All about wine grape varieties

Terry Pomerantz presents a few of the main features of the most common grape varieties used in the production of red and white wines.

What is a wine grape variety?

Grape varieties are the different types of vines grown and used in the production of wine. There are thousands of grape varieties in the world, including at least 210 in France alone.

The choice of a grape variety by the winemaker will determine the tannin content of the wine produced. For example, those such as the Cabernet-Sauvignon, Syrah and Malbec have a high tannin content that makes the tongue feel rough and dry, while the less tannic Merlot, Pinot Noir and Grenache are softer and rounder on the palate.

The main red wine grape varieties

Among the best-known red wine grape varieties, the Pinot Noir produces pale colour wines dominated by red fruit aromas and sometimes floral notes of peony and violet. Pinot Noir is the dominant grape in the Burgundy region and in the Santa Barbara and Sodoma areas in California.

For its part, Merlot accounts for nearly 60% of the planted area in the Bordeaux region. It produces soft, supple wines of dense colour with pruney, woody and spicy aromas.

Malbec is native to Bordeaux, but it is less and less present in France, victim of the progressively more frequent frosts. It has migrated to Argentina, where it is the source of rich and silky wines such as the Trapiche.

Trousseau is a rare grape variety found mainly in the Jura region of France. In Portugal, it is nicknamed Bastardo, and enters in certain blends of Dão and in the composition of port wine.

Red Grapes on a vine

3 Italian red wine varieties

Since Italian wines have a prominent place among Terry’s favourites, we feel it is appropriate to mention a few famous Italian grape varieties such as the Sangiovese, the most widely planted grape variety in Italy, in the Chianti wine region.

Nebbolio dominates the vineyards of Piedmont and is the source of Barolo and Barbaresco. The Nero d’Avola has taken root in Sicily where it produces wines rich in alcohol and tannin with an intense colour, aromas of black cherries and violets, and notes of tobacco.

The main white wine varieties

The most commonly used grape varieties for making white wines are Chardonnay, the 2nd most cultivated white grape variety in the world, Sauvignon Blanc, which originated in the Loire and gave birth to the Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. Sauvignon Blanc has also migrated to California (Mondavi), New Zealand, South Africa and Chile, which produce exquisite white wines.

Grenache white produces full-bodied, low acid wines with a long finish. It is grown in the Rhône and Languedoc-Roussillon regions of France, Spain and Greece. Chenin dominates the vineyards of the Loire Valley. It is used in the production of dry white wines, sweet white wines and sparkling wines. Originally from the Austrian Tyrol, cousin of the Gewurztraminer, the Savagnin is a typical Jura grape variety that produces whites with notes of almond, honey and green apple.

Red and White grapes in a bowl

Terry Pomerantz emphasizes how the love of good wine awakens not only the taste and smell sensibilities, but also the cultural curiosity of wine lovers. “The more we enjoy good wine, the more we want to learn about its origin and the secrets of its making. To enjoy a good wine is also to taste the pleasure of learning more and more about the wonderful world of which we are the hosts!”

top view of red and white wine with a cork screw, figs and cheese

An avid wine lover, Terry Pomerantz shares his love of fine bottles, guided by a responsible approach to the art of living. Discover his advice on food and wine pairing, his favorite bottles, and the ideal choices for each season and occasion. Immerse yourself in his passion and learn to fully appreciate each bottle in good company.