The Most Popular Wine Types
Whilst Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz (aka Syrah), Zinfandel (aka Primitivo), Riesling, Pinot Gris (aka Pinot Grigio) and Pinot Noir are some of the world’s most popular wine grapes, you may not know much about them, and for a beginner, the world of wine can seem a little overwhelming. Here we give a brief background to each of the wines listed so you can start exploring different styles from destinations around the world.
Pinot Noir is a dry, lighter-bodied red wine with higher acidity and lower tannin. It has the taste of tart red berries with an aroma of rose, and a hint of earthiness. It is one of the most challenging grapes for vintners since it requires a a specific soil, a specific climate and very specific care. In Burgundy, where it originated, the rarest bottles can sell for very high sums upon release, making it one of the most sought after wines in the world. Pinot Noir from warm climates have decadent flavours, whilst cool climates create refined vintages that are perfect for ageing. Pinot Noir is often described as the Iron Fist in the Velvet Glove.
Syrah / Shiraz
In Europe and California this wine is known as Syrah, but in Australia and South Africa as Shiraz. It is a medium to full-bodied red wine with a deep purple colour and has the taste of blueberry, plum, tobacco, meat, black pepper and violet. Originating in the Rhône Valley in France, Australia now grows almost a quarter of the world’s Shiraz/Syrah grapes. The wines have intense fruit flavors and a strong tannin level which often finishes with a spicy pepper note.
Cabernet Sauvignon is a full-bodied red wine with a taste of black cherry, black currant, baking spices and from oak barreled varieties, cedar. Originally from the Bordeaux region of France, Cabernet Sauvignon is a dry wine that is now the world’s most popular wine, often called King of the Red Grapes. Wines are full-bodied with higher levels of alcohol and tannin. Cabernet Sauvignon is a perfect match with desserts. Californian Cabernet Sauvignon is usually heavily oaked, being aged for up to 30 months whilst those from Chile have a light herbal taste, being aged for around 15 months.
Also known as Primitivo, Zinfandel is a medium to full-bodied red wine that has a wide variety of fruity tastes from nectarine to raspberry, plum and blackberry as well as sweet tobacco. Originally from Croatia, Zinfandel is a red grape that may be better known as the rosé wine White Zinfandel
Chardonnay, the Queen of White Grapes, is a dry full-bodied white wine that first came from Burgundy, from where you can still get the best from the Côte de Beaune region . When oak-aged, Chardonnay has heavier butterscotch, caramel and smoke flavours. Unoaked wines are lighter and zesty with apple and citrus flavors. On its own the Chardonnay grape is rather bland, but does well in fermentation and ageing in new oak barrels. The warmest regions of California and Australia provide the fruitiest Chardonnay, with lightly-oaked varities coming from Australia’s Margaret River and coastal Chile
Grown all over the world, Sauvignon Blanc is a light to medium-bodied dry white wine, originally from the Loire Valley of northwestern France. It is a highly citrus flavoured wine, with some hints of honeydew melon, passion fruit and kiwi with herbal grass, mint, green pepper flavours too that makes for a refreshing drink.
New Zealand and California also produce good Sauvignon Blancs. In New Zealand, this grape does exceptionally well in the Marlborough region, creating more intense flavours and in California is occasionally barrel-fermented.
Pinot Gris / Pinot Grigio
This is a dry, light-bodied white wine with delicate citrus flavour with the flavours of apple and pear and a floral aroma, making it light and crisp due to its high acidity. It is commonly grown in Italy, but also in France and Germany. The wine from Italy is known as Pinot Grigio and in France is named Pinot Gris. Pinot Gris is richer, with more complex fruit flavours and bolder citrus notes than the Italian Grigio. New World wines choose their name after the flavour they most closely resemble, the French Gris or the Italian Grigio
Reisling, very high in acid, can be either a dry or a sweet style. The standard, light bodied and slightly sweet variety tends to be high acidity, crisp and refreshing. The majority is produced in Germany, where it originated. It has the taste of citrus with peach and nectarine, with floral and sweet herbal elements as well.
Reisling is a versatile grape, yet has a difficult reputation as some find the dryness too acidic or the sweetness too cloying. The wines tend to be light bodied but are sometimes medium to full bodied.
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