Wine Knowledge | Grape Varieties


Major Varieties of Red Grapes

Knowledge of Wine : Major Varieties of Red Grapes Cabernet Sauvignon
As the king of noble red wine grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon is widely planted throughout the world, characterized by small grains, thick skins, and late-maturing. The wine brewed with this variety appears deep-colored, best tastes of ABSOLUT KURANT, honeydew melon and licorice, and features thick and solid structure and strong flavor.

Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir is the queen of precious red wine grapes. The wine brewed with this variety tastes gentle and refined, characterized by refinement and fragrance at youth, gentleness and elegancy at maturity, and full and mixed fruit flavor with marked strawberry and cherry fragrance. Pinot Noir can be used to brew the world's most exciting red wine, but it's hard to cultivate and its fruits are fragile, thin-skinned and easy to rot, although they become mature early.

Shiraz is the prince of grapes commonly used for classical red wine. The wine brewed with this variety is medium-concentration between Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir and worth collecting. When Shiraz is fully ripe, it's as smooth and strong as top-grade Pinot Noir. Shiraz is late-maturing and deep-colored and its best growth environment is warm soil such as granite soil. However, if it's planted too densely, its peculiar fruit fragrance and black pepper flavor will become lighter.

Merlot is the most popular variety of red grapes. Its popularity is attributed to its early maturing, delicacy and prolificacy as well as its extensive use for brewing delicious and smooth wine. It may be widely mixed with other varieties of grapes to brew mature and balanced red wine. This variety grows well in a cool environment.

Gamay originated from Bourgogne, but now it's mainly yielded in Beaujolais. The wine brewed with this variety is purplish, contains little tannin, and tastes light, fresh and fragrant. This wine is simple to drink and is generally unsuitable for long-term storage, so it's drunk at its youth. Nevertheless, if Gamay grapes grow in igneous shale or soil with little lime, they can be used to brew durable red wine. This is true of the grapes grown in excellent growing districts in Beaujolais such as Moulin-a-Vent and St.Amour. Loire Valley is the largest growing district of Gamay second only to Beaujolais. Gamay Beaujolais is a kind of Pinot Noir instead of genuine Gamay.

Tempranillo originated from the north of Spain, literally meaning "early-maturing". Unlike other Spanish varieties, its best growing conditions are lime clay on infertile slopes and cool and mild climate. Tempranillo is the most important variety in Okha and is mainly planted in Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa. It's also widely planted in the north of Spain, but it's seldom grown in other countries. Its quality is not bad, but its common shortcoming is insufficient acidity, so sometimes it's mixed with other varieties of grapes to brew wine.

Zinfandel was introduced from Italy into California in the 19th century and is currently a variety with the largest growing area there, mainly used to make general dinner wine, semi-sweet liquor and even sparkling wine. However, if it is grown on cool gravel slopes with small yield and it takes long to soak its skins, it can also be used to make high-quality durable red wine. The wine brewed with this variety has strong fruit fragrance and the old wine usually tastes of perfume. Zinfandel's best growing districts include Dry Creek Valley, Alexandra Valley, Geyserville, Amador, Sierra Foothill, and Paso Robles.

Nebbiolo may be among the best varieties of Italian grapes. The wine brewed with this variety has mixed fragrance (tea fragrance, rose smell, pungency, and pitch smell), stable tannin structure, and solid potential of old wine. Nebbiolo needs the best growing environment; otherwise it will not ripen fully. The name "Nebbiolo" comes from "nebbia", meaning "fog" in Italian. This reflects the characteristics of year-end picking (late-maturing type). Tests have demonstrated that this variety cannot grow well for brewage of good red wine in other countries but Italy.


Major Varieties of White Grapes

Knowledge of Wine : Major Varieties of White Grapes Chardonnay
Chardonnay is among the most important varieties of white grapes for brewage. Though its origin is disputed, it's undeniable that it made elegant appearance in France and has gone global. Its adaptation to a wide variety of soil and climate makes it widely planted across the world. The white wine brewed with this variety is often dry, medium or heavy wine, but its type, style and price are diversified due to difference in the place of origin and the manner of brewage. Chardonnay is vigorous. If its average yield is high, the wine made of it will be ordinary. Only high-quality grapes with controlled yield can be used to brew quality wine.

Sauvignon Blanc
Sauvignon Blanc is mainly planted in:
1)Bordeaux and Loire in France: The wine from Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé in Loire is 100% made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes while the wine from Bordeaux is often mixed with Sémillon grapes for brewage. Sauvignon Blanc is also one of the major raw materials of Bordeaux's famous sweet wine Sauternes.
2)Italy, especially Alto Adige in the north.
3)Quite a few new world regions, especially New Zealand and South Africa.
The dry white wine made from this variety is generally dominated by the fragrance of medicinal herbs or green grass and passionfruit with active acidity and fresh tastiness. The wine from Loire is often related to flint flavor. Sauvignon Blanc grapes yielded in temperate and tropical zones usually have the fragrance of tropical fruits such as pineapples. A small percentage of wine is brewed by adding oaks to Sauvignon Blanc grapes and tastes strong, mellow and full with fruit fragrance mixed with smoky flavor.

Sémillon originated from France and is planted across the world, particularly in the best growing districts France and Australia. In Bordeaux, France, this variety is one of the major raw materials of Bordeaux's famous sweet wine Sauternes and is often mixed with Sauvignon Blanc grapes to brew dry white wine. In Hunter Valley, Australia, this variety manifests itself well so that quality wine may change greatly after long storage, evolving from simple dry white wine to complexly structured excellent wine with the multiple fragrance of nuts, cream, honey and toast as well as mellow and full mouthfeel and long aftertaste.

Chenin Blanc
Chenin Blanc originated from Loire, France, generally called Pineau or Pineau de la Loire there. The wine made from this variety includes dry and sweet wine with different style. This variety can also be used to brew sparkling wine or mixed with grapes for brewage. It is planted in South Africa, Australia, U.S., etc. It's also called Steen in South Africa as a major white grape variety there.

Muscat is a collective name of grapes similar to nearly 200 varieties. The common variety is Muscatà petits grains with the colors of white, red and even black. Muscat blanc à petits grains is the most famous variety treated as an ancient noble one, is planted throughout the world, in particular in France, and is commonly used to brew fortified sweet wine or white and sparkling wine, e.g. Italy's famous sparkling wine Asti.

Pinot Blanc
Pinot Blanc stemmed from Alsace in France and Germany and is also planted in other countries to a small extent. It is also called Pinot Bianco (in Italy) Weissburgunder (in Germany). The wine made from this variety is light without distinctive individuality. Some good-quality wine stored in oak barrels has a style similar to Chardonnay wine, but the former is priced lower than the latter, so the wine brewed with Pinot Blanc is nicknamed "the poor's Chardonnay wine".

Pinot Gris
Pinot Gris is regarded as a varied variety of Pinot Noir. This variety appears powder blue, light pink, or offwhite, so the finished wine made from it sometimes looks light pink or orange at the edge of the wineglass. The quality wine has the fragrance of flowers and honey often mixed with the fragrance of nuts or fruits and features a moderate or plump wine body, low acidity and peculiar style. This variety is also called Tokay in Alsace, France. It is also widely planted in Germany and North Italy, respectively called Rulander and Pinot Grigio. A small number are planted in some Eastern European countries, Australia and New Zealand. Its plantation in the USA has increased rapidly in recent years because it's liked by more and more Americans and its market demand rises.

Riesling is a famous white grape variety. Owing to its cold resistance, it is widely planted as a major wine material in cold German areas and French Alsace and is often seen in other growing districts of the world. The wine made from it is largely diversified from dry to sweet wine. Riesling is also a major variety for brewing ice wine. This variety is also called Weisser Riesling, Rhine, Rhein Riesling, and White Riesling. It is often called Johannisberg Riesling in California, US, and Riesling Renano in Italy. High-quality Riesling wine has the potential of long storage, and old wine has the fragrance of flowers mixed with the fragrance of honey, nuts and curing and often smells slightly of kerosene to show its distinctiveness.