As she continues her crash course into all things wine, Christine Austin looks at different grape varieties

There are some parts of the world that like to describe wine by the place it comes from and there are those that use grape varieties. Now these two systems are gradually merging so that regional labels frequently give the names of grapes and varietal wines are tending to add regional designations.

Most of the flavour in a wine comes from the variety it is made from, but if you grow the same variety in two completely different places then it is hardly surprising if its taste reflects those growing conditions.

There are thousands of grape varieties grown in many parts of the world and out of these there are around 20 varieties that you will come across most often. Once you have mastered their names and essential flavours then comes the fun part of discovering where they grow and the nuances that different sites, vineyards and climates make to those flavours.



Very fashionable, tasting of light apricot and lemon notes, this grape comes mainly comes from Galicia in Northern Spain, but New Zealand, California and Uruguay also make good examples.

Try Wm. Morrisons Albariño 2017, Rías Baixas, Spain, £8



The grape of Chablis, top white Burgundies and one of the main grapes in Champagne. It makes delicious, versatile wines that can be light and crisp, or smooth and rounded and it adapts to oak ageing particularly well.

Try Morrisons’ Chablis £10


Chenin Blanc

Its natural home is in the Loire where it can produce remarkably acidic dry wines and the most luscious sweeties. Once the workhorse grape of South Africa, used for brandy, now old vines produce dry, concentrated, honey-toned, lime-zesty wines.

Try Zalze Bush Wine Chenin Blanc, South Africa, Waitrose £8.79


A gingery-spice style of wine, grown mainly in Alsace and perfect with a spiced stir-fry.

Try Morrison’s Alsace Gewurztraminer, 2016, £8


Once an obscure Italian grape and now re-discovered for its rounded of texture and versatile flavours.

Try Terre di Chieti, Waitrose £7.99



Pinot Grigio

Widely grown in Italy, Pinot Grigio is massively popular despite many versions being rather thin and lacking fIavour, but even this is improving in quality. Pinot Gris is the same variety, grown in Alsace where it musters a smoky, gingery spice character and can be delicious.

Try Pavia Pinot Grigio 2016, Italy, Marks and Spencer £10.


Now seeing a return to popularity among serious wine-drinkers, Riesling used to be confined to Germany where it makes wines that range from bone-dry to sweet. Places such as Clare Valley in Australia and Canterbury in New Zealand are making vibrant, fresh-tasting, floral-edged Rieslings, dry and food friendly.

Try Tingleup Riesling 2017 from Western Australia, Tesco £8.50.

Sauvignon Blanc

The darling of white wine drinkers, for its crisp fresh, green flavours that range from gooseberries to fresh-cut grass and nettles. When grown in warmer climates it develops notes of passionfruit and pineapple too. Marlborough in New Zealand has transformed the world’s appreciation of Sauvignon Blanc.

Try Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Latitude Wines, Leeds, £17.50

Sauvignon Blanc



Often part of a blend with Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay, Semillon adds depth and texture to a wine. This is the grape that is affected by ‘noble rot’ to make the best sweet wines in the world. Single varietal Semillons can be astounding.

Try Mount Pleasant Lovedale Semillon, Hunter Valley, Australia, Waitrose £24.99


Dragged back from the brink of extinction in the 1970’s and now grown around the world. Heady, with peach and orange peel notes, it has a rounded mouth-filling texture.

Try Yalumba Y series Viognier, Australia, Majestic £10.99



Cabernet Sauvignon

The world’s most renowned red grape variety, full of dark, blackcurrant and plum flavours, often overlaid with cedar, mint and even olives depending on where it is grown and how it has been fermented. Bordeaux is its natural home but it puts down roots and has set up home around the world.

Try Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile, Waitrose £8.39

Cabernet Sauvignon


Cabernet Franc

Outshone in fame and flavour by its close relative Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc is a vital component in many blends, adding aroma and herbaceous notes. It is the key grape variety of Chinon and Saumur Champigny, and now it is being allowed to shine on its own in juicy reds from Italy, Chile and New Zealand.

Try Santa Rita Cabernet Franc, 2016, Chile, Majestic £8.99


AKA Garnacha, its natural home is northern Spain, where it blends with Tempranillo adding soft strawberry and raspberry fruit, with savoury notes. A vital grape in southern French reds.

Try Old Vines Garnacha, Spain, Tesco £5




Argentina’s success story producing simple, chunky, mulberry and blackberry-filled wines or concentrated, age-worthy complex beauties.

Try Viñalta Malbec 2016, Argentina, Marks and Spencer £8.50




With many of the flavour characteristics of Cabernet Sauvignon, but softer, more supple tannins. Often blended with Cab to round out the style.

Try Fragoso Merlot 2016, Argentina, Marks and Spencer £6


Mainly confined to Piedmont in northwest Italy, where it produces fabulous complex wines filled with violets, raspberry, leather and oaky notes.

Try Wm. Morrisons Barolo 2012, Italy, £15

Pinot Noir

Notoriously fickle in Burgundy where it can produce the most ethereal and sublime wines, it has settled in well to New Zealand and cooler parts of Chile and South Africa. Ranging from cherry and strawberry fruit to the most complex mix of violets, earthy tones and savoury mushrooms this is the grape that can take a lifetime to explore.

Try Escarpment The Edge Pinot Noir, Waitrose £14.99

New Zealand Pinot Noir


The mainstay of Chianti where its sour-cherry fruit can develop into deep blackcurrant flavours depending on yield. Grown across Italy and now becoming popular in Argentina and California.

Try Villa Cafaggio Chianti Classico 2014, Waitrose, £13.49


It is called Syrah in France and those places where the winemaker captures its wild berry and herbal fruit. Shiraz is more Australian with bigger flavours and dark plum and chocolate notes.

Try Delas Crozes Hermitage, Rhône, France, Co-op £13.99


The main grape of Rioja and Ribera del Duero in Spain and now plantings are extending around the world to Argentina, Portugal and California. It has deep strawberry fruit with spice, leather and tobacco, and ages well.

Try Torres Celeste Crianza Ribera del Duero 2014, Waitrose £11.99

About The Author

Christine is a wine writer, broadcaster and a wine judge for several international wine competitions. She has a technical background and spent five years as a buyer for a major supermarket before moving to wine writing.She writes for The Yorkshire Post Magazine and organises the York Festival of Food and Drink. She has won both the Lanson and the Roederer prizes for wine writing.

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