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This FREE Wine Education Course Includes: Why Wine? | Wine & Health | Social History | Sensory User's Manual | Grape Growing | Wine Making | Varietal Profiles | Sparkling Wine Wine Information on Reading Labels, Selecting and Buying Wine, Serving and Storing, etc. Taste includes the compiled wine tasting notes from our monthly panel, as well as reports on public tasting events, wherever we attend them, and notices of recurring wine events in Central California. There is also a Food & Wine section with a few wine-friendly recipes. In Aftertaste, see if you agree with our opinions and editorials in Wrath, find our Reading List and pages of Links in Bacchanalia, to discover additional sources of wine information. Contact and sponsor information, short bios of the PfW tasting panel and the stories of PfW's formation and the web site genesis. Return to the starting point.

 

Wine Grape Variety Profiles
The interdependent factors that affect wine flavor are the variety or varieties of grape used, the location where the grapes are grown (appellation), the treatment of those vineyards along with the skills of the vineyardist and finally the equipment and techniques used by the winemaker, as well as his skills in applying them, but grape variety is the dominant factor affecting wine flavor. Different grape varieties make wines of different aroma and flavor characteristics.

Take any World Famous Vineyard (or even an entire Appellation), plant it with a different variety than the existing one and the wine made there would become completely unrecognizable, even if the vineyards were treated with the same level of care and attention and the wine was also processed by the same hands and methods.

The word "varietal" is only used properly as an adjective, never as a noun...

Varietal character, however, while somewhat predictable, is not precise; variations occur, since virtually all vines are propagated by cloning. Some grape types are more prone to clonal variation than others. The name of a particular variety, therefore, should be considered a "surname" for vines that share a genetic history. Grapes can share genetic profiles, yet vary dramatically in fruit color, as well as flavors and aromas, such as pinot blanc, pinot noir, pinot gris, pinot meunier. Each "family" of varieties may, in turn, include only a few or very many individual "sibling" clones, each with its own particular traits and its clonal name or number which may be considered as its "given" name.

One explanation why so many wine drinkers don't expand their choices beyond the usual Chardonnay, Merlot, or Cabernet Sauvignon, is that they have little experience with the myriad of other wine grapes available. The profiles here describe some of the history and cultivation characteristics of different wine grape varieties and aromas and flavors typical in the varietal wines and blends they produce.

(also see table and links below)

Grapes selected to be profiled are limited to those that are of most importance or significance to American consumers and those approved by the TTB for use by American wineries. "White" grapes are listed in GREEN, "black" (red) grapes are in PURPLE; not all varieties listed are yet profiled/linked (underlined). For additional information, please use the Related Links list below the table of varieties.

Vitis Vinifera
WHITE GRAPES BLACK (RED) GRAPES

Albariño
Aligoté
Arien
Arinto
Arneis
Avesso
Bourboulenc
Catarratto
Catavino
Cayetana Blanca
Chardonnay
Chenin Blanc
Clairette Blanche
Colombard
Cortese
Encruzado
Esgana Cao
Falanghina
Fernao Pires
Fiano
Friulano
Furmint
Garganega
Gewürztraminer
Glera
Gouais Blanc

Grenache Blanc
Grenache Gris
Grillo

Grüner Veltliner
Kerner
Luglienga
Maccabéo
Malvasia Bianca
Malvasia Fina
Marsanne
Melon

Morio-Muskat
Müller-Thurgau
Muscadelle
Muscat

Neuburger
Palomino
Pardillo
Parellada

Picpoul Blanc
Pinot Blanc
Pinot Gris
Prosecco
Rèze
Ribolla Giala

Riesling
Rkatsiteli
Roussanne
Savagnin*
Sauvignon Blanc
Scheurebe
Semillon
Sercial
Steen
Terret Blanc
Terret Gris
Tocai
Torrontes
Trebbiano
Trousseau Gris
Ugni Blanc
Verdelho
Verdicchio
Vermentino

Vernaccia
Viognier
Welschriesling
Xarel-lo
Zibibbo

Aglianico
Alfrocheiro Preto

Alicante Bouschet
Aramon
Barbera
Bastardo
Black Corinth
Brachetto
Cabernet Franc
Cabernet SauvignonCanaiolo Nero
Carignan

Carmenère
Carnelian
Castelão
Charbono
Ciliegiolo
Cinsault
Coda di Volpe
Corvina
Counoise
Dornfelder
Duriff
Fer Servadou
Gamay Noir

Grenache
Grignolino
Gros Verdot
Lambrusca di Alessandria
Malbec
Mencia
Merlot
Meunier
Mission
Monastrell
Mondeuse
Montepulciano
Mourvédre

Muscardin

Nebbiolo
Negrette
Negro Amaro
Nero d'Avola
Periquita

Petit Verdot
Petite Sirah
Picpoul
Piedirosso

Pinot Meunier
Pinot Noir
Pinot St. George
Pinotage
Poulsard
Primitivo
Rubired
Ruby Cabernet
Sagrantino
St. Laurent

Sangiovese
Schiava
Souzão

Syrah/Shiraz
Tannat
Tempranillo
Teroldego
Terret Noir

Tinta Barroca
Tinta Cão
Tinta Negra Mole
Tinta Roriz
Touriga Nacional
Tribidrag
Vaccarese/Camarese
Valdepeñas
Valdiguié
Xinomavro
Zinfandel

Zweigelt

Vitis Aestivalis
Vitis Labrusca
Norton   Catawba
Concord
 
Hybrids (interspecies)

Niagra
Seyval Blanc

Vidal Blanc

Baco Noir
Chancellor

Chelois
Maréchal Foch

Proprietary Names with Varietal Significance

Fumé Blanc

Meritage

Meritage

 

RELATED LINKS
Tim Ramey photographed many of the images of grape varieties to illustrate The Great Wine Grapes, written by his father, Bern C. Ramey. They appear in our profiles with his kind permission. Tim Ramey Photography is located in Chicago, Illinois.

The University of California at David maintains the National Grape Registry of all grape varieties grown in the United States.

Dr. Francois Lefort of the University of Crete directs the Greek Vitis Database, a multimedia web-backed genetic database for germplasm management of Vitis resources in Greece. Dr. Lefort kindly granted PfW his permission to reproduce some of the leaf and cluster photos of the varieties most familiar to Americans.

The European Network for Genetic Grapevine Resources, Conservation and Characterization is an extension of the German Federal Centre for Breeding Research on Cultivated Plants. Dr. Erika Dettweiler has given us her kind permission to reproduce some of the grape cluster photos from this site. There is also a database for Scientific Literature in the fields of viticulture and enology.

Varietal Wines Grown in Slovenia has information about and illustrations of many familiar varieties and also some unique to Eastern Europe, both ancient and modern.

Looking new directions in wine? Try Chris Kern's Forgotten Grapes for wines made from "alternative" grape varieties, presented in a casual and humorous format.

Anthony J. Hawkins' created the ambitious Super Gigantic Y2K WineGrape Glossary in the mid-1990's, and continued to update entries into late 2007; it contains a wealth of valuable information is an excellent starting point, despite random obsolescences.


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