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Understanding the 10 most popular wine grape varieties

Wine grapes are one of the world’s oldest cultivated fruits. There are now over 10,000 different varieties grown worldwide, across many different terrains and in an array of different climates.

Different wine grape varieties are used to make different types of wines and they come in many colours, shapes, sizes, flavours, and aromas. The most common wine grapes include Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Garnacha – some of which you will have most likely heard of.

Most wine grapes are harvested between the end of August and as late as mid-October, but this varies depending on grape type and the climate in which they are grown.

Whilst we, sadly, won’t be able to cover 10,000 varieties of grapes in this article, we will be exploring the 10 most popular types. This will give you an idea about the most common types of wine you’re likely to come across in everyday life.

How Many Different Types Of Wine Grapes Are There?

Although there are about 10,000 different wine grape varieties, only a few dozen are widely used for commercial production. Most winemakers use blends of several grape varieties to create a unique flavour profile.

Understanding the 10 most popular wine grape varieties

1. Cabernet Sauvignon

It was Bordeaux wines that first made this French variety famous. However, Cabernet Sauvignon can now be found worldwide, including in regions like China and Lebanon. This is a rich, full-bodied red wine grape, with an intense flavour and aroma.

2. Merlot

Despite being overshadowed by Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux’s “other” variety produces outstanding, aged wines. There is nothing more boisterous or refined than the flavours of cherry fruits in Merlot.

3. Airén

The Airén grape variety is mainly found in the Castilla-La Mancha region of Spain, where vines are planted far apart to cope with the arid climate.

4. Chardonnay

Originally from Burgundy, France, this white wine is aged in oak barrels (barriques). The oak-ageing process makes Chardonnay one of the boldest white wines in the world.

5. Tempranillo

Tempranillo is the most cultivated and most coveted red grape variety in Spain. In addition to rosé and red varieties, it is perhaps best known for its most famous regions of Rioja and Ribera del Duero.

6. Syrah

Originally from the Northern Rhone region of France, it has since become one of the most famous wines in Australia.

7. Sauvignon Blanc

The French word ‘Sauvignon’ means ‘wild’ or ‘untamed,’ which describes the white grapevines found around the Loire Valley and Bordeaux. As Cabernet Sauvignon’s parent grape, Sauvignon Blanc is becoming more widely recognised as a brilliant grape to use in wine making.

8. Trebbiano Toscano

It’s another grape on the top Italian wine list, primarily used to make Balsamic vinegar or French brandy. The grape is called ‘Ugni Blanc’ in Cognac.

9. Pinot Noir

This red wine grape is quickly becoming popular worldwide. It’s known for its red fruit flavours and floral aromas. France, Burgundy, Oregon, New Zealand, and others are among its preferred climates.

10. Garnacha

Red wine from Garnacha has high-toned aromas of red and blackberries. While the grape lacks tannin, it makes up for it with zingy acidity and elevated alcohol content. The grape blends exceptionally well with Syrah and Monastrell.

When it comes to understanding wine grapes, you absolutely do not need to know every variety there is. A good understanding of these ten popular types of grapes will hold you in good stead, to be able to join in with conversation, wherever you are in the world.