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Grapes

There are thousands of grape varieties when one includes hybrids, synonyms and regional variations of name. To list them all here would be impenetrable and pointless. I have, therefore, listed alphabetically the main "fine" grape varieties and a brief description of each to help you learn a bit about each one.

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ALBARINO (ALVARINHO).

Albarino is a white grape variety grown in northwest Spain and Northern Portugal. Until quite recently the Albarino grape was relatively unknown, until the Denomimination of Origin was set up in the Galician winegrowing region of Rias Baixas and ever since then the name Albarino has spread far and wide. Albarino is also commonly used in the young Vinho Verde wines of Portugal. 

Albarino is a thick skinned grape, with an unusually high number of pips, so careless winemaking can develop unwanted bitterness in the wines, but when properly made Albarino wines are  light to medium bodied, with high levels of acidity and a lovely freshness. Distinctive aromas of white peach and some tropical hints, not unlike a Gewurztraminer of Viognier abound, the palate though is oten cripser, racier and quite firm than the nose indicates. Great with shellfish.

ALIGOTÉ.

The Aligoté grape is a thin skinned white grape variety grown predominantly in Burgundy but also many parts of Eastern Europe. Whilst it is generally considered a grape of unexeptional quality, producing acidic wines with moderate alcohol and depth of flavour, it can, in exceptionally hot years produce wines of a certain richness, especially Aligoté from Bouzeron in the Côte Chalonnaise where the best examples are considered to hail from. 

BARBERA.

The third most planted grape in Italy, the best known Barbera wines come from the DOCG Barbera d'Asti in Piedmont, however small parcels of the vine are grown elsewhere in the world. The Barbera is a high yielding vine, capable of growing in a wide range of soil types but preferring less fertile calcereous and clay loam soils. If the grower wants to limit yields, to produce a more concentrated grape, sandy soils help and judicious pruning are employed.

Barbera produces wines of deep colour, low tannins and higher levels of acidity. Modern winemaking methods including the use of oak, reduced maceration and the tendancy to blend Barbera with other grapes help to counterbalance the low tannins and high acidity.

The wines tend to have a deep ruby colour with a pink rim, aromas of raspberries, bluebrries, blackberries and cherries. Ageing and barrel influenced Barbera tends to soften the acidity, making a rounder wine with notes of plum, spice and more pronounced cherry characteristics.

CABERNET FRANC.

A grape grown around the world, Cabernet Franc is most famous as one of the main grape varieties grown in used in Bordeaux Blends and the main red grape of the Loire Valley producing Chinon, Saumur-Champigny and Anjou wines. Cabernet Franc generally thrives on sandier, chalkier soils to produce the heavier more full bodied styles.

Although very similar to Cabernet Sauvignon, varietal differences between the two often hard to distinguish, Cabernet Franc tends to produce slightly greener earthier wines with peppery tobacco, cassis, graphite and raspberry hints on the nose, but slightly less tannins and therefore a slightly smoother mouth feel.

CABERNET SAUVIGNON.

A 17th Century product of crossing Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon has emerged as one of the worlds most widely planted premium grape varieties. Cabernet Sauvignon is now grown in nearly every wine-producing nation, but is most famous as one of the main grapes of Bordeaux, where it is often mixed with Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Cabernet Sauvignon also excels in Italian "Super Tuscans", in Australia, Chile and South Africa.

Cabernet Sauvignons tend to be bold assertive wines and, depending on region and winemaking styles, can exhibit complex notes of blackcurrants, cedar, violet, green pepper, mint, eucalyptus, blackcurrant and tobacco. The grape also has an affinity for oak either in fermenting or barrel ageing complimentary the grapes flavours with vanilla and spice and softening the grapes naturally high tannin levels. These same high tannins, combined with the complex flavours and full body allow significant ageing potential for high quality Cabernet Sauvignons.

CARIGNAN (MAZUELO).

A high yielding red wine grape, originating in Spain (where it's known as Cariñena or Mazuelo) but now most widely grown in Southern France and California. Carignan is a late ripening grape, ideally suited to arid climates and long growing seasons.

As a wine, Carignan tends towards highly tannic and acidic wines, yet restricted yields from older vines can produce far softer and more appealing wines with floral hints of violet and rose petal and soft fruits of cherry, strawberry and raspberry.

CARMÉNÈRE.

Carménère is considered one of the original six red grapes of Bordeaux (along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot) although it is now rarely found in France, most being grown in Chile's Central Valley, with small parcels in Italy, the USA New Zealand and Australia. Carménère favours long growing seasons in moderate to warm climates and is susceptible to high levels or rain/watering during harvest.

Carménère wines are medium bodied, deep red in colour with soft aromas of red fruits, berries and spices. On the palate, the wines have softer tannins and, when properly ripened, exhibit fruity cherry like flavours with hints of earthy smokiness, leather and chocolate.

CESANESE (CESANESE COMUNE).

Correctly called Cesanese Comune, but commonly know as Cesanese, this largely unknown black grape is almost exclusively grown in the Lazio region of Italy around Rome. Cesanese was traditionally used to make sweet sparkling wines, but more recently dry lighter bodied red wines. Cesanese has started to come to the attention of the wider world, partly due to it being included in the debut wine Sogno Uno by American porn star Savanna Samson.

Cesanese wines tend to be lighter bodied wines ruby red in color. On the nose the wines are fruity, with hints of ripe black cherry and spice. On the palate Cesanese is low in tannins with rounded sweet fruits and hints again of ripe black

CHARDONNAY.

Despite a proliferation of low quality mass-produced wines and the ensuing acronym ABC (anything but Chardonnay), this is truly one of the great grapes of the world. Chardonnay itself is a relatively neutral grape yet it can show impressively the qualities of the geography, geology and climate (the Terroir) of the vineyards and the skill and methods of the winemaker.

Chardonnay is an impressively versatile grape, expressing its refreshing mineral and green apple qualities in un-oaked Chablis, its buttery slightly nutty richness in the oaked white burgundies, its power in the fat pineapple notes of Californian Chardonnays and the soft elegance it lends to sparkling wines in Champagne and elsewhere.

CHENIN BLANC.

Chenin Blanc is grown throughout most of the worlds wine regions, although most notably in the Loire Valley in France. Chenin Blanc, like most grape varieties, requires careful attention in the vineyard and winery to maximize the grapes naturally high sugar content and levels of acidity, attributes that make the wine ideal for sparkling, sweet or dry wines, all styles of wine for which it is well known.

Aromas and flavour notes often attributed to Chenin Blanc include minerally, greengage and honey with wines made from grapes with the Noble Rot showing further notes of peaches and honey. Ageing of the sweeter wines develops notes of marzipan, barley sugar and more honey. The naturally high acidity levels of Chenin Blanc make it sweet wines with potential for significant ageing ability.

CINSAULT.

Cinsault is a fleshy thick-skinned black grape variety most notably grown in the southern Rhone and Languedoc-Roussillon regions of France. High yielding and very drought resistant, the grape favours the higher temperatures and drier climates of these region where it is often blended with Grenache and Carignan to add softness and bouquet. The high yield of the grape favours judicious control of the yield to lessen the quantity but increase the quality of the grapes.

Cinsault tends to be blended with other grapes to make either red or often rosé wines. It is fairly low in tannins leading to softer rounder wines with elements of strawberry, red cherry on the nose, sometimes with a slightly floral and vaporous paint like background. On the palate, the wines keep these aromatic notes adding earthy mushroom flavors with age and soft smoky, vanilla hints when left in oak during the making.

CLAIRETTE (CLAIRETTE BLANCHE).

A white grape variety grown predominantly in the Languedoc, Rhône and Provence regions of France. It is one of the permitted grapes in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.  As a grape it tends to produce highly alcoholic, low acidity wines often perceived as "flabby' which is why it is often blended with other higher acidity grapes such as Piquepoul Blanc. 

Clairette is often used to make vermouth, the high alcohol content and low acidity ideally suited to this purpose. It is also grown to some extent in Sardinia, South Africa and Australia. 

FIANO.

An Italian white grape variety grown predominantly around the Campania region in southern Italy and Sicily. The Fiano grape has been known since ancient Roman times when it was called Vitis Apiana. The grape is particularly noted in Fiano di Avellino DOCG.

The Fiano grape produces lively, quite aromatic and floral white wines with distincitve honeyed notes and with time, slight spice and nuttiness. The wine can be quite prone to oxidation during the winemaking process but with modern techniques, this has been almost eliminated, producing fresh, age worthy wines.

GAMAY.

An ancient natural clone of Pinot Noir, Gamay is most widely recognized as the grape of Beaujolais, thought to appear first in the village of Gamay south of Beaune in France. Gamay tends towards shallow roots on alkaline soils resulting in noticeable hydrological stress to the vines over the growing period and an ensuing high level of acidity. Carbonic maceration softens this acidity and allows the youthful, fruit driven low tannin styles of the ensuing wines to come to the fore.

Gamay based wines are typically light bodies, fruity wines with a nose of peardrops and strawberries, with a palate of young fresh strawberries, raspberries and little tannic dryness. A Gamay rarely requires or benefits from significant ageing, but higher quality "Cru Beaujolais" can be moderately aged and typically fuller bodied, with subtle hints of black pepper and sour cherry and can take on some of the traits of aged Pinot Noir with time.

GARGANEGA.

An Italian white grape variety grown in the Veneto region in North East Italy, Garganega forms the backbone of the Venetian white wine, Soave, forming between 70% and 100% of the wine, with the difference made up by Trebbiano and Chardonnay. The vine has a habit of ripening late with high yields, requiring careful pruning otherwise the wines can be quite thin and insipid.

Garganega wines can be fresh, quite delicate with hints of citrus fruits, lemons, almonds and slight spices.

GEWÜRZTRAMINER.

Gewürztraminer (sometimes known as Savagnin Musque) is a red skinned grape variety used to make white wines. Grown around the world, Gewürztraminer is most famous as an Alsace grape, producing aromatic off-dry and sweet wines. The grape is temperamental to grow at best, requiring specific soils (it hates chalky soils) and climatic conditions, it buds early so is susceptable to frost, requires dry, warm summers and ripens erratically and late. The grape is naturaly high in sugar, so over ripe grapes can become flabby with not enough acid to balance the high sugar levels.

However, when the conditions are right, the grape can produce fabulously rich, complex, aromatic wines. The over-riding aroma associated with Gewürztraminer is lychees. In fact, the grape shares some of the same aroma compounds as lychees. Other aromas associated with the grape are tropical fruits, floral notes and roses. The wines can have a spicy note to the palate as well and are often matched to Asian cuisine when dining, Thai Green Curry in particular.

GRACIANO.

A Spanish variety of red grape, Graciano is mainly grown in Rioja, but is sometimes grown elsewhere in the world such as Australia, California (known as Xeres) and France. The vines are late ripening, sadly susceptible mildew and very low yielding, so they are generally used in the more premium wines of Gran Reserva Riojas as a blending grape, though there are some Graciano single variety wines produced.

The Graciano grape produces wines of a deep red colour, with aromas of dark fruits, licorice and warm spices.

GRECO.

Although Greco refers to both white (Greco Bianco) and black (Greco Nero) grapes, the shortened "Greco" most commonly refers to the white variety, Greco Bianco. Most abundantly planted in Southern Italy, Greco features in several DOCs but is most famous for its use in producing Greco di Tufo DOCG, from the Campania Region although the grape is notable also for desert wines

The Greco vine tends to mature late in the growing season with characteristically aromatic styles of wines being produced. Sometimes compared to Viognier, Greco exhibits notes of peaches and fresh green foliage, with more herbal notes developing with age

GRENACHE.

A widely grown grape around the world, but most notably in Spain (where it is known as Garnacha) the black grape Grenache is one of the mainstays of Rioja, where it adds body and alcohol to the wines. Grenache is also thrives in the Rhone and Southern France. It is a late ripening grape requiring hot, dry conditions and careful control of yields for the best results.

Grenache generally makes wines with higher alcohol levels, fruitiness and body but lower tannins, hence its appeal as a blending grape. Characteristic notes are berry fruits such as strawberry, developing complex notes of darker fruits such as blackcurrants and black cherries, savory notes such as black olives, black pepper and spices, and sometimes coffee, leather and gingerbread.

GRENACHE BLANC.

Related to the Spanish red grape Grenahce, the Blanc version is grown in the north east Spain, the Rhône and small parcels in Australia, the US and elsewhere. The vine is more at home in sand/gravel soils and a higher temperature climate. It is quite vigorous on the vine, leading to slightly thinner less concentrated wines; however, with careful control of the yield it can add depth and aromatic qualities to its blending partners, particularly Roussanne, a common Rhône partner.

MALBEC.

Malbec, sometimes known as Auxerrois or Cot Noir in Cahors in southern France, is one of the grape varietals used in Bordeaux blends, but was also famously known as the "black wine of Cahors", a grand name although not necessarily a grand wine. Thankfully Cahors wines are now generally blends including Malbec and are far superior to their predecessors. Malbec is not limited to French wines though, being grown all over the world and becoming especially prominent in Argentina, the most highly rated from the higher altitude Mendoza region.

Malbec is a thin-skinned grape generally requiring more heat and sun than either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot to mature properly. Bordeaux Malbec takes on a more rustic tone than the Merlot with lower acidity and softer tannins and hints of blackberry. Cahors Malbec tends towards higher tannins, darker purple colours with aromas of damson, tobacco and raisins. In Argentina, Malbec takes on a plusher mouth feel with fruity aromas and hints of violet.

MALVASIA.

The true Malvasia grape, Malvasia Bianca, comes from a large and confusing family of grape varieties and is of Italian (possible Greek) origin and grown most notably in Italy, France and Spain. Throughout Italy it is often blended with Trebbiano to add flavour and texture to the wines In Rioja it performs a similar role when blended with Viura. In Maderia, Malvasia is the grape of the Malmesy sweet wines.

Given the broad expanse of the Malvasia family, generalisations of the aromas and tastes are hard, but common descriptions are deep color, heavy body and round, fat mouth feel with aromas of peaches, apricots and white currants, and a higher than average residual sugar level.

Widely planted in the Northern Rhone, Marsanne is one of the two permitted grapes (along with Roussanne with which it is often blended) used in the white wines of Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage and Saintt-joseph AOC's. Marsanne is also grown in Switzerland (there known as ermitage blanc or just ermitage), Spain as Marsana, Australia and the United States.

MARSANNE.

Marsanne as a temperamental grape requiring ideal sites to perform, with hot climates tending to over ripen the grape producing flabby wines and cool climates tending to under ripen the grape with bland, neutral wines ensuing. With correct vinification though, Marsanne makes deeply coloured rich, fat and nutty wines with hints of spices and pear. Australian Marsannes can also exhibit notes of melon, honeysuckle and sometimes even glue.

Marsanne can be oak aged well to develop more body. As Marsanne ages it can develop deeper darker colours and a more complex palate with an oily, honeyed texture and hints of nuts and quince coming through.

MELON DE BOURGOGNE (MUSCADET).

A variety of white grape grown in the Loire region of France, where it is most notable as the grape variety of Muscadet, it also thrives as "Melon" in California. The vine favours cooler climates and is particularly resistant to frost, a trait that was employed when it was introduced from Burgundy to the Loire region after a particulalry harsh winter in 1709.

The wines of Melon de Bourgogne, Muscadet in particular, show the true character of the wine. When allowed to over ripen the grapes can produce a flabby wine with low acidity. But in cooler climates, the grape produces dry, light bodied wines, with crisp acidity, refreshing citrus fruits, delicate hints of sharp apple and when aged sur lie (on their lees, a common practice for Muscadet) a certain yeasty aroma.

MERLOT.

Another of the main grapes used in Bordeaux blends, Merlot is an earlier ripening grape, lower in tannins and the perfect foil to the austere tannic qualities of Cabernet Sauvignon with which it is often blended. Although nearly two thirds of the worlds Merlot is grown in France, it is grown worldwide generally in slightly cooler climates to ensure the perfect level of ripeness. Harvested too late, the grape over ripens leading to over "jammy" wines. Merlot is also grown to produce exceptional examples from Napa Valley, Monterey and Sonoma County in California, even if it has been derided in the film Sideways.

As a wine, Merlot tends to produce medium bodied luscious wines with elements of cassis, dark berries, cherry, plum and currant with a velvety mouth feel and lower levels of tannins. Merlot also generally ages faster than more tannic drier reds grapes as Cabernet Sauvignon.

MOURVÈDRE (MONASTRELL)

A black small, thick skinned grape variety, known simply as Monastrell in Spain, but elsewhere as Mouvèdre. The grape is most prominent in Spain, the Rhône, southern France/Provence but is also grown in the US, Australia. The vine is quite temperature and moisture sensitive, preferring warmer climates for its late budding and ripening growing cycle. It grows best on warm, south facing slopes, with shallow clay soils best able to retain some moisture, but with sufficient wind to protect it from powdery and downy mildew.

When harvsted at optimum ripenss, the grapes have quite high sugar levels, leading to higher alcohol wines. The wines are deeply coloured, quite tannic, perfumed wines with notes of gamey and blackberry flavours. However it is often blended, providing colour, structure and tannins to fruitier wines such as Grenache or Syrah in the "GSM blends of the Rhône and the new world.

Mouvèdre is also quite commonly used to make a rosé wine either on its own or as a blend, adding colour to the rosé and firm fruit flavours.

NEBBIOLO.

An Italian red grape variety, Nebbiolo is predominantly associated with the Piedmont region of Italy where it famously makes Barolo and Barbaresco but also Gattinara, Carema, Donnaz and Ghemme. The Nebbiolo grapes generally produce lightly coloured wines with high acidity and tannins, requiring ageing to fully develop. For this reason, Nebbiolo is often blended with other grapes, notably Bonarda, bringing colour and softer fruits to the wine, although DOCG regulations call for Barolo and Barbaresco to remain 100% Nebbiolo.

In youth, Nebbiolo's tend to be light in colour, acidic and tannic with hints of dark fruits, tar and roses. As they age, the wines take on distinctive brick orange hues, with a complex bouquet of tar, damson, dried fruits, tar, mulberry, leather and spices with further notes of truffle, prunes, cherries, raspberries and tobacco on the palate. Nebbiolo has considerable ageing potential.

PETIT SYRAH (DURIF).

Durif or Petite Syrah is a red wine grape originating from a cross of Syrah vine pollen germinating the Peloursin vine. It is grown extensively in Australia and to a lesser extent in France, the USA, Israel and South America.

Durif/Petite Syrah produces dark inky coloured relatively acidic wines with high tannins and great longevity. The nose of a Durif/Petite Syrah typically has herbaceous hints of black pepper. On the palate common tendencies are plums, black fruits and blueberries. Durif/Petite Syrah does sometimes tend towards short wines, without much long lasting flavor in the mouth hence its use often as a blending grape.

PETIT VERDOT.

Petit Verdot is a variety of red grape classically used in Bordeaux blends but also grown to some extent in the USA, South America, Australia and Italy. Petit Verdot is a temperamental, late ripening grape producing wines with colour, quite high acidity and tannins. It is therefore commonly added in small amounts, to other Bordeaux varieties to bolster the wines, rarely being used a single varietal wine.

In youth Petit Verdot wines exhibit black fruits, pencil shavings and oddly, banana. Tannins and acidity in the wines allow ageing, bringing out stronger tones of black fruits, blackberry, nettles, violets and leather.

PINOTAGE.

Most famously used in South Africa, Pinotage is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault developed in 1925. Despite small parcels of Pinotage growing around the winemaking world, even Germany, it is most prominent in South Africa, sometimes known as the country's signature wine.

Pinotage is a relatively easy to grow well, ripening early and producing grapes with high sugar levels. Distinctly "New World' in style, Pinotage wines tend to be round, fruity with hints of mulberry, blackberry and damson fruit with slight smokiness and earthiness but most recognizably notes of banana and tropical fruit. Naturally high in tannins, Pinotage often benefits from less contact with the skins to counter this.

PINOT BLANC (PINOT BIANCO).

Pinot Blanc started life as a mutation of Pinot Noir in Burgundy. Pinot Blanc is now planted worldwide but in gradually diminishing plantings, Pinot Blanc is at its best and most well known in Alsace where it is used to produce dry wines although it is also planted in parcels in California, Burgundy, Champagne, Germany, Austria Luxembourg, Italy (where it's known as Pinot Bianco), Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovenia.

As a wine, Pinot Blanc tends towards relatively low acidity and a certain roundness of body. Better Pinot Blanc, such as that from Alsace, can exhibit better acidity, balance, apple fruits and hints of nuttiness. In Alsace, Pinot Blanc is also one of the main varietals used in the sparkling Cremant d'Alsace.

PINOT GRIS (PINOT GRIGIO).

Hugely popular around the world, the mid-coloured Pinto Gris (not to be confused with Pinot blanc) goes by many monikers. In Alsace as Pinot Gris it produces very good, succulent, complex and slightly spicy white wines, although it is often known as Tokay d'Alsace. In Italy, Pinot Grigio is know the world over as an inoffensive, easy drinking wine with notes of pear, apricot and floral hints.

Pinot Gris is actually a red skinned grape, an attribute often used to add a pink tinge to Pinot Grigio "blush" wines.

PINOT MEUNIER.

Pinot Meunier, sometimes known as SchwarzRiesling or simply Meunier, is a variety of black grape grown around the world but most widely and well known in France, more specifically as one of the three grapes of Champagne, along with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The vine has a tendency to bud later in the growing season and ripen earlier in slightly cooler climates, making it ideal for vineyards of northern France where it can generally avoid damage by frosts and coulure. Pinot Meunier is actually the most widely grown grape of Champagne, accounting for around 40% of the region's plantings.

As a wine, Pinot Meunier produces wines with slightly higher acidity but still with decent levels of sugar. It is part of the Champagne blend where it contributes aromatics and fruit flavours to the Champagne. However, Pinot Meunier generally produces lighter coloured wines with less tannins, leading to Pinot Meunier heavy blends being unable to age quite as well as Chardonnay or Pinot Noir lead blends.

PINOT NOIR.

There are allegedly 258 synonyms for Pinot Noir, so I'm not going to even try and list them. Suffice to say that this grape is grown widely around the winemaking world, mainly in slightly cooler regions. But its heartland is Champagne and Burgundy. In Champagne it is a major component of the famous sparkling wine mixed with Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, or on its own as Blanc de Noir. In Burgundy it can make some the richest velvet smooth, high quality wines in the world and as an extension, the most expensive, such as Domaine Romanée-Conti. Elswhere in the world there are some great Pinot Noir's made in the USA (parts of California and Oregon) and New Zealand, in particular the south island region of Central Otago.

Pinot noir is a difficult grape to grow well. Ripening early, it becomes "jammy" in too warmer climates. Thin skinned it, is susceptible to climates that are too damp. Get the climate just right, however, and combine with skilled growing and winemaking and it will produce unparalleled levels of complexity and finesse.

Pinot Noir generally exhibits aromas of lighter red fruits such as strawberries, raspberries and cherries, with age and oak adding vanilla, truffle, earth and farmyard hints. On the palate the wines follow through the aromas, sometimes with the addition of herbaceous, bramble and spicy hints and a smooth mouth feel. Pinot Noirs can be tannic, with the tannins generally being softer than fuller bodied grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, but can still age very well.

PIQUEPOUL BLANC (PICPOUL).

Piquepoul Blanc is a late budding white grape grown primarily in the Rhone Valley and Languedoc regions of France. It is one of the permitted blending grapes, along with the dark skinned version, Piquepoul noir, making up the 13 grapes (or 18 depending on interpretation of the AOC rules) of Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines.

Piquepoul grapes produce very pale wines green/gold in colour, with high levels of alcohol and highly acidic lemon notes. In fact, Piquepoul translates as "lip-stinger", appropriately indicating the acidity of the grapes.

RIESLING.

Riesling is a classic German grape, capable of producing wines with impressive complexity and longevity but sadly it is often seen as an unpopular sweet wine.

Riesling can not only produce great sweet wines, most famously in the hands of German makers, but also delicious dry wines such as the classic Alsace Rieslings, the lime fruit character of new world producers in Australia and New Zealand and is now widely made into new world pudding wines as well.

In its youth, a Riesling will exhibit zesty, citrusy, intensely flavoured wines with hints of great mineral and floral complexity, it can age in the bottle superbly developing, especially in the old world regions, a distinctive "petrolly" aroma.

ROUSSANNE.

Alongside Marsanne, Roussanne is one of the two main white grape varieties of the Northern Rhone, used in the white wines of Hermitages, Crozes-Hermitages and Saint-Joseph AOCs. Whilst the grape can be susceptible to mildew, drought, uneven ripening and irregular yields it can produce complex aromatic white wines perfectly matched, but more delicate in style to its regular blend companion Marsanne.

Often characterised by intense aromatics, including notes of herbal tea, Roussanne wines from cooler climates exhibit delicate flavours of pear, honey and higher than average levels of acidity. With warmer climates, the grape becomes a fuller bodied, richer style of wine.

SANGIOVESE.

Sangiovese, derived from the Latin sanguis jovis (blood of Jove), is an Italian red grape variety grown throughout Italy, especially central Italy, particularly Tuscany. It is the prime grape of Chianti wines, making up 75% to 100% of the permitted blend; and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

Sangiovese is an adapbtable grape, growing in many soil types but particularly thriving in soils with high Limestone concentration. It is a high yielding, slow ripening grape, requiring careful yield management and a long growing season; however, its thin skins do leave it susceptible to rot when exposed to too much moisture.

Sangiovese wines tend to exhibit the grapes naturally high acidity, higher levels of tannins and a lighter color. Medium body in weight, the wines have fruity aromas of strawberries, blueberries with hints of thyme, spice and violet. On the palate, the fruitiness is carried through, with higher levels of acidity, tannic dryness and elements of tar, spiciness and when oak aged, a common practice with Sangiovese, vanilla, oak and toast.

SAUVIGNON BLANC.

Sauvignon Blanc is the archetypical citrusy, zingy variety of grape. In the Loire it excels as Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé, giving great mineral depths to the sharp fruit flavors. In Bordeaux and southwest France it is often blended with the fatter but complimentary Semillon grape to produce fuller bodied, refreshing whites and as a lesser component of some of the worlds' greatest sweet wines from Sauternes and Barsac. In New Zealand, particularly Marlborough, it exhibits fine refreshing fruits of apple, lemon and lime exceptionally well.

Sauvignon Blanc requires ideal temperatures and skilled management of the vines and harvesting to fully develop the grassy leafy aromas it can display so well.

SEMILLON.

Semillon is a higher than average yielding grape grown widely around the world. Its Old World heartland is Bordeaux and the South of France where it produces dry wines with a subtle citrus, grassy honey palate and a lower acidity so fuller bodied mouth feel. It is in Bordeaux and the nearby Barsac, blended with around 20% Sauvignon Blanc, that Semillon can show its true class as a sweet wine. With its thinner skins, richness and propensity to be affected by Noble Rot, it can produce stunning, luscious, hugely long lived wines with concentrated sweetness and acidity such as the world famous Sauternes; Chateau d'Yquem.

In the New World, Semillon is at its best in Australia, in particular the Hunter Valley, where it can produce wines with distinctive lime fruits and body. It is commonly blended again with Sauvignon Blanc, where the weight of the Semillon is well balanced with the refreshing aromas and palate of the Sauvignon Blanc.

SYRAH (SHIRAZ).

Syrah (as it's known in France, Europe, South America and most of the USA) or Shiraz (as it's known in Australia and New Zealand) is a very widely grown; dark skinned grape originating in France. Not to be confused with its offspring, the Syrah/Peloursin cross Petite Syrah (Durif); Syrah is the primary grape of Northern Rhone greats Hermitage and Cote-Rotie, but is also used, to a lesser extent in Southern Rhone and the Languedoc. Shiraz also makes great wines from the other side of the world; Australia, in particular, the Barossa valley.

As a wine, Syrah/Shiraz produces dark coloured full bodied red wines. Generally, old world styles tend to be slightly more tannic with notes of black pepper, violets, blackberry, dark berry, chocolate and tobacco. New world Shiraz tends to be a bigger, fleshier more unctuous wine with hints of lighter berry fruits, less tannins and sometimes eucalyptus/mint notes but large, full bodied and rounded nonetheless.

TEMPRANILLO.

Although grown to a certain extent in some of the new world regions, Tempranillo is native to and most famously grown in Spain. It is grown all over the Iberian peninsula most notably in Rioja as that wine's main grape and in the Ribera del Duero. A black grape with a thick skin and susceptible to pests, disease and inclement weather, Tempranillo favors relatively high altitude, some warmth and stable climates to produce the higher acidity and elegance necessary for finer wines.

As a wine Tempranillo is generally ruby red in color, full bodied with aromas and flavours of plum, ripe berries, tobacco, herbs and leather. Tempranillo is commonly blended with Grenache or Carignan and in Rioja, oaked to add soft vanilla flavors to the wines.

TIBOUREN.

Tibouren is a black skinned grape grown mainly in Provence. It produces aromatic, lightly coloured wines with relatively high acidity. it is also quite weather sensitive, tending to coulure (failure of grapes to develop after flowering) and with an irregularity of harvst yields, both factors leading to the grape often being used as a blending grpae, particulalry in Provence rosés, contributing acidity and some earthy aromas to the resulting blends without too much influence on the colour. 

TREBBIANO (UGNI BLANC).

Although not a household name, Trebbiano is widely planted worldwide and the most commonly grown grape variety in France where it is known as Ugni Blanc. Trebbiano also accounts for a third of all white wines in Italy, where the most successful Trebbiano based blends are the Orvieto whites of Umbria.

Trebbiano is a vigorously growing, high yield grape variety that generally produces light, fresh, fruity wines with high acidity that should generally be drunk young and chilled. The high acidity does make it ideal for distilling though, hence its popularity in Cognac and Armagnac

VERDEJO.

Verdejo, not to be confused with the Portuguese Verdelho, is a Spanish white grape that has been long grown in the Rueda region of Spain. The grapes have a tendancy to oxidize a bit, so harvesting is often done at night, the grapes therefore entering the winery at a lower temperature, meaning less oxidizing of the wine, preserving the fresher flavours and colours.

Verdejo wines are sometimes blended, those labelled "Rueda" must contain at least 50% Verdejo (often Sauvignon Blanc or Macabeo making up the difference and adding a little acidity), wines labelled "Rueda Verdejo" must be a minimum of 85% Verdejo and are often 100%. The wines are generally full aromatic, full bodied and softer on the palate because of the slightly lower acidity levels than normal. Flavours of soft white fruits such pear and apple are common, often with notes of tropical fruits.

VERDELHO.

A white wine grape of Portugese origen, Verdelho is most well known on the island of Madiera, where it is one of the most widely grown grapes and one of the four main types of Madeira Wine. Verdelho is alwso successfuly grown in Australia and Argentna.

Verdelho produces fruity wines with high acidity when aged, in Australia, the wines produced are noted for quite intense flavours, with hints of lime and honeysuckle and an oily texture the wines can take on after some ageing. 

VERDICCHIO.

Verdicchio is an Italian white grape variety grown mainly around the Marche region of central eastern Italy. As a grape it is quite sensitive to climatic conditions and can produce variable yields. However, when it is grown successfully, it produces wonderfully fresh wines, with elements of citrus, floral and slightly bitter almond notes. The wines produced are pale in colour and have a high acidity, making it an ideal varietal for sparkling wine production.

VERMENTINO (ROLLE)

An Italian white grape variety grown throughout Italy but primarily in Liguria, Sardinia and Tuscany, the vermentino grape also has a foothold in corsica, the Rhône Valley and Provence. 

The vermentino grape is a late ripening grape, producing dry, failry light bodied but fragrant wines. The acidity levels are quite high with similar fruit characteristics of citrus fruits, zingy citrus peel and slight mineral notes. 

VERNACCIA.

Vernaccia is a widely used Italian white grape, most famously grown around the Tuscan village of San Gimignano for the white wine of the ame name. Vernaccia di San Gimignano is not to be confused with the unrelated Sardinian white Vernaccia di Oristano or the sparkling red from the Marche, Vernaccia di Serrapetrona.

Vernaccia tends to thrive on the sandstone based vineyards at San Gimignano, producing crisp, dry, fruity white wines with a slightly bitter finish.

VIOGNIER.

A widely planted grape variety throughout Southern France, Viognier is most famous as the white grape of the Rhone Valley wines of Condrieu and Château Grillet. Usually a dry wine, Viognier has a tendency to develop higher sugar levels with lower acidity leading to a full-bodied and creamy mouth feel not dissimilar to that of Chardonnay.

Difficult to grow, Viognier requires harvesting at the peak of its maturity to display its unique combination of powerful and complex floral aromas, over-ripe apricots and orange blossoms with tropical fruit and slightly spicy flavours. However late harvesting, often in late October or early November, produces over ripe grapes can make good quality sweet wines. The fermentation process of these grapes is stopped early with sulfur to leave high residual sugar levels.

VIURA.

ZINFANDEL (PRIMITIVO)

Zinfandel is a red grape once thought to be indigenous to the USA, but DNA tasting has now shown it to be the same grape as Primitivo from Southern Italy, although both Zinfandel and Prmitivo are the same as the original Croatian grape, Crljenak Kastelanski.

Zinfandel is a vigorous thin-skinned grape favouring warm but not too hot climates and producing fairly high sugar levels in the grape leading to fairly alcoholic wines. However, Zinfandel does need care in the vineyard due to uneven ripening that can occur.

Zinfandel can produce, depending on vinification methods, a large array of wine styles from rich, dark reds to light and fruity reds, or white or pink wines, sparkling and sweet wines. At its best, especially in California, Zinfandel carries aromas of bramble and redcurrant, with further flavours of black cherry, spice and red pepper.