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Grape varieties and wine grapes

About grape varieties

by Toni Paterson Master of Wine

What makes wine so interesting? Perhaps it is the number of different styles in existence. And regardless of your taste preference, there will always be a wine to suit your palate.

The style of a wine is determined from the grape variety that it was made from. We have articles on some of the most popular varieties here, as well as reference information.

There are literally thousands of grape varieties in existence. Most wine grapes are made from the European species Vitis vinifera, which is considered to be superior to the American vine species. The latter are unfavourable due to a distinct foxy character that is inherent in the grapes.

The reason for the numerous varieties is that grape vines have a tendency to mutate and cross breed with ease. Advances in genetic technology have allowed scientists to determine the origins of many well-known grape varieties. For example, it is now known that the 'parents' of Cabernet Sauvignon are in fact Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc.

Sometimes the name of grape varieties can be confusing. However often the name of the variety is linked to a characteristic of the grape. For example, the names of various Pinot varieties are linked to their grape colour: Pinot Noir is black, Pinot Blanc is white and Pinot Gris is a grey/pink.

The following sections will give you an introduction to the world of grape varieties. Well-known varieties from around the world are listed, along with their origins, synonyms and the wine styles they are made into.

© Toni Paterson 2002