All About Wine and Grape Varieties.

Wine and GrapeWine and Grape

Wine is a living beverage unless it has been pasteurized.  Dr. Pasteur has determined that wine is the safest of all alcoholic beverages but only if consumed in    moderate quantities and regularly. Approximately 300 – 350 ml of wine per day is considered moderate and safe. For females 250 ml. is recommended.  Even the Romans were aware of the medicinal properties of wine, and forced their legionnaires to mix wine with their water in an attempt to eliminate harmful bacteria contained in their drinking water.  For this reason, all legionnaires were forced to plant vines in occupied territories.  This activity created meaningful work for soldiers and also provided the wine for their daily ration, because at the time transportation was both an arduous and time consuming undertaking.

In essence, wine lovers owe a lot to Romans, for they were the ones who introduced vitiviniculture in various parts of Europe, namely Switzerland, Germany, certain parts of France, Austria, Hungary and even England. Other nations before the Romans had already introduced vitiviniculture to Spain, Portugal, and southern France, but here again, Romans have been instrumental in expanding existing vine regions.  Thanks to the Greeks through whom Romans learned vitiviniculture.  In fact, Greeks called the Roman Empire more precisely today’s Italy Enotria (wine land)

Factors influencing the quality of wine:

There are several factors that influence the quality of the wine and are in order of importance:

  • The grape
  • The soil
  • The climate (the combination of soil and climate is called terroir)
  • The winemaker  and technology he/she employs

All of the above in that order contribute largely to the quality  of the wine.  It

has been said often that wine is made in the field.  No winemaker, regardless of his/her  expertise and dedication, can produce an outstanding wine from unsuitable grapes.  Wine making is like cooking, you cannot produce good wine from faulty or unsuitable fruit.  Table grapes are generally unsuitable for wine making, although exceptions, as always, exist.  For example, Muscat or Palomino grapes can be successfully used as table grapes and for wine making.


There are thousands (over 8,000) of grape varieties and hundreds of hybrids that have been created by hybridizers.  Experts still experiment  to create grape varieties either to be disease resistant, or to possess aromas and tastes that are more pleasing, or those that ripen early, or are winter hardy, or high yielding. Although there are thousands of grape varieties, only a handful are esteemed and widely used by winemakers and  commonly appreciated by connoisseurs.

The following varieties are widely planted in various regions and/or countries with success:



Synonyms:    Blanc Fume, Surin, Fie, Muskat Sylvaner.Fie.

Sauvignon    Blanc grapes are planted in many regions of France (Bordeaux predominantly, Loire and elsewhere), California (where the wines that are aged are called fume blanc), Australia, Italy, Chile, New Zealand and elsewhere in the world.  Sauvignon grapes produce a dry  wine and leave a “smokey”‘finish in the mouth. Sauvignon is sometimes blended with Semillion grapes to produce dessert wines and also to contribute a floral aroma to dry Sauvignon wines.  It is a vigorous grape, but sensitive to powdery mildew.

There are also rare pink and red Sauvignon berries.  Pink berries are used for rose or red wines.  Sauvignon Blanc wines are meant to be enjoyed within a year or two of harvest.


Synonyms: Pinot Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc Chardonnay, Melon Blanc, Beaunoise, Epinette Blanche, Petite Sainte-Marie, Weisser Clevner (Germany), Morillon (Austria).

Chardonnay has become a very popular white grape amongst vignerons and oenophiles during the last three decades, particularly in North America and the United Kingdom.  Chardonnay was always the grape variety that winemakers employed to produce outstanding wines in Burgundy and Champagne.  It yields extraordinary wines when grown on agriculturaly poor, lime-rich, or chalky soils with a good drainage.  Chardonnay provides the finesse to champagnes, or in general to sparkling wines, especially if the grapes were grown on the chalkiest soils of Champagne called the Cotes de Blanc.  Vignerons for long thought Chardonnay to belong to the Pinot family of grapes, but this has been proved erroneous.

It is a  vigorous, early  ripening grape variety, resists cold weather well, and thrives in  cool climate regions (i.e. Ontario, Burgundy, Northern Italy, Tasmania, high altitude vineyards in Argentina) and  adapts well to warm climates like in California (Napa Valley and Sonoma County) and Australia (Tasmania and Yarra Valley).

Chardonnay  musque is a strain (with a muscat smell and taste) that produces very appealing wines. Muscat aromas dissipate after a year or so in the bottle. This variety is now being studied for clonal selection. (Clonal selection is the process of selecting the healthiest and best grape-producing vine from amongst many of the same specie.  It has been done for centuries in various regions, but today it is being pursued  scientifically).

Chardonnay tastes, at its best, buttery, smooth, aromatic, with minerally flavours, a full- bodied, balanced wines that possess long and pleasant aftertaste.  The wines can be long-lived and in most cases are deeply flavoured, if and when skillful winemakers had quality grapes with which to work.  There are various ways of rendering the wines  long-lived.  In Burgundy, vignerons ferment the must in oak casks (Nevers, Allier or others), whereby the wine acquires tannins and more complex flavours.  These wines are barrel aged for up to 24 months.  In Canada and the U.S.A winemakers  experiment with other oaks i.e American white-, Hungarian or Russian or Canadian oak for aging.  Quality oriented winemakers insist on tight-grained  Allier or Nevers oak. Limousin- and American white oak barrels impart  excessive vanilla flavours and taste. Quality Chardonnay wines aged suitably in oak will be long-lived and exude buttery texture,  much admired by connoisseurs.

In Chablis, France, Chardonnay is responsible for perfumey, steely wines, that can be, in successful vintages, unforgettable.  There are winemakers here that advocate minimal use of oak, but most  shun oak aging altogether.  J Moreau, and William Fevre are only two Chablis producers that shun oak in preference to temperature controlled stainless steel tanks.

Expertly made Chablis in successful vintages display flavours and tastes that no other wines manage to offer. In Chablis, terroir plays a significant role in the taste and texture of the wine.

Chardonnay is planted in Burgundy (Chablis, Cote de Beaune) Loire, Champagne, Lombardy, Piedmont, Trentino-Alto-Adige, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, Tuscany (Italy), Ontario, British Columbia,  California, New York State, Oregon, Washington State, (USA), Australia, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, New Zealand,  Germany, Austria and in other countries, although in small quantities.

Recently, un-oaked, somewhat neutral-tasting Chardonnays have become popular in North America. Partially this practice originated in an effort to cut cost, and to take advantage of the North American taste for an off-dry or neutral wine.  Wine writers and some experts claim Chardonnay grapes to taste neutral, and that flavour is imparted in the cellar through a variety of techniques, including barrel aging.


Synonyms:    Traminer musque, Red Traminer, Traminer Aromatico, Gentil rose aromatique.

This grape variety is a clone of the Traminer that  originated  in the eponymous village located in Trentino-Alto-Adige (South Tyrol.). It was  transplanted to Austria, later on in Germany’s Palatinate region  where a clone that had a “spicy” aroma to it was selected. This clone is called Gewurztraminer (literally translated spicy Traminer). In time this grape variety was brought to Alsace, where it has gained its world-wide reputation.  This reddish grape is vigorous and generally ripens early.  Gewurztraminer wines of Alsace are generally of excellent quality, distinctively aromatic,smelling of lychee nuts, and tropical fruits especially when harvested late or affected by botrytis cinerea.   In Alsace both dry and sweet varieties are produced  successfully.  Dry Gewurztraminers complement hearty dishes such as plat de charcuterie (Sauerkraut garnished with various sausages, and smoked pork loin), and strongly flavoured seafood with cream sauces.

Sweet Gewurztraminers complement pate de foie gras, ripe fruits, fruit-based desserts, marinated berries, and can be enjoyed on their own.  Gewurztraminer is planted in various countries with varying success. Germany, Austria, Trentino-Alto-Adige, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, Ontario, California, New York, Australia, Republic of South Africa, New Zealand, Austria, California, Oregon, Washington State, and Chile, are  known for their dry or sweet Gewurztraminer wines.


Synonyms:    Chevrier, Colombier, Malaga and Blanc Doux.

Semillion has small berries (12 mm) which turn pinkish at full maturity and may offer a slight muscat flavour.  Semillon thrives in Bordeaux and may be blended in varying proportions with Sauvignon blanc for fruitiness and appealing mouthfeel.  For sweet white wines the reverse applies.  The delightfully sweet Sauternes, Barsac and

Cerons wines  contain considerable amounts of Semillion.  These wines exude   perfumey and floral aromas, with a luscious mouthfeel, but are never cloying.  Semillion is susceptible to botrytis cinerea.  It is vigorous and matures early.  Semillion is planted in Bordeaux (Sauternes, Cerons, Barsac, Entre-Deux-Mers), California, Australia and Republic of South Africa, Chile, Ontario, British Columbia,  and Washington State.


Synonyms:   White Riesling, Johannisberg Riesling, Rajnai Rizling, Petracine.

This is the noblest grape of the German viticulture and is  planted in many European countries as well as in North America, Australia and South Africa.

Riesling ripens fairly late and yields are small. Favourable vintages (hot weather with intermittent rain and cool night temperatures) in the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Rheingau and Palatinate  yield fabulous, superbly balanced, aromatically very appealing  wines.  In Germany, in successful vintages, the crop is  vinified with some residual sugar that  age well under appropriate cellaring conditions.  Riesling  yields aromatic and flavourful  wines with  agreeable aromas when grown on clay or slatey shistous soils.

In France, Alsace is well noted for its dry and late harvested sweet Rieslings. Germany especially Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Rheingau as well as other regions grow Riesling in considerable quantities. Hungary, Romania, Austria,  Switzerland, Lombardy, Trentino-Alto-Adige, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, Ontario, British Columbia, California, Washington State, Oregon, New York State, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile,and Republic of South Africa have thousands of hectares under Riesling. Some of these regions produce extraordinary wines in their own right.

Glorious Rieslings are made in Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Alsace, Rheingau, Washington State,  and to some extent in Ontario, and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia.

The clone isolated on the property of the Schloss Johannisberg has a very distinct smell and taste and has been widely propagated.  The school of oenology in Geisenheim, Germany has selected the best clones and exports them. Riesling fails to  yield aromatic wines when grown in hot climates.

Torres winery in Villafranca del Penedes, Spain, grows Riesling  on high altitudes successfully.  Riesling planted on approriate terroir and when conservatively pruned, thrive in Ontario, certain locations in California, Oregon, Washington State, New Zealand, Australia (Tasmania) and New York State. Australia, New Zealand and Republic of South Africa produce both dry and sweet, fruity and refreshing Rieslings.  Friuli-Venezia-Giulia is well noted for its dry Rieslings wines, and Lombardy for its Riesling-based sparkling wines.  Overall, this grape variety is one of the finest white wine grapes.


Synonyms:   Pineau de la Loire, White Pinot, Steen (South Africa)

The clusters of Chenin Blanc can be 15 – 20 cm long, fairly compact and conical, composed of  firm, and golden-yellow oval berries with a 10 – 12 mm diameter.   Chenin Blanc is an old  variety and appreciated for its noble wines.  It thrives in the  Loire Valley where it was first planted in  the ninth century.   It matures in midseason, but through clonal selection maturity can be advanced by 10 – 15 days.  Chenin Blanc yields fruity, clean, crisp, dry or sweet wines with an appealing taste.  It is planted on large acreage in the Loire Valley, California, in South Africa (Steen) Australia,and in a few other countries.


Synonyms:    Giboudot Blanc, Blanc de Troyes, Chaudenet gras.

The clusters are small (7-12 cm), cylindrical, loose, with small berries.  It is an old Burgundian variety and may be vinified as a varietal wine or blended with Chardonnay, or  used for sparkling wine blends.  It resists cold winters.  Aligote wines in their youth can be very refreshing with fruity aromas, and posseses an appealing flavour and aftertaste.  The wine does not age well.  Aligote is predominantly planted in Burgundy and little elsewhere in the world. A few hectares exist in Ontario.


Synonyms:    French Colombard, Colombar, Colombier, Pied-Tendre, Queue Verte.

Colombard originates from Charente Maritime, southwestern France, but thrives  in the  Loire Valley, California, Australia and South Africa.  Colombard is prolific and

planted widely outside of  France in California, and South Africa for dry white and sparkling  wines. 


Synonyms:    Pinot Meunier, Gris Meunier, Auvernaut gris, Blanche feuille, Muller Rebe, Schwarzriesling (Germany).

Clusters are small with small round, thick-skinned berries.  It is popular  in Champagne especially in the Marne Valley, ripens early,  and resists cold well.  Meunier is also planted in California, yielding flavourful,  clean wines, but notably  used in sparkling wine blends.


Synonyms:    Muscat de Frontignan, Moscato Canelli, White Frontignan (England), Muskut (Greece), Muscatel Branco (Portugal), Moscato bianco, Weisser Muskateller (Germany and Austria).

There are many strains of Muscat, all of which are aromatic and pleasant in flavour.  The clusters are medium large, cylindrical, long and narrow.  Berries are round,and amber in colour. Muscat grapes are generally used for sweet wines although there are a few wineries in Italy that produce fine dry muscat wines.   When picked overripe, it yields sweet, intensely aromatic wines that can be blended with other wines and used successfully for aromatic sparkling wines (i.e. Asti Spumante) . Birds and bees  like muscat grapes when they are supersweet and ooze with “nectar”.  Muscat is widely planted in warmer climates in Italy and southern France.  In Piedmont, although the region can be quite cold, it thrives on certain terroirs. Sparkling and still Muscat wines of  Piedmont are legendary, as well as those from Clairette de Die and Beaumes de Venice both in Cotes du Rhone.

Germany, Austria, and Spain produce pleasant Muscat wines.   Portugal’s Muscat de Setubal is outstanding and world-famous as is Muscat from the Douro Valley in northern Portugal.  Muscats from the islands of Pantelleria and Sardinia are delicious, but  those from the island of Lipari in southern Italy are beyond equal.

South Africa has some Muscat vineyards, as does California where some excellent wines are made.

The island of Samos in Greece is known for its outstanding sweet Muscats, highly recommended with fully ripe  fruits and desserts of all sorts.

Muscat grapes in Australia are vinified in dry, sweet, or fortified styles.


Synonyms:Franken Riesling,  Schwabler, Gruber, Szilvani Zold (Hungary.

This is an aromatic, early ripening grape that yields  perfumey and floral wines.  The clusters are medium in size, moderately compact, with round and medium-sized, berries. In the 20th century, it was popular in Austria but today it has gained unprecedented acceptance in Central  European countries.  Germany, Hungary, Switzerland, Italy especially Friuli-Venezia-Giulia,  and Trentino Alto Adige,  New Zealand, Chile, California, Australia, South Africa and Alsace boast large Sylvaner acreage. It is susceptible to noble rot, and in Germany vintners produce Spatlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese wines.

There are many other grape varieties of the vitis vinifera family which are very widely planted and used.

Some are listed below:

Airen, Albalonga, Albarino (Alvarinho in Portugal),Arneis(Piedmont, Italy),, Arvine, Assyrtiko, Aurora,  Bacchus, Baga, Bombino,  Canaiolo, Chasselas (Gutedel), Catarrato Bianco, Debina, Debroi Harslevelu, Delaware, Dimiat, Dutchess, Emerald Riesling, Encruzado, Ezerjo, Faberrebe, Fernao Pires, Feteasca (Leanyka in Hungary), Fiendling,   Freisamer, Furmint, Greco, Grey Riesling, Gros Manseng, Gruner Veltliner, Grechetto, Gutenborner, Huxelrebe,Incrocio,Juwel, Kerner,Macabeo, Malvasia (Malmsey), Manseng, Marsanne, Misket, Molinaro, Mukuzani, Muller-Thurgau, Muscat Ottonel, Ortega,Palomino, Picolit (Friuli-Venezia-Giulia), Pinot Blanc, Prosecco, Rieslaner, Rkatsiteli, Rousanne, Sauvignonasse, Savagnin (Jura, France), Seyval Blanc, Sercial (Cerceal), Traminer, Verdicchio, Verduzzo, Vespaiolo,

Vidal, Viura (Rioja, Spain), Viognier (Cotes du Rhone), Vignole, Welschriesling, Xarello.



Synonyms: Petit Cabernet, Vidure, Petite-Vidure, Bouchet.

Cabernet Sauvignon is the noble red grape  of Bordeaux and is  responsible for the great wines of Medoc.  Cabernet Sauvignon is dark , thick-skinned, very tannic, has  characteristic violet and berry aromas, and requires long aging both in cask and in bottle to achieve its potential.  It is a vigorous plant but does not produce much fruit, with age the vine produces fewer more intense smelling and tasting fruit.  This is true of some other vines too.  It matures late, but resists botrytis cinerea.

Cabernet Sauvignon has small cylindrical-conical clusters, 10 cm in length. Berries are small  round (7-10 mm).  In Bordeaux, the Cabernet Sauvignon is grown on the sandy  and gravelly soils of Medoc, and gravelly soils of Graves (a sub-region of Bordeaux) and yields outstanding wines. Because Cabernet Sauvignon is tannic it requires long cellaring.  Many Bordeaux wineries blend it with Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Carmenere. The last grape variety is now almost never used in Bordeaux, but is quite popular in Chile.

Cabernet is widely planted in Bordeaux, Languedoc, Piedmont, Tuscany, South Africa, Australia, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, California, Oregon, Washington State, British Columbia, Ontario,  New Zealand, Brazil,  Hungary and Romania. In successful vintages,  expertly vinified Cabernet Sauvignon can be outstanding, and  glorious if not seductive.


Synonyms:Petit Merle, Vitraille, Crabutet noir, Bigney.

Merlot,  low in tannins,  can be enjoyed much sooner than Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc.  The clusters are medium in size (10 – 15 cm), berries are round (10 mm) and blue-black.  It is a vigorous variety and ripens relatively early.  Merlot is planted in Bordeaux and widely used in St. Emillion. In Medoc it is employed to soften Cabernet Sauvignon wines.

In Italy, Merlot is planted with great success in Veneto, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, and Trentino Alto Adige. In California, both Napa Valley and Sonoma County appellations use Merlot extensively for blending and varietal wines.

Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Chile, British Columbia, Ontario, and Argentina have large Merlot plantings yielding high quality grapes as well as wines.  Merlot does not age as well as Cabernet Sauvignon, except those from Saint Emilion.


Synonyms: Noirien, Auvernat Noir, Vert Dore, Savagnin Noir, Cortailled (Switzerland), Blauer Klevner, Schwarzer Klevner (Germany) Pinot Nero (Italy), and Nagy Burgundy (Hungary.)

Pinot Noir thrives on poor  soil and is at home in Burgundy, especially in Cotes de Nuits and Cotes de Beaune.  It is widely planted in Champagne, to some extent in the Loire Valley, Alsace and  northern Italy, because of its excellent flavour and aroma.  California, Oregon, Washington, Ontario, British Columbia, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, Hungary, Switzerland,  Bulgaria, Romania, Russia, and Japan have large acreages.

It produces only a few bunches (in Burgundy vignerons prune it to produce six to eight bunches) , especially when the vines are pruned severely and ripens late. New clones are selected and which ripen relatively early. The school of oenology in Dijon, France, completed several studies on clonal selection. It is a red grape that has the fewest colouring pigments on the skin thus the wines are never dark.  Pinot Noir clusters are small (7-10 cm) cylindrical, have compact slightly oval berries, with thin, blue-black skin.  In hot and dry climates it yields neutral tasting wines. It is a capricious grape, mutating easily. In successful vintages the wine can be sensational especially those from Burgundy, California

(Carneros in Napa Valley), Oregon, Australia (Tasmania and Yarra Valley), and New Zealand (Otago).  It can adapt to severe climates.

In Ontario, Pinot Noir is successfully planted and produces outstanding wines when vines are tended with care. Harvesting is done by hand, and careful winemaking can yield outstanding wines as a few wineries proved.

Authentic Pinot Noir wines should exude “barnyard” smells. Some call it “forrest flor” alluding to the smell of rotting leaves, but in general the aroma is more elusive and subtle than that of Cabernet Sauvignon.  Pinot Noir wines can be excellent, exuding strawberry aromas, and blend well with ripe strawberries for marinating

It is susceptible to botrytis cinerea and  some vignerons in Austria (Burgenland) and California winemakers produce TBA (trockebeerenauslese) wines from Pinot Noir.  While the wine is brownish red in colour and less vibrant than Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon, the smell and taste of Pinot Noir can be intense, evoking emotional feelings and offering new taste dimensions.  Pinot Noir can be vinified for relatively long cellaring, but  will never last as long as Cabernet Sauvignon blends from Bordeaux or elsewhere.  In Ontario a few wineries produce Pinot Noir icewine.

Pinot Noirs of successful vintages go well  with beef, or game dishes, can be enjoyed on their own, even with roast chicken, planked salmon and cream cheeses.  In Burgundy, Pinot Noir wines are expensive mostly due to high demand, but elsewhere there are inexpensive cousins which are quite palatable, but lack the depth and complexity of those from Burgundy, New Zealand,  Oregon, Washington, Ontario, and Australia.


Synonyms:    Bretonu,  Bouchy, Veron, Carmenet, Gros Bouchet.

The clusters are small (10 -12 cm long) cylindrical – conical, berries are small and round (10 mm), blue-black in colour, the grape is “juicy”.  This grape variety is at home in Bordeaux,  but  is also found  in the Loire Valley,  Languedoc – Roussillon and Provence, Italy notably in Trentino Alto Adige, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, Veneto, Tuscany, Hungary, South Africa, Australia, Chile, Argentina, California, British Columbia, Ontario, and Texas.

Cabernet Franc produces aromatic, “spicy”  wines, which have a raspberry smell in Touraine, and that of violets in Chinon (Loire Valley) .

Carbernet Franc wines are less tannic than Cabernet Sauvignon, and often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon in Bordeaux and elsewhere to render the reesulting wine enjoyable sooner.

Cabernet Franc wines in Italy are marketed as Cabernet and contain 100 per cent  of the variety on the label.


Synonyms:Trinchiera, Estraigle-Chien, Balzac Noir, Dumas Noir), Negron, Espar, Mataro, Catalan, Beni Carlo,Monastrell,  and Tinto.

Mourvedre is a medium cluster grape (15cm) compact, conical and slim.

The berries are round and small (7 mm), black in colour with a thick skin,  and of a slightly bitter flavour.  The grape is native to Spain,  but today, widely planted in the southern

France, Languedoc et Roussillon and Cotes du Rhone.  Mourvedre  yields wines with an intense, dark colour, very solid, tannic at first,  but softening later on.  The wines are high in alcohol, especialy when the grapes were grown in hot climates, easily detected by experienced tasters through the aroma of the wine.  In order to render the wine softer, the grapes are first destemmed and then crushed, thus reducing tannin content. Occasionally winemakers blend small quantities of Viognier, a white grape, to lighten the colour, as is the case in Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines.  Mourvedre is also planted in California, Australia, South Africa , and Argentina  yielding adequate wines mostly for blending.


Synonyms: Garnacha, Alicante.

Large clusters, conical, winged, compact berries of medium size, black, slightly oval (15 mm) fairly thick skin, soft juicy pulp and less intense coloured juice make up the characteristics of this grape.  Grenache is of Spanish (garnacha) origin and planted there on many vineyards including those of Rioja.  In southern France, Grenache thrives and  yields outstanding wines, particularly in Cotes du Rhone blends. The wine ages quickly, tends to oxidize rapidly, and for this reason is blended with other grapes notably Syrah, Mourvedre, Carignan, Cinsaut  and others.

Grenache is also used for aromatically floral and beguiling white wines.   California, Australia, South Africa, and Spain have thousands of hectares under Grenache .

In Cotes du Rhone (Lirac, Tavel), Provence, and Navarra it  is employed to produce rose wines.


Synonyms: Gamay Noir, Gamay Beaujolais, Petit Gamay, Gamay rond, Bourguignon Noir.

Gamay is the grape variety that yields light, fruity, “quaffable” (the French call it vin de soif, literally translated it means wine to slacken thirst) wines in Beaujolais, a subregion of Burgundy. In Burgundy proper, Gamay yields  adequate wines.

The clusters are compact, cylindrical, slightly winged, the berries are black, somewhat oval and medium in size.  There are many variations of this grape – Gamay tous droit, Gamay Noir a jus blanc, Gamay teinturiers, Gamay Preaux, Gamay de Chardonnay and others.

Gamay can be employed for white wines, but in these instances the colour has a reddish tinge.  Gamay wines, especially those from the Bas-Beaujolais, are meant to be consumed within a year or two of harvest. Those from northern Beaujolais can be aged for a long, time particularly those from the 10 appellations (Moulin-a-Vent, Chiroubles, Chenas, Regnie, Brouilly, Fleurie, Cote de Brouilly, Morgon, Julienas, and St. Amour). When  proccessed using the carbonic maceration technique, as is the case for Beaujolais nouveau, the wines deteriorate within months. Beaujolais nouveau wines are marketed in mid-November of the same year,  fruity, acid-driven, quaffable wines best suited to consume with light foods.

In Burgundy blends containing  2/3 Gamay and 1/3 Pinot Noir are called Bourgogne Passe -Tout – Grain where they are marketed as a  special appellation.

Gamay is planted in Ontario, California, Australia and in a few other countries.


Synonyms: Shiraz, Sirac, Sirah, Petit Syrah, Serenne, Serine, Hilguin Noir.

Contrary to the common belief that Syrah originates in the Middle East, it is a natural cross between Duraz and Grenache blanc. The cross is believed to have occurred in the Cotes du Rhone according to the latest research completed. While the French blend Syrah  with  Mourvedre, Cinsaut, Carignan,Viognier and other varieties, Australians prefer Cabernet Sauvignon to provide  backbone to the wine. One of the most famous and expensive Australian wines, if not the most famous, is called Grange Hermitage consisting of  Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Clusters are medium in size (10-12cm) cylindrical in shape, compact, early maturing,  with oval, small, blue-black, intensely  aromatic,  juicy and sweet berries.  Australian winemakers specialaize in Shiraz and grow huge quantities of it. Barossa Valley north of Adelaide in South Australia is  famous for its Shiraz wines that are occasionally blended with a small amount of Viognier to lighten their colour.

Syrah yields luscious, fruity, and appealing wines, most suitable for the palates of young individuals just starting to enjoy  red wines.

It is planted in California, Washington State, Chile, Argentina, New Zealand, South Africa, Italy, Argentina, Chile, Ontario, British Columbia,   Greece and Portugal.


Synonyms: Picotenere, Pugnet, Spanna, Chiavanesca

This unique, and uniquely flavoured grape variety is of moderate vigour, and productivity. Reputable growers and wineries with their own vineyards restrict yields to five tons per hectare, although Italian wine law permits eight tons. Low yield produces more concentrated, intense, and cellarwothy wines.

Bunches are medium in size (150 – 200 grams), cylindrical to long-conical, and occasionally “winged”. The berry is almost round and often lacks full pigmentation yielding a pale, but powerful wine.

In tis youth, Barolo, the most famous red wine of Piedmont, smells of rose petals, tar, and berries, but with two years of barrel aging and several in the bottle, it becomes a wonderfully harmonious and balanced wine, smelling of mushrooms and olives.

It thrives on volcanic soils and grows in Val d’Aosta, Piedmont, Lombardy.

Ontario, Australia, and California growers planted several hectares for experimental purposes. To date, none yielded a wine remotely resembling a well-made Barolo or Barbaresco, both of which must be made using Nebbiolo exclusively.


Synonyms: Brunello di Montalcino, Prugnolo Gentile, Morellino, Sangiovese grosso, Sangiovese piccolo

This grape variety is Italy’s most widely planted, but produces the best wines in Tuscany, specially in Chianti on vineyards located between 400 – 600 metres above sea level. Researchers concluded that it is native to Tuscany and was cultivated by Etruscans, the first inhabitants of the region, but first investigated and written about in the 18th century.

Sangiovese adapts well to a wide variety of soils, but limestone-rich soils give it the best flavour. At its best Sangiovese wines smell of cherries, are medium-bodied, deeply flavorued, and smooth with a long aftertaste.

The skin of Sangiovese is thin and susceptible to rot in cool and damp climates.

Outside Italy, Sangiovese is planted in North America, particularly in California, South Africa, and Australia.

Today, many Tuscan wineries, particularly in Chianti legally add a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon to their wines in an attempt to provide more colour and “backbone”.


Synonys: Plavac, Plavina, Primitivo, Plavac Mali, Primitivo di Gioia, Primitivo di Manduria

Rich in history and its peregrinations from the Dalamatian Coast on the Adritc Sea to California via Apulia, Zinfandel is one of the most popular, if not the most popular, red wine grape in that sunny state on the Pacific coast.

It is moderately vigorous, but can yield up to 25 tons per hectare if not pruned severly.

Zinfandel originated in what is Croatia today, (according to the latest research of University of California, Davis) and was naturally or intentionally transplanted from, there to Apulia (Puglia) in southern Italy. From there, Cortez may have brought it to Mexico, and Father Junipero Serra in mid 18th century brought it to California during the construction of Camino Real (King’s Highway). Each stop and monastery on this highway was surrounded by a vineyard. Zinfandel was preferred or the only variety planted. This is one version of Zinfandel’s arrival in California. The other equally  plausible is that Count Agoston Haraszthy, considered by many the father of California vitiviniculture, was the individual who recognized its potential in his adopted country, and may have imported it among many other varieties, during one of his trips to Europe.

Regardless of how Zinfandel landet in California, the vine is bewilderingly flexible. It can be made “blush” (very pale rosé), even white, or as a fine red table or dessert or fortified wine like port.

On California’s cool northern coastal counties and planted on judiciously selected soils, and when properly pruned, it can yield full-flavorued, tannic, berry-like aromatic, full-bodied, cellarwothy wines.

In hot climates like that of San Joaquin Valley’s Amador county, Zinfandel is often vinified as a full-bodied, high-alcohol, well-extracted, powerful wine, and occasionally even fortified.

One can safely state that primitivo from southern Italy should not be compared to California Zinfandel. The vine has adapted to  California’s terroir and evolved into a variety that offers completely different flavours and aromas. Here again the notion of ”terroir” becomes indisputable in agriculture, especially in viticulture.

There are literally thousands of red grape varieties, and hundreds of hybrids.

Some are listed below:

Aglianico del Vulture, Alfrocheiro, Alicante-Bouchet, Aramon, Baco Noir, Barbera, Barbera, Bonarda, Brachetto, Cabernet Severnyi, Canaiolo, Canaiolo Nero, Carmina, Chancellor, Chelois, Coda di Volpe, Concord, Counoise, Croatina, De Chaunac, Domina, Dornfelder, Durif, Frappato, Freisa,Gaglioppo, Graciano, Helfensteiner, Heroldrebe, Kadarka (Gamza), Kekfrankos (Blaufrankisch), Kolar, Keknyelu, Kekoporto (Blauer Portugieser), Lemberger, Limnio, Malagoussia, Marechal Foch, Mavrodaphne, Mavrud (Melnik), Marzemino, Mencia, Mission, Mondeuse Noir, Monica, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Rotberger, Souzao, Sulmer, Tempranillo, Tinta Cao, Tinta Franca, Tinta Madeira, Touriga Nacional, Zinfandel,Zweigelt.

Wine and Grape

One Comment

  1. Pingback: Oozz franca | AggoMan