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Grape varieties

Grapes are like potatoes, both have lots of varieties that all taste a little different.

With this page I intend to give you a quick rundown of the most common grape varieties (that you’ll see in Australia) and what you can expect to taste.

So here goes…

Sauvignon Blanc

This is a white grape that is rather temperamental. Sauv Banc prefers cool climates (and tastes better when grown in cool climates) but can handle a moderate heat wave if Mother Nature gets cranky.

We’re talking green fruit flavours with a little grassiness. Sauv Blanc is almost always dry and is usually high in acid, meaning that your mouth will water, like you’ve just sucked on a lemon, when you take a swig.

Drink Sauvignon Blanc from…

France and in particular from:

  1. Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé in the Loire Valley
  2. Graves and Pessac-Léognan in Bordeaux for some ripper Sauv Blanc Sémillon blends

Hot tip – if you’re looking to buy a bottle of Sauv Blanc from France the label won’t say Sauvignon Blanc, but rather the town it has come from. See my post on Appellation d’Original Contrôlée for more information on this.

New Zealand and in particular from:

  1. Marlborough

Riesling

This is a white grape which is fruity and floral and likes cool to moderate climates. From a cold climate, your Riesling will taste of green apples and grapes (possibly with a little lemon and lime).

From a moderate climate, you’ll get a glass of citrus and stone fruits (think peach and lime). Riesling is high in acid, meaning when you take a sip your mouth will water like you’ve just sucked on a lemon.

Most Rieslings are dry but in Germany the grape is often used to make sweet wines too. If it’s a German Riesling and the bottle says Kabinett it will generally have medium sweetness (great paired with chilli foods). Spätlese is the next level up in terms of sweetness, followed by Auslese. If you go with a Beerenauslese or Trockenbeerenauslese we’re talking super sweet and thick dessert wines.

Drink Riesling from…

France and in particular from:

  1. Alsace which will general produce a dry Riesling

Australia and in particular from:

  1. Eden Valley in the Barossa region of South Australia which will general produce a dry Riesling
  2. Clare Valley in the Mount Lofty Ranges region of South Australia which will general produce a dry Riesling

Germany and in particular from:

  1. Mosel which will generally produce a sweeter Riesling
  2. Rheingau which will generally produce a sweeter Riesling
  3. Pfalz which will generally produce a sweeter Riesling

Chardonnay

This is a white grape variety that is super resilient so can produce great wines anywhere really but the flavours will change drastically depending on what climate (cold or hot) the grape is grown in.

In the cold, Chardonnay will take on green fruits and citrus flavours (think apple, pear, lemon, lime). In a moderate climates, you’ll get stone fruits like peach and melon and in hot climates we’re talking tropical fruits like banana, pineapple, mango, fig. YUM!

There are a few winemaking techniques that add to the flavour of Chardonnay. You know how sometimes a Chardonnay has a buttery and creamy texture and flavour? Well this is called malolactic fermentation where lactic bacteria converts harsh acids into soft acids. To achieve similar creaminess sometimes dead yeast cells (aka lees) that are left behind after fermentation are stirred through the wine. And if your Chardy tastes a little toasty it’s probably been aged in an oak barrel.

Drink Chardonnay from…

France and in particular from:

  1. the Chablis region in Burgundy which produces unoaked, refreshing Chardonnays
  2. the Côte de Beaune region in Burgundy (and in particular from the villages of Meursault, Pommard and Puligny-Montrachet) which produces rich Chardonnays
  3. the Mâconnais region in Burgundy (and in particular from the village of Pouilly-Fuissé) which produces affordable Chardonnay

Hot tip – if you’re looking to buy a bottle of Chardonnay from France the label won’t say Chardonnay, but rather the town (or region) it has come from. See my post on Appellation d’Original Contrôlée for more information on this.

Australia and in particular from:

  1. Yarra Valley in Victoria
  2. Adelaide Hills in Adelaide
  3. Margaret River in Western Australia

New Zealand and in particular from:

  1. Hawke’s Bay
  2. Gisborne
  3. Marlborough

Pinot Noir

This black grape is the princess of the grape varieties. It’s super fussy about where it’s grown and only likes cool to moderate climates (although if it’s too cool it’ll chuck a wobbly too).

In the right climate Pinot will display red fruit flavours (think strawberries, raspberries, cherries) with a little vegetable too (think mushrooms, wet leaves and meat). That’s getting a little wine wankery now isn’t it? But it’s true! Wet leaves can add delish flavours you know! If it’s too hot, those delicate fruit flavours will be lost and it’ll get jammy.

Pinot Noir contains low to medium tannins (so you won’t notice that chalky drying feeling you get after a sip of Shiraz).

Drink Pinot Noir from…

France and in particular from:

  1. the Côte de Nuits region in Burgundy (and in particular from the villages of Gevrey-Chambertin and Nuits-Saint-Georges) which produces the richest Pinots
  2. the Côte de Beaune region in Burgundy (and in particular from the village of Pommard)
  3. the Côte Chalonnaise region in Burgundy which produces more adorable Pinots

Hot tip – if you’re looking to buy a bottle of Pinot Noir from France the label won’t say Pinot, but rather the town (or region) it has come from. See my post on Appellation d’Original Contrôlée for more information on this.

Germany and in particular from:

  1. Pfalz
  2. Baden

Australia and in particular from:

  1. Yarra Valley
  2. Mornington Peninsula

New Zealand and in particular from:

  1. Martinborough
  2. Central Otago
  3. Marlborough

USA and in particular from:

  1. Sonoma County in California
  2. Santa Barbara in California
  3. Oregon

Cabernet Sauvignon

This is a black grape that likes a moderate to hot climate and won’t ripen in cool climates. It’s going to have black fruit flavours so I’m talking blackcurrent and black cherry with a little herb on the side (think pepper, mint and cedar).

Oak is almost always used to age Cab Sauv which adds smoke, vanilla and coffee flavours. And you’ll get high tannin with this wine (that chalky, mouth drying feeling) and high acid (your mouth will water like you’ve just sucked on a lemon).

Drink Cabernet Sauvignon from:

France and in particular from:

  1. Médoc and Haut-Médoc (or the smaller villages of Moulis, Listrac, Margaux, Saint-Estèphe, Saint Julien and Pauillac) in the Bordeaux region

Hot tip – if you’re looking to buy a bottle of Cab Sauv from France the label won’t say Cab Sauv, but rather the town (or region) it has come from. See my post on Appellation d’Original Contrôlée for more information on this.

Australia and in particular:

  1. Coonawarra in South Australia
  2. Margaret River in Western Ausutralia

New Zealand and in particular from:

  1. Hawke’s Bay

USA and in particular from:

  1. Napa Valley in California

Chile and in particular from:

  1. Maipo
  2. Colchagua
  3. Cachapoal

Argentina and in particular from:

  1. Mendoza

Merlot

This is a black grape variety that likes moderate to hot climates. You’ll generally taste black fruits (think blackcurrant, black plum and black cherry). Most Merlots are aged in oak so develop vanilla and coffee flavours too.

Merlot is less intense than Cab Sauv and has lighter tannins and acidity but might be higher in alcohol. It’ll generally have medium levels of tannin (so you won’t get that chalky mouth drying feeling) and medium to low acid (so not too much drool either).

Drink Merlot from…

France and in particular from:

  1. Saint-Émilion and Pomerol in the Bordeaux region
  2. Lalande-de-Pomerol, Fronsac, Canon Fronsac, Côtes de Castillon, Lussac-Saint-Émilion, Puisseguin Saint-Émilion or St-Georges-Saint-Émilion in the Bordeaux region for a more affordable drop

Hot tip – if you’re looking to buy a bottle of Merlot from France the label won’t say Merlot, but rather the town (or region) it has come from. See my post on Appellation d’Original Contrôlée for more information on this.

Australia and in particular from:

  1. Margaret River in Western Australia

New Zealand and in particular from:

  1. Hawke’s Bay

USA and in particular from:

  1. Napa Valley in California

Chile and in particular from:

  1. Maipo
  2. Colchagua
  3. Cachapoal

Shiraz

This is a black grape which likes a moderate to hot climate. In Australia, we call it Shiraz but the French call it Syrah.

If you’re drinking a Shiraz you’ll get blackberry and dark chocolate flavours. If it’s from a moderate climate add a little mint, eucalyptus and pepper and if it’s from a hot climate add liquorice and cloves. Most bottles of Shiraz are aged in barrels made of oak which give a toasty, smokey, vanilla and/or coconut flavour.

Like Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz has medium to high tannins (which creates that dry chalky feeling you get in your mouth after a gulp) and medium acid (the higher the acid the more saliva your mouth produces).

Drink Shiraz from…

France and in particular from:

  1. Côte-Rôtie, Hermitage and Crozes-Hermitage in the Rhône Valley region

Hot tip – if you’re looking to buy a bottle of Shiraz from France the label won’t say Shiraz, but rather the town (or region) it has come from. See my post on Appellation d’Original Contrôlée for more information on this.

Australia and in particular from:

  1. Hunter Valley in New South Wales
  2. McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley and Coonawarra in South Australia
  3. Grampians and Heathcote in Victoria for a moderate climate Shiraz
  4. Margaret River in Western Australia for a moderate climate Shiraz

Grenache

This is a black grape which likes hot, hot, hot climates (much like myself). The Spanish call it Garnacha if you’re wondering.

Grenache will taste of red fruits (think strawberries and raspberries) with a little pepper, liquorice and cloves. Grenache typically has low tannins (so none of that chalky drying feeling) and low acid (so no drool running down your face either). I’m loving Grenache at the moment! So easy to drink!

Drink Grenache from…

France and in particular from:

  1. Côtes du Rhône and Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the Rhône Valley region

Hot tip – if you’re looking to buy a bottle of Grenache from France the label won’t say Grenache, but rather the town (or region) it has come from. See my post on Appellation d’Original Contrôlée for more information on this.

Spain and in particular from:

  1. Priorat
  2. Rioja
  3. Navarra
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