can be grown in cooler regions that is used to make both sweet and dry wines. It has a naturally high acidity and a neutral flavour which allows for the expression of the terroir of where it is grown.
Tasting notes: floral, lemon, citrus, gooseberry, minerals, honey
Syrah [Shiraz] is a dark-skinned grape grown throughout the world and used primarily to produce powerful red wines. In 1998, a DNA study conducted by the University of California concluded that Syrah was the offspring of the southeastern French grape varieties Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche. Syrah forms the backbone structure of most Rhône blends, more than half the world’s total Syrah acreage is planted in France, but it is also a successful grape in Australia, South Africa, California and increasingly, Washington State. Syrah forms intense wines, with deep violet, nearly black color, chewy texture and richness, and often alcoholic strength, with aromas that tend to be more spicy than fruity. Although many New World producers make stand-alone bottles, Syrah often provides color, richness, and tannins to Rhône-styled blends with Grenache, Mourvѐdre and Cinsault. Tasting Notes: violet, raspberry, blackcurrant, blackberry, grass, bay leaf, olive, black pepper, bacon, licorice, clove, thyme, eucalyptus, sandalwood, leather, roasted nuts, cedar, forest, vanilla, musk, oak, smoke, toast, tar
Tannat is a red wine grape, historically grown in South West France in the Madiran AOC and is now one of the most prominent grapes in Uruguay, where it is considered the national grape. Recently plantings have increased dramatically in California, and it is also grown in Argentina, Australia, Brazil and in Italy’s Puglia region. It is known for its high tannins, ability to age well, and rich dark ruby colour.
Tasting Notes: raspberry, blackberry, cherry, plum, leather, tobacco, spices, earthy, meaty
Tempranillo is a variety of black grape widely grown to make full-bodied red wines in its native Spain. It is the main grape used in Rioja and is often referred to as Spain’s “noble grape”. Ruby red in colour, Tempranillo aromas and flavors often combine elements of berryish fruit, herbaceousness, an earthy-leathery character and good minerality. While its varietal character is distinctive, it is also somewhat vague and easily overpowered by oak. It can be bottled as a stand-alone varietal, but is more frequently used as the base variety in blends, its most frequent mates are Grenache, (Garnacha in Spain), Carignan (Mazuelo in Spain’s Rioja region) and more recently, Cabernet Sauvignon.
Tasting Notes: wildflowers, herbaceous, plum, cherry, strawberry, black current, vanilla, tea, leather, earth, tobacco, sweet wood, cedar
Teroldego is a red grape variety of northern Italy’s Trentino-Alto-Adige zone. It has recently been discovered to be a full sibling of the Dureza grape from France, which is one of the parents of Syrah. It is planted almost exclusively in the Campo Rotaliano in the Adige Valley north of Trento, and its sole appellation of origin is Teroldego Rotaliano D.O.C. It is considered to be Trentino’s finest red wine. Teroldego takes its name from its traditional method of cultivation, trained on a system of “tirelle” or wire harnesses. The fruit is low in tannin but high in aroma, color, extract, acidity, sugar and potential alcohol. It is easily overcropped to produce bright, fresh, balanced, fruity wines to be drunk young. Its snappy acidity makes it a versatile food wine. The DOC has recently approved novello versions, which are heavy on fruit with gentle acidity. Novello di Teroldego makes a good alternative to Beaujolais.
Tasting Notes: red fruits, black current, herbs, eucalyptus, pine, almond, smoke, earth, hints of tar
Tintilla see Graciano
Trebbiano [Procanico, Ugni Blanc]is the second most widely planted grape in the world, and the most widely planted white grape in Italy. It is known by many names, but two of the most common ones are Saint Emilion and Ugni Blanc. Since it is highly productive, ripens easily and has neutral flavours, it is the basis for many simple table wines, although it has the potential to be made into more complex wines. It is also used in the production of brandy and balsamic vinegar, due to its high acidity. It is best enjoyed young.
Tasting Notes: clean fruit, peach, citrus, bitter almond
Verdejo [Verdelho] is a white grape that has long been grown in the Rueda region [northeast of Madrid] of Spain. The grape originated in North Africa and is thought to have been brought to Rueda in the 11th century by the Moors. It is used to make the off-dry version of Madeira, and has its style and character have often been compared to Pinot Gris. Verdejo wines are usually highly aromatic, displaying fresh, clean fruit flavours, a full body, and well-balanced with a sharp acidity.
Tasting Notes: flowery, lemon, lime, citrus, passion fruit, kiwi, minerals, herbaceous
Verdicchio is a white Italian grape considered to be native to the Marche region. Many experts believe it is related to the Greco-Trebbiano family of grapes. The name derives from the word ‘verde’ [green] and is associated with the green-yellow hue the wine tends to have. It is grown primarily in the Marche region, with areas of major production being the low hills west of Jesi in the central Marche region and in the hillsides of the Apennine basin in the commune of Matelica. It produces crisp, robust wines that are both savoury and fruity, along with being naturally high in acidity. Joe Bastianich has pointed out that the wines previously were “known as light, chalky and acidic” but many producers “are now building more flavors and aromas into a wine that is still somewhat fragile but undoubtedly unique”.
Tasting Notes: Pine, resin, sour apple, pear, lime, green herbs, green grape, bitter almond skin
Vermentino [Rolle] is a white grape variety that needs a climate with plenty of heat and sun in order to ripen. They are most commonly grown in Sardinia near the ocean, but are also found in Liguria, Corsica, Piedmont and Languedoc-Roussillon. It produces light to medium bodied wines that tend to be pale straw in colour, with a bright acidity, low alcohol content and pronounced minerality. It is a great accompaniment to seafood and grilled vegetables.
Tasting notes: citrus leaf, salty minerals, green apple, pear, pineapple, lime, grapefruit, almonds, mild spices, herbs
Vernaccia is a white wine grape that is found throughout Italy, but is most commonly associated with Tuscany, particularly around the hilltop village of San Gimignano [Vernaccia di San Gimignano was one of the first DOC in Italian wine]. The name comes from the Latin for ‘indigenous’ “which is why it is associated with entirely unrelated grapes in Italy. Researchers have concluded that the varietal grown in San Gimignano is distinct and probably not related to these grapes throughout Italy that bear the name Vernaccia. Complicating matters further is that its origins are not known. There is agreement that it is an ancient grape, but whether it is native to Italy or brought from Greece or Eastern Europe is not known. It produces a very light wine that is deeply coloured, with good acidity and a distinctive bitter almond finish.
Tasting Notes: citrus, apple, pear, apricot, minerals, herbs, nuts, hazelnut, bitter almond
Vilana is a white grape variety indigenous to Greece, particularly Crete. It can be used in blends [primarily with Malvasia or Muscat] or on its own to produce dry, fresh wines, although some producers are now successfully experimenting with oak aging. It tends to be deep gold in colour, with a light body, soft acidity and medium alcohol content. It is best enjoyed within 3 years; however barrel-aged bottles are proving to be much more age worthy, with a drinking window of 5 years or more.
Tasting Notes: floral, lemon, orange, pear, jasmine, herbs
Viognier is a French white grape variety perhaps brought to the Rhône by the Romans. In 2004 DNA testing done by the University of California showed it to be a cousin of Nebbiolo and also related to the indigenous Piedmont grape Freisa. As recent as 1965 it was almost extinct, with less than 8 acres planted in France. Thankfully an increased interest in it has revitalized its production and planting, its number of planted acres has risen dramatically around the world, especially in California. In its French home in the Rhône it makes the distinguished Condrieu and Château au Grillet wines. It is also planted alongside Syrah in the Côte-Rôtie, where it lends an exotic aroma to the wines. With its deep golden colour and rich, intense flavour; it can be as full bodied as an oaky Chardonnay, but with little or no oak ageing. It has a creamy mouthfeel and sweet aroma profile and flavor; however it is usually produced in a dry style. It has a low natural acidity so it is best enjoyed young.
Tasting Notes: violet, orange blossom, peach, mango, pear, apricot, papaya, kiwi, tangerine, musky fruit, honeysuckle, mint, hay, honey, vanilla, butter, anise, tobacco, oak, smoke, toast
Vranec is a red grape variety grown predominately in Macedonia, although Montenegro, Kosovo and parts of Croatia also have sizable cultivation. The name translates to “black powerful horse” or “Black Stallion”. DNA analysis has show that it is closely related to Zinfandel or Primitivo. It is a powerful, spicy red with robust tannins, medium acidity and intense fruit. It has high level of pigment compounds and is a distinctive inky violet in colour. Depending on winemaking style, it has great ageing potential, but can also be enjoyed in its youth when it is flourishing with abundant juicy fruit.
Tasting Notes: all types of cherry; sour, morello and black, red currant, blackberry, floral, cinnamon, chocolate, licorice, allspice, black pepper, herbs, woods
Xinomavro is a native to Northern Greece/Macedonia and the predominant red-grape variety in Northern Greece. The name translates to “acid-black” or “sour black”. The wines are known for their rich tannic character, crisp acidity, complex aromas of vegetal character, and long aging potential.
Tasting Notes: olives, dried tomatoes, raspberry, prune, spices
Zinfandel is planted in over 10 percent of California vineyards. Adaptable to a wide range of soils and climates, its vines tend to be vigorous and productive. DNA testing has revealed that it is genetically equivalent to the Croatian Grape Crljenak Kaštelanski, and also the Primitivo variety traditionally grown in Puglia, Italy. As a red wine it can be made light and fruity, much like French Beaujolais, or lively, complex and age worthy, like Cabernet or claret. It can also be made into big, ripe, high alcohol style wines that resemble Port. Zinfandel is also a component of most California “jug” wine jugs, and achieved its popularity in America as a pink, slightly sweet wine called White Zinfandel, though white grapes do not actually exist. The taste of the red wine depends on the ripeness of the grapes from which it is made. Red berry fruits like raspberry dominate in wines from cooler areas, whereas blackberry, anise and pepper notes are more common in wines made in warmer areas. Zinfandel is one red varietal that is probably best enjoyed in its youth, within three to five years of the vintage. With more bottle age than this, the luscious fruit that distinguishes it drops markedly and the wine can show a pronounced “hot” taste of higher alcohol levels although modern winemaking techniques are changing this and making them more approachable.
Tasting Notes: raspberry, blackberry, black cherry, plum, jammy, licorice, vanilla, oak, cinnamon, leather, cedar, earthy, black pepper
Zweigelt is a somewhat recent grape varietal, developed by Austrian scientist Fritz Zweigelt in 1922. It is a cross between Blaufränkisch and St. Laurent grapes. Today it is the most widely cultivated red grape in Austria, and has made significant advancement in other countries, including Canada, Hungary and the Czech Republic. The wines tend to be spicy, fruit forward with soft tannins and a lively acidity, making them versatile and able to pair with a wide variety of dishes. Best enjoyed with a slight chill, Eric Asimov has described Zweigelt wines as “spicy Beaujolais”.
Tasting Notes: violet, cinnamon, cherry, morello cherry, minerals, exotic spices