Flavour and aromatic characteristics of popular grape varieties


Researchers established that there are more than 1400 grape varieties, but 80 per cent of world wine production is derived from 20 grape varieties.

Wine drinkers are essentially being forced to enjoy the intrinsic characteristics of a miniscule portion of nature’s bounty.

This is mostly due to the invention of varietal wines versus generic wines. The former was invented fro commercial reasons in the U S A with the reasoning that people can remember a few grape varieties, rather than learn geography to enjoy their wines, as Europeans still do.

Bordeaux is a geographic place and produces wines from a number of grape varieties.

Burgundy, on the other hand, uses very few grape varieties but the terroir makes the big difference in taste. Terroir has its merits.

Chardonnay planted in California, even in the hands of the same winemaker, than chardonnay planted in Burgundy or elsewhere in France.

However, regardless of the region of origin, a properly made chardonnay wine will offer recognizable aromas and flavours that an experienced wine drinker can recognize.

Here are general aroma and flavour characteristics of popular grapes.

White grapes

Sauvignon blanc
Aromas – herbal, cur grass, gooseberries, tomato leaf, kiwi
Flavours – herbacious, grapefruit, gooseberry, guava, passion fruit

Aromas – apples, pears, citrus, pineapples, figs, toast, butter, minerals
Flavours – citrus, orchard or tropical fruits, spices, occasionally vanilla or oak

Aromas – white flowers, peach, apricot, tangerine
Flavours – apricots, peaches, exotic fruits

Aromas – apples, white flowers, stone fruits, petrol (old wines), perfumes
Flavours- stone fruits, apples

Chenin blanc
Aromas – greengage, apples, angelica, honey, bananas, pineapples, guava (when affected with noble rot)
Flavours – greengage, apples, pineapples

Aromas – lychees, rose petals, passion fruit, flowers
Flavours – exotic fruits, rose petals

Red grapes

Aromas – plums, red stone fruits, floral
Flavours – plums, chocolate, sweet spices, red or blackcurrants, cherries

Cabernet sauvignon
Aromas – cassis, cigar box, earth, mocha, occasionally mint (especially those from Chile), stone fruits
Flavours currants, berries

Aromas – brambleberries, violets, cracked black pepper, smoked meat, tar, leather
Flavours – cherries, plus, dark berries, spices, minerals

Pinot noir
Aromas – cherries, raspberries, strawberries, tea, forest floor, barnyard
Flavours – red and black stone fruits

Cabernet franc
Aromas – tobacco, raspberries, cassis, violets, peppery
Flavours – raspberries, peppery

Aromas – cherries, mulberries, plums, black currant
Flavours – cherries, plums


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