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101 Wine Varietals:
Want to impress your friends with your knowledge of obscure wine? Look no further than our grand, although by no means comprehensive, list of wine varietals.
By James Wright
101 Wine Grape Varietals
1. Airén—By acreage the most widely planted white varietal in Spain, and the world as well.
2. Albalonga—German crossing known for producing rich if undistinguished dessert wines.
3. Albariño—The great white grape of Galicia in northeastern Spain, which shows many characteristics of the riesling, but with a bit of honeysuckle in the nose that’s more reminiscent of viognier.
4. Alvarinho—The Portuguese name for the immediately above from which vinho verde is created.
5. Alicante Bouschet—Nearly unique among red wine grapes, in that its juice is not white—solid pinkish, rather. Good CA blender.
6. Aligoté—The second-tier grape of white burgundy, frequently dosed with crème de cassis to make kir.
7. Barbera—Aggressive high-acid Piemontese red wine varietal, more suited to red sauce or red meat than to simple sipping.
8. Blaufrankisch—Among the more interesting of the Austrian red varietals, solid body, good straightforward flavors, picks up earth tones well.
9. Brachetto—A red Muscat variety producing slightly fizzy low-alcohol dessert reds in Piemonte
10. Cabernet Franc—Very useful Bordeaux blender, softens the cabernet sauvignon in Médoc blends. Stands alone as a soft, luxuriant, chocolatey red in CA, food-friendly middleweight in France’s Anjou and Tourane.
11. Cabernet Sauvignon—The great red grape of the Médoc, makes pretty decent wine in California and Australia, as well.
12. Carignane/Cariñena—Southern France & California for the first spelling, and Spain for the second, ripens rather well, full body.
13. Carminere—A substantial chunk of Chilean merlot has recently been shown to be this vanished sixth Bordeaux varietal.
14. Catawba—Good ‘ol old fashioned Yankee grape. Nothing special.
15. Chambourcin—Hybrid varietal planted on the east coast USA; some pleasant aromatics, blends decently with pinot noir.
16. Chardonnay—Charter member of the champagne trio, where it absolutely shines as a stand-alone and a blender. Great white burgundies, not-so-great-but-still-yummy white burgundies, honking big California and Australian whites…
17. Chasselas/Gutedel—Light white with considerable terroir interest in Alsace and Switzerland under the former name, appears in Rheinhessen as the latter.
18. Chenin Blanc—Number one great white of the France’s Loire valley, long-living whites both dry and moelleux from Coteau de Layon and Vouvray, (also good value sparklers) and august dry white from Savennieres.
19. Cinsault—Rhône valley blending red. Member of the Chateauneuf-du-Pape crew.
20. Corvina—A good chunk of what goes into Valpolicella, Amarone, and Bardolino.
21. Counoise—See cinsault.
22. Dolcetto—Piemonte varietal producing luxuriously textured softish zaftig reds.
23. Dornfelder—Rheinpfalz reds of some character, earthy and showing a bit of spice.
24. Duriff—French minor-leaguer once thought to be same as CA’s Petite Syrah.
25. Dunkelfelder—German red, not invariably awful, but rarely of interest.
26. Ehrenfelser—Rheingau crossing, some interesting spicy white wines.
27. Folle blanche—French sort best used for distilling into firewater.
28. French colombard—Southern French, also used for brandy, widely planted for California jug-whites.
29. Gamay—(Un)fortunately banned in Burgundy (ca. 1486) by Duke Zorro the Vivisector, this cat beat it south to Beaujolais where he flourishes in the pretty weather. Can be made into real wine (Morgon, Moulin-a-Vent) as well as the dreaded Nouveau.
30. Gewurztraminer—German name, Italian origins (Termin); produces spicy (würzig) aromatic whites in France’s Alsace region. Big wines—lots of flavor if occasionally simple.
31. Graciano—Spanish red varietal (small black grapes in Rioja and Navarra) producing high acid juice, blends nicely with tempranillo.
32. Grenache/Garnacha—Prolific easy-ripening red popular in southern Rhône and Spain.
33. Grenache Blanc—Côtes-du-Rhône white varietal. Easy ripeness and alcohol makes it popular among growers.
34. Grüner Veltliner—The Austrian national treasure—either light dry wines for guzzling in café, or profound fullbodied whites of a Burgundian cast. Characteristic green-pepper snap, nice citric aromas.
35. Huxelrebe—German crossing which ripens rather easily, and produces high-Prädikat wines of no particular distinction
36. Ives noir—We needed an item beginning with “I” and discovered this rare bird hiding up in the Finger Lakes.
37. Jacquère—White grape making light crisp whites in Savoie.
38. Kerner—Slightly unique crossing of riesling with trollinger (that’s a white with a red…), spicy soft wines from the Pfalz.
39. Klevner— Occasionally called pinot blanc in Alsace, as is auxerrois—the two are sometimes rather casually blended.
40. Lemberger—Red German varietal, (Austria’s Blaufrankisch) some tasty wines, some merely quirky. Not so distinctively aromatic as the homophonous formaggio…
41. Malbec— Useful Bordeaux blender, stands alone in Cahors where it yields big reds of character, and in Argentina, where it is responsible for a number of interesting medium-priced wines.
42. Malmsey—Madiera’s name for the malvasia, producing rich sweet fortified wines. See “Duke of Clarence…”
43. Malvasia—A collection of white varietals of distant Greek origin, often blended in Italy and Spain to yield wines of interest.
44. Marechal Foch—French/American hybrid red. Planted in the eastern US, with no spectacular results.
45. Marsanne—White Rhône favorite, also grown in state of Victoria.
46. Melon de Bourgogne—The grape of Muscadet. Also much of what’s been called pinot blanc in Califonia.
47. Merlot—Source of the rare and precious Pomerol (and St. Emilion) in Bordeaux, along with a lot of nondescript soft reds from California and sometimes from Australia. Occasionally interesting as an Italian, from Tuscany, Friuli and elsewhere.
48. Molinara—Important member of the Valpolicella syndicate.
49. Montepulciano—The grape, not the village. Planted in the Abruzzo and the Marche regions of eastern Italia. Soft interesting reds. On the rise.
50. Mourvedre/mataro—Spanish, Côtes du Rhône and Provençal reds, frequently of great distinction, particularly when vines are old and yields are kept in check. Does nicely in California.
51. Müller-thurgau—German crossing of Riesling and Sylvaner, rarely distinguished.
52. Muscadelle—Sometimes seen in Sauternes blends, and in Gaillac.
53. Muscat—Grand Cru Alsace, bright spritzy Portuguese, grand and viscous Australian fortified desserts…
54. Muskateller—Dry, spicy, tropical-fruit-toned whites from Austria and Germany.
55. Nebbiolo—From Piemonte, the great red grape of Barolo and Barbaresco. Country-cousins are Gattinara, Ghemme, and Carema. Also called spanna—its home tag.
56. Negromaro— Southern Italian red—name means “black and bitter.” Any questions?
57. Norton—Indigenous Virginia varietal, famous for the Monticello clarets in the 19th century, occasionally observed nowadays to produce real wine.
58. Odjaleshi—Red from (formerly Soviet) Georgia.
59. Ortega—German heavyweight of no real distinction.
60. Palomino—Spanish white, used to make dry sherries, and blended with PX to make the sweeter ones.
61. Parellada—Solid component of fizzy Cava in the Penedes region of Spain.
62. Pedro Ximenez—PX makes fabulously rich sweet wines in Montilla, and is used to enrich cream sherries
63. Petite Verdot—Bordeaux blender—if it wasn’t there, you’d miss it.
64. Petite Sirah—A blender essential for making Zinfandel into great wine. Occasionally interesting as a varietal, now thought to be a loose confederation of some half-dozen minor French types planted together as a field blend in Sonoma, mostly 100 years ago.
65. Pinot Auxerrois—Crisp Alsace whites, communicating interesting mineral tones.
66. Pinot Blanc—Light bodied gently spiced whites from Alsace, occasionally masquerades as Weissburgunder in Germany where it makes big fat wines.
67. Pinot Gris /Pinot Grigio—Produces whites both sublime and ridiculous in Alsace and Italy. Very fleshy and masculine in the former, light and dry in the latter. Planted in Oregon, where it produces some of the most interesting American whites, very much after the Alsace model. The Germans usually call it Grauburgunder—they plant it in the south, in Baden, Franconia, the Pfalz.
68. Pinot Noir—The brilliant—if occasionally difficult—red grape of Burgundy. Does well in California, Oregon, Germany, occasionally in Victoria. A standout in Champagne.
69. Pinot Meunier—Thusly named because the plant looks like the miller (Le Meunier) has been dusting the leaves with flour. Germans call it Müllerrebe for the same reason. Important third in the trio of champagne varietals, where it’s a sponge for soaking up terroir.
70. Pinotage—South African crossing of cinsault and pinot noir. Interesting aromatic middleweight.
71. Primitivo—Southern Italian red genetically resonant with California’s zinfandel.
72. Quagliano—Makes pale red sparklers in Piemonte, and begins with “q.”
73. Riesling— Great white grape of Germany, Austria, Alsace—very much a magnet for earth-tones, even with all of its glorious fruit—very popular once upon a time in Australia, and occasionally offering interesting wines in California.
74. Rondinella—See Corvina and Molinara.
75. Roter Veltliner—Wachau-region rarity from Austria. White wine, despite the red label.
76. Roussane—Côtes du Rhône white grape. Nice soft, oily texture, spring flowers in the nose.
77. Ruländer—Name used in Germany for the grauburgunder (pinot gris) when it yields a dessert wine. Ruland was the guy who brought the grape to Germany from Burgundy.
78. Saint George—This is Greek wine, made by wine Greeks. Red of sometimes surprisingly substantial character.
79. Sangiovese/prugnolo—The great red grape of Tuscany—Chianta, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and (as sangioveto grosso) Brunello.
80. Sankt Laurent—Earthy Austrian red with spicy aromatics, often interesting.
81. Sauvignon blanc—Crisp dry whites on the Loire and from New Zealand, frequently overoaked pseudochards in California, surprisingly good in Austria’s Steiermark.
82. Saperavi— Another Georgian.
83. Scheurebe—1916 crossing of Riesling and Sylvanner—German whites both dry and sweet with magnificent tropical fruit aromas, burgundian texture.
84. Schwarzriesling—Franconian name for Müllerrebe, which is German name for pinot meunier.
85. Scuppernong—Slightly obscene-sounding eastern American wild thing with fabulously proportioned vines and forgettable wines.
86. Semillon—Bordeaux white, prime mover of the great dessert wines of Sauternes. Good figgy-aromatic dry whites from Graves, quite interesting dry whites from Australia, where it also blends well with chardonnay.
87. Siegerrebe—This German white type will even ripen in England!
88. Syrah/Shiraz—Oh boy! The great long-living reds of the northern Côtes-du-Rhône, frequently impressive in California, interesting in Italy, Spain and Argentina—as Shiraz the benchmark for Australian red wine, where it shows a variety of styles, from soft and fruity to world-class profound. Also grown in South Africa.
89. Sylvaner—Slightly rustic mildly spicy white from Alsace and Germany.
89. Tempranillo—The great red grape of Spain, seen in many guises (Cencibel, Tinta del Pais, Tinto Fino, Tinto de Toro, et al) from the more delicate medium-bodied traditional Riojas to the rich, full bodied, more Bordeaux-like Ribera del Dueros to the powerfully ripe Toros.
90. Tocai Friulano—aka sauvignon vert, sometimes bottled in Chile as sauvignon blanc; some nice crisp whites.
91. Touriga Nacional—Important in creating the great Portuguese fortified wines of Oporto.
92. Trebbiano—Italian of many uses (ugni blanc in France) including the vin santo of Tuscany.
93. Ugni Blanc—Used to make Armagnac in Gascony, and to make wine by people who are too impatient to make Armagnac.
94. Vidal Blanc—American /French white hybrid of little virtue.
95. Viognier—Honeysuckle, orange-rind, mango-tinged aromatics. Silky textured white on the northern Côtes du Rhône, fat and succulent in California.
96. Viura—Good solid aromatic white Spaniard, also known as Macabeo in France and Catalunyia. Needs no oak to smell nice.
97. Welschriesling—Austrian varietal known for massively rich and spicy dessert wines, decent dry onces.
98. Xarello—Finds its way into fizz in Spain’s Penedes.
99. Yuga—Y? Because we love you.
100. Zinfandel—The great American success story. Spicy rich complex wines, particularly in Sonoma; hulking monolithic offerings from Amador and elsewhere in the Sierra Nevada range.
101. Zweigelt—Austrian red, the source of many easy-quaffers, but with a bit of what almost might be considered pinot noir character.