Varieties

The key to understanding wine is to familiarize your self with vinifera varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, etc.) and how each variety has certain unique characteristics in color, aroma and taste. Some wines are produced using only one grape variety and this style is referred to as a varietal or single varietal wine, if two or more varieties are used, like Bordeaux wines, the wine is referred to as a blend.

Wine grapes or varieties are categorized into two groups, white grapes, which are used for making white wine and black grapes, which are used mainly for reds due to their higher tannin content and color pigmentation. What distinguishes one variety from another is color, skin thickness, tannin, sugar to water ratio, acidity, and grape performance (yield, late budding, etc.).

The following are some of the most popular grape varieties and their associated aromas and tastes.


White Grapes

Grape Growers Guide

Chardonnay

Charred oak, apple, lime, grapefruit, clove, pear, apple cider, toast, butter, butterscotch, charred oak, yeasty, smoky, hazelnut, apricot, peach, vanillin, anise, toasted almonds.

Chenin Blanc

Honey, flowers, orange blossom, damp straw, apples, peach, pineapple, guava, chalk, lemon, vanilla, cream, chamomile, melon.

Sauvignon Blanc

Grapefruit, lemon, lime, melon, apple hay, grass, dill weed, spearmint/peppermint, apple, radish, celery, green olives, green beans, asparagus, bell pepper, gun metal powder, black pepper, wet wool, fig, melon, peach.

Gewürztraminer

Apricot, peach, nectarine, green apple, ginger, honeysuckle, geranium, rose, cinnamon, ginger, grapefruit, lemon, licorice, asphalt, smoke, cream, earth, flint, slate.

Riesling

Peach, apricot, pear, apple, lichee, curry, allspice, cloves, fernlike, pine pitch, kerosene, grassy, orange, lime, pineapple, tangerine, honey.


Black Grapes (Red Wine)

Cabernet Sauvignon

Black current (cassis), oak, fruit, vegetal, tannic, chalk, cassis, raspberry, peppermint, cherries, violets, plums, prunes, black currents, cranberry, green olives, mint, chocolate.

Merlot

Herbaceous, violet, black pepper, wild cherry, cedar wood, cigar box, roses, pipe tobacco, fruity overtones.

Pinot Noir

Ripe cherry, caramelized sugar, strawberries, pomegranates, peppermint, cinnamon, plum jam, roses, perfumed flowers, violets, leather, earthy.

Syrah/Shiraz

Blackberries, leather, peppery, truffles, cassis, smoke, dry pepper, coffee, tar, hickory wood, chestnuts,

Zinfandel

Brambly fruit, cherry, black pepper, spice, blackberry, strawberry.