A full-bodied red wine with natural high acidity that is mostly from Southern Italy. It has concentrated berry flavors with bold tannins, hence it ages well. Known for flavors of black fruits, white pepper and a bit of leather (nice earthiness). With age it develops softer tannins and aromas of dried figs. In Italy, it's sometimes blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Known as Albariño in Spain, and Alvarinho in Portugal, this grape is high in acidity and produces a light-bodied white wine or sparkling wine (the sparkling wine is most often from Portugal). This wine can have a rich, creamy texture from oak or lees aging. It will also sometimes result in a slightly salty flavor. These wines are usually intended for early consumption. Today, it is being produced in some of California's cooler areas, and in New Zealand.
Originally from the Piedmont area of Italy, Barbera is known for it depth of color, low tannins and low acidity. It's a medium-bodied wine with flavors of cherry and strawberry. When young, most Barbera wines have a bright-red cherry character. When aged in barrels and allowed to further age in the bottle for a few years, this turns to a denser, sour-cherry note with a bit of plum.
Cabernet Franc (Cab-er-nay-FRONC)
As a varietal wine, Cabernet Franc is medium bodied, low in acidity and often shows flavor characteristics of green bell peppers. Cabernet Franc is commonly compared to Cabernet Sauvignon, and for good reason. Cabernet Sauvignon is the result of a cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. Becoming more popular today as a varietal wine, it is also largely used in blends with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to produce Bordeaux style wines.
Cabernet Sauvignon (Cah-bare-nay so-veen-yawn)
One of the most widely known wines is grown throughout the world. While it is used in Bordeaux blends with Cabernet Franc and Merlot, it is also an outstanding varietal. This red wine has deep color, bold tannin, moderate acidity and aromas of black currant, black cherry, black pepper, licorice, dark spices and vanilla from its oak aging.
Originally used for much of California's jug wine, today these medium-bodied varietal wines have moderate tannins and higher acid. These wines can have flavors of dark and black fruits, red-fruit flavors of raspberry and cranberry sauce, pepper, and licorice. Oak aging adds flavors of baking spices such as cinnamon and star-anise.
Possibly the world's best known white wine. In France, Chardonnay is known as white Burgundy. Chardonnay wines can range from crisp and fruity, to rich and buttery depending on the growing region, temperatures, fermentation types and aging. Cool climates produce light to medium bodied wines with high acidity and crisp fruit flavors. Warmer climates tend to produce wines with richer, deeper flavors. Chardonnay that has gone through the added Malolactic fermentation process are softer in their acidity and fruit flavors and can have a buttery mouthfeel. Oak aging adds to the deep flavors of vanilla and hazelnuts.
Chenin Blanc (Shen-in blonk)
Most commonly associated with France's Loire Valley, this wine is high in acidity and ranges from sweet and fruity to dry and full-bodied. Depending on the region where it is produced it can take on a multitude of flavors including green apple, pineapple, lemon, and honeydew melon. It can then transition into flavors of apricot, passion fruit, mango, and nectarine. Oak aging adds flavors of baked apple, butterscotch, caramel, and honey.
These wines, most notably from the Piedmont region of Italy, can be high in tannin and fruity with colors varying from deep ruby to purple, while having low to moderate acidity.
Fumé Blanc (Foo-may blonk)
Fumé Blanc is Sauvignon Blanc. The primary difference is that Fumé Blanc spends some time aging in oak barrels. The French Sauvignon Blanc wines are generally not aged in oak. This oak aging can give Fumé Blanc a bit more of a rich, creamy taste to go along with the green flavors of pear, melon and mineral notes (think chalk, slate and wet stone).
Gamay is a fine light red wine, most notably from the Beaujolais region of France. These wines can have flavors of raspberry, red currant, cherry, strawberry and boysenberry. A Gamay wine is very low in tannin and is generally made relatively low in alcohol. Hence, the light bodied classification. It's a bright fruit flavored wine with great perfumed aromas.
Another form of Gamay is Beaujolais Nouveau. The grapes used to make this wine are picked from the vineyards just a couple of months prior to its release. That's compared to most wines that spend a year or more going through the fermentation and aging process before being bottled and shipped to market. This wine is produced entirely from handpicked Gamay grapes and because it is so new, it is very fresh and fruity. Many describe Beaujolais Nouveau as having flavors of candied cherries, strawberries, red plum, bananas and even bubble gum!
These wines, from grapes with naturally high sugar, are low in acidity with perfumed scents, strong fruit and spicy flavors. Gewürztraminer is an aromatic sweet-flavored wine with intense aroma of lychee, or sweet rose, ginger and incense. Sweet flavors include grapefruit, tangerine and pineapple. There are dry versions of this wine that, although having low residual sugar, still retain the sweet aromas and flavors.
This medium-bodied wine comes primarily from France and Spain (Garnacha Tinta) although California is now begining to produced it in a more wide-spread manner. As a varietal it has bold fruit flavors of Black Cherry, Raspberry and Stawberry with medium tannin and acidity. But Grenache is predominately used as one of the 'Big 3' in Rhône GSM blends of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre as well as the blends produced in Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
Grüner Veltliner (GROO-ner FELT-lih-ner)
This light-bodied white wine comes mostly from Austria but is also grown in Slovakia, Czech Republic and Hungary. This wine has big fruit flavors of yellow apple, green pear and citrus that balances well with its high acidity. In some cases it's also described as having the flavor of white pepper.
This is a full-bodied red wine. Nearly three-quarters of the world's Malbec is grown in Argentina. France is another grower of Malbec where it is used in small quantities in the blending of Bordeaux wines. Malbec can have flavors of blueberry, black cherry, and plum. When aged in oak it takes on flavors of vanilla, tobacco and cocoa.
This white wine is light in body with moderate fruit and low acidity. This explains the Rhône Valley tradition of blending the variety with more aromatic grapes. On it own it generally tends to lack any depth of aroma or flavor but can exhibit flavors of honeydew melon, quince and pear.
This red wine is usually medium-bodied though it can tend toward being full-bodied and is sometimes confused with Cabernet Sauvignon. With big fruit flavors of raspberry, red currant, black cherry and plum, it can also take on notes of chocolate, vanilla and tobacco from oak aging. Although a bigger and bolder red wine, it tends to be lower in tannin resulting in wines that are described as smooth and having a very nice easy finish. In France's Bordeaux wines it is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.
Almost exclusively grown in Italy, this medium-bodied wine exhibits bold and rustic flavors of tart red and black fruit and lots of pepper. These typically have moderate flavor and soft tannin. In California, these grapes produce flavors of boysenberry, blackberry, green olive and pepper with high acid and tannin.
A full-bodied red wine that tends to peg the meter in fruit flavors, tannin and acidity. Spain grows more than three-quarters of the world's Mourvèdre where it is known as Monastrell. France is the other large grower. This wine, on its own, is not very common but exhibits flavors of blackberry, boysenberry and plum. But in blending, it's one of the 'Big 3' in Rhône GSM blends of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre.
Müller-Thurgau (Mull-er Toor-gow)
The Müller-Thurgau grape was created in 1882 by Dr. Herman Müller of Thurgau, Switzerland. It is a crossing of Riesling and Madeleine Royale. Predominately grown in German, this white wine is more full-bodied than Riesling but, like Riesling, it has floral aromas and sweet fruit flavors that make it seem sweet even when it’s dry (trocken). These wines can exhibit peach-like sweetness with low acidity. While there aren't a lot of published accolades for this wine, it is often blended with other grapes.
Known as Moscato in Italy and Moscatel in Spain and Portugal, this wine has a, not unexpectedly, grapey aroma. The Muscat grape imparts strong spice and floral notes and is often used in blending. Muscat wines may be dry (Muscat d'Alsace), medium, sweet, sparkling (Asti Spumante) or even produced as dessert wines. Muscat wines are generally low in acidity and generally don't age well.
Nebbiolo is nearly all produced in Italy's regions of Barolo and Barbaresco. It's a full-bodied red wine with bold tannin and high acidity. Aromas include rose and anise with flavors that include cranberry, cherry and raspberries. With this description, you might expect something lighter and more like a Pinot Noir. But it's the tannin that kicks it up into the full-bodied category.
Petite Sirah (Puh-TEET-see-rah)
This grape, derived from the Syrah grape, produces full-bodied tannic wines with high acidity and bold flavors of blackberry, blueberry, chocolate, and black pepper. There is nothing petite about this wine other than the small berries the grow on the vine. This wine is very dark in color, often described as inky.
Petite Verdot (Puh-TEET-Vair-DO)
Another wine with 'Petite" in its name that is full-bodied, highly tannic with big fruit flavors of plum, black cherry, blueberry and blackberry. The high tannin is attributable to the small berries that leads to a high ratio of skin and seeds to juice. This wine is inky in color, having a black-violet appearance.
Pinot Blanc (Pee-no-Blonk)
This wine is often compared with Chardonnay with its medium to full-bodied style that works well with oak aging. Pinot Blanc tends to have moderate acidity with flavors of apple, white peach, nectarine and honey.
Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio) (Pee-noh-Gree/Pee-noh-GREE-oh)
Pinot Gris is naturally low in acidity and high in sugar and produce wines that are full-bodied, fruity and can have an oily texture. In Italy, Pinot Grigio is lighter and dry, while Pinot Gris in the rest of the world is often sweeter or richer.
Pinot Noir (Pee-noh nwarh)
This wine can be light bodied with low tannin or can be medium-bodied with discernible tannin. The amount of tannin is directly related to the winemaker's choice of using the grape's stem. Whole cluster fermentation means the the grapes, skins, seeds and stems all go into the crusher and stay with the juice through fermentation. Light-bodied Pinot Noir exhibits flavors of cherries, raspberries and strawberries. Oak aging can add a bit of cola flavor. Along with the additional tannin in the medium-bodied wines, they can include flavors of black plum and pronounced earthiness.
These wines can range from bone dry to syrupy sweet. Typically, Riesling is light-bodied with high acidity and bold fruit flavors of lime, apple, nectarine and orange. The alcohol by volume (AVB) identified on the label with give you a strong indication of a Riesling's sweetness with ABV wines (less than 10%) being sweet with those over 10% ABV being dryer. Most German Riesling's will actually identify the wine's sweetness on the label graphically. But you can also look for the word "Trocken" which means dry.
Best known as Chianti when grown in the Chianti region of Italy, this wine is medium-bodied and high in acidity with medium-low fruit flavors of raspberry, red currant, cherry and even tomato. Oak aging brings out richer fruit flavors of plum and raspberry.
Sauvignon Blanc (So-vin-YAWN Blonk)
This is a crisp and refreshing white wine that can be semi-sweet to dry with fresh fruit flavors of apples, grapefruit and tropical fruits. It tends to be high in acidity producing that mouth-watering, crisp taste. In the 1960s, Robert Mondavi renamed his Sauvignon Blanc to Fumé Blanc for marketing purposes, added oak aging to give it a bit of vanilla and butterscotch, and based the name on the Pouilly Fumé region of France where Sauvignon Blanc is famous.
This wine is medium to full-bodied, depending on the climate and use of oak. It can be a bit sweet and silky or oily smooth in texture. When full-bodied it can be rich and creamy with fruit flavors of peach, mango and papaya. Cooler climates produce wines with fruit flavors of grapefruuit, apple, lemon, lime, and pear much like Sauvignon Blanc.
Known as 'Syrah' throughout most of world, but known as 'Shiraz' in Australia. This is a full-bodied wine with big fruit flavors of plum, blackberry, boysenberry while oak aging yields flavors of chocolate, tobacco and vanilla.
A medium to full-bodied wine that is typically very high in tannin yet mild. Fruit flavors include cherries, strawberries, blackberries, prune and raisin. Oak aging adds chocolate and tobacco.
Trebbiano/Ugni Blanc (Treb-bee-AH-no/OO-NEe Blonk)
Rarely found as a varietal wine. Most wine made from Trebbiano/Ugni Blanc grapes is used in blends, or is distilled into brandy.
This is a medium to full-bodied wine with low acidity and flavors of peaches, tangerine, mango, pears, apricots, pineapple. Oak aging adds rich creamy texture and hints on vanilla.
A robust full-bodied red wine that has big fruit flavors. While this grape first became popular for its semi-sweet rosé version, White Zinfandel, it is best known in producing the dry red varietal that has medium to medium-high tannin and acidity. Fruit flavors include blackberry and boysenberry. Lighter styles are best known for their red fruit flavors, including raspberry, and black pepper. The richer, higher alcohol, versions are often described as 'jammy' with flavors of blackberry, jam, and chocolate.