Wine 101-Top 5 Wine Varieties in the World
Did you know that wine is always known by its grape variety? This is what sets apart the professionals wine enthusiasts to the amateurs. Curious to know some of the top wine varieties in the world? First, it’s important to understand as wine enthusiast that the term ‘variety’ refers to the vine or grape while varietal refers to the wine produced by a variety. What are some of the common used wine varietals you might ask? You might have them stocked in your wine cabinet right now and they include, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Merlot. It’s important to understand as wine enthusiast that the term ‘variety’ refers to the vine or grape while varietal refers to the wine produced by a variety.
The top 5 wine varieties in the world include:
This is the fabulosity of wines, the Cabernet Sauvignon is responsible for many of the world’s greatest wines and is, arguably, the grandest of all red wine varieties. Cabernet Sauvignon became internationally recognized through its prominence in Bordeaux wines where it is often blended with Merlot and Cabernet Franc. From France, the grape spread across Europe and to the New World where it found new homes in places like Washington state, California, Napa Valley, Oregon among many other regions.
Chardonnay is the most famous of all white grape varieties, albeit not the most widely planted variety in the world. Chardonnay is a green-skinned grape variety used in the production of white wine. The variety originated in the Burgundy wine region of eastern France, but is now grown wherever wine is produced, from England to New Zealand to America. It is also used to produce sparkling wines like Franciacorta for example. For new and developing wine regions, growing Chardonnay is considered a “rite of passage” and an easy entry into the international wine market.
Merlot is a dark blue-colored wine grape variety, that is used as both a blending grape and for varietal wines. The name Merlot is thought to be a diminutive of merle, the French name for the blackbird, probably a reference to the color of the grape. Its softness and “fleshiness”, combined with its earlier ripening, makes Merlot a popular grape for blending with the sterner, later-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon, which tends to be higher in tannin. Merlot is also one of the most versatile red wine varietals in many markets. This flexibility has helped to make it one of the world’s most planted grape varieties.
Pinot Noir is a red wine grape variety and the name may also refer to wines created predominantly from Pinot Noir grapes. The name is derived from the French words for pine and black. Referring to the pine alluding to the grape variety having tightly clustered, pine cone-shaped bunches of fruit, Pinot Noir grapes are grown around the world, mostly in the cooler climates, and the grape is chiefly associated with the Burgundy region of France.
Pinot Noir is a difficult variety to cultivate and transform into wine. The grape’s tendency to produce tightly packed clusters makes it susceptible to several viticultural hazards involving rot that require diligent canopy management. Pinot produces mostly lightly colored, medium bodied and low tannin wines that can often go through phases of uneven and unpredictable aging.
Riesling is a white grape variety which originated in the Rhine region of Germany. Riesling is an aromatic grape variety displaying flowery, almost perfumed, aromas as well as high acidity. It is used to make dry, semi-sweet, sweet, and sparkling white wines. Riesling wines are usually varietally pure and are seldom oaked.From 2004, Riesling was estimated to be the world’s 20th most grown variety but in terms of importance for quality wines, it is usually included in the top three white wine varieties together with Chardonnay and Sauvignon blanc. The character of Riesling wines is greatly influenced by the wine’s place of origin.
Arguably, a good wine enthusiast will walk into a store and confidently say, ‘do you have a Pinot Noir’ or ‘do you have a Riesling’ because they identify wine from its grape variety. After reading this you understand why saying, ‘red sweet wine’ or ‘white sweet wine’ might not the be correct way to ask for your wine but rather you should identify with the grape variety. Kudos to learning wine basics! Get comfortable and pour yourself a generous glass of wine as a reward well earned or simply buy yourself a bottle.