There are as many as 5000 varieties of wine grapes in the world. Below are some of the most popular varietals and their specific regions of origin:
Cabernet Franc: A classic French variety, which is most commonly used in blends with Cabernet Sauvignon. It is well established in Italy, North and South America, Australia and New Zealand.
Cabernet Sauvignon: One of the most famous red grape varieties in the world. Bordeaux is generally considered to be the home of Cabernet Sauvignon, and it is there, particularly along the Medoc, that the variety produces its most famous and expensive wines.
Carmenère: A red wine that was widely grown in Medoc in the early 1700s. It is currently grown in Chile.
Chardonnay: Chardonnay produces the white wines of Burgundy as well as being widely planted in the rest of the world. It is used in blends and varietal wines.
Chenin Blanc: This varietal is probably the world’s most versatile grape variety and is used in ‘old world’ and ‘new world’ wine production. California and South Africa each now have more Chenin planted than in France.
Gamay: A French red grape variety for the wines of Beaujolais. Outside of France it is more highly regarded by the Swiss who use it in blends with Pinot Noir. It is also known as Gamay Noir.
Gewürztraminer: A pink-skinned grape variety responsible for full-bodied white wines.
Grenache: The world’s second most planted grape, covering most of Spain and southern Greece. It is also known as Negra de Madrid (Madrid).
Grüner Veltliner: A varietal that is particularly important to the area around Vienna and Lower Austria. The vine is productive and relatively hardy, but ripens too late for most of Northern Europe. The wine produced from it is typically dry, peppery and spicy, and with time can begin to taste almost Burgundian.
Malbec: is a black grape variety, once popular in Bordeaux, but now most closely associated with the wines of Argentina and Cahors.
Merlot: A red grape variety with strong historic ties to Bordeaux and the southwest of France. It is the predominant variety in most wines from Saint-Emilion and Pomerol, an area that is often seen as the home of Merlot.
Mourvedre: The second most important black grape variety after Garnacha, it was once the most important vine in Provence. Wine produced from this grape tends to be high in alcohol content and tannins.
Müller-Thurgau: Developed in the early 1880s and gives a wine of medium acidity that is flowery with a hint of muscat.
Nebbiolo: A black grape variety used in the finest wines of Italy. It is native to the Piedmont region and is used in wines such as Barolo and Barbaresco.
Petit Verdot: A Bordeaux black grape variety that is not only grown in Bordeaux but also in California (where it is used as part of Meritage blends). It is also known as Verdot (Chile).
Pinot Blanc: A popular French white vine variety that is a mutation of the Pinot Gris grape. It is particularly dominant in Alsace and is available throughout the Old and New Worlds.
Pinot Grigio: The Italian synonym for the French vine variety Pinot Gris.
Pinot Gris: A widely used grape variety that can produce highly perfumed white wines. It is a mutation of the Pinot Noir grape.
Pinot Noir: The grape variety that is used to produce the great red wines of Burgundy. In addition to France, it is extensively grown throughout the world.
Primitivo: A red grape variety grown principally in Apulia. It may have remained relatively obscure had its similarities to Californian Zinfandel not been noticed; indeed, the two varieties have identical DNA.
Prosecco: A variety grown in the Veneto region of Italy, where is it used in both sparkling and still wines.
Riesling: A key noble variety of Germany, and increasingly planted in new world regions, Riesling is widely viewed as one of the great wine grapes of the world. The best Riesling wines are characterized by clean, zingy, floral aromas and a trademark fresh acidity. As these wines age, they can develop a distinctive aroma reminiscent of petrol, or diesel fuel.
Sangiovese: Italy’s most planted red grape variety, particularly common in central Italy. The vine itself, probably indigenous to Tuscany, is of ancient origin, as the literal translation of its name (“Blood of Jove”) suggests. Throughout Tuscany, Sangiovese is now often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, whether for Chianti or Vino da Tavola. The blend is highly successful, producing intense fruit and color.
Sauvignon Blanc: A variety which produces dry white wines from Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume in France, and Sauvignon Blanc and Fume Blanc from the rest of the world.
Shiraz: Also known as Syrah, this major variety is used in the Rhone Valley in France, and around the world. It is vinified alone or blended with many varieties including Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache.
Syrah: The noble red from Northern Cote du Rhone.
Tempranillo: The Spanish equivalent to Cabernet Sauvignon. It is blended with Garnacha to make Rioja and is one of the few Spanish grape varieties to have been adopted in Portugal.
Torrontes: A white grape variety that is widely used in the Spanish regions of the world, most especially in Argentina and Chile.
Viognier: A white grape variety that is famous because of the wines of the Condrieu. It is now planted in North and South America.
Zinfandel: A black grape variety of European origin that is widely cultivated in California. It is possibly the same vine as Primitivo.