35 red grapes from A to Z

The red grapes that shape our wines

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The world of wine is a rich tapestry of flavors, colors, and traditions, with over 10,000 varieties of grapes suitable for winemaking. Among these, red grape varieties stand out for their depth, complexity, and global popularity. This article explores some of the most prominent and cherished red grape varieties, tracing their origins and characteristics, and celebrating the diversity they bring to the global wine landscape.

  1. Aglianico: Originating from Italy, Aglianico is a red grape with a notable history and a somewhat underrated reputation in the wine world. The wines from this grape are known for their fig, raisin, and cherry notes, along with a distinct mineral and earthy character. It is considered one of the oldest grape varieties planted in Italy.
  2. Barbera: Another Italian native, Barbera produces very fruity and fresh wines. It's recognized for its vibrant acidity and deep color, often producing wines that are approachable yet complex.
  3. Bonarda: This grape variety presents a unique case of nomenclature confusion, as there are different grapes with the same name. In Italy's Piedmont, Bonarda is used alongside Gattinara, Ghemme, Nebbiolo, and Croatina. However, the Bonarda widely planted in Argentina is actually synonymous with the French Corbeau, known for producing frank wines with good color and body, fruity aromas of raspberry, and subtle aniseed accents.
  4. Cabernet Franc: Originating from France, Cabernet Franc is a key component in Bordeaux blends, alongside Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. It is known for its small, spherical berries and thin skin, producing wines that are fruity, structured, and elegant.
  5. Cabernet Sauvignon: This variety, hailing from Bordeaux, France, is renowned worldwide for its rich tannin and color, earning it the title of the "queen of the reds." It's a cornerstone in many high-quality wines, prized for its depth and aging potential.
  6. Caladoc: A cross between Grenache and Malbec, Caladoc is a lesser-known variety that yields wines with excellent color and body.
  7. Carmenere: Originally from France, Carmenere has found a new home in Chile. It produces structured, intensely colored wines with high tannin content and distinctive pyrazine notes.
  8. Carignan: Originating in France and widely planted in Spain as Cariñena, Carignan is frequently found in the wines of Aragón. It's known for its high acidity and tannin content, often used in blends.
  9. Corvina Veronese: An Italian variety from the north, Corvina is central to the famous Amarone and Recioto wines. These wines undergo a traditional "appassimento" process, where grapes are partially dried to concentrate sugar levels while maintaining acidity.
  10. Dolcetto: This Italian grape, particularly prominent in the Alba region, produces deeply colored wines with significant tannins.
  11. Gamay: A French grape best known for Beaujolais wines, Gamay produces easy-drinking wines, best enjoyed young. The annual Beaujolais Nouveau release is a celebrated event in the wine calendar.
  12. Grenache: Adaptable to various regions and resistant to drought, frost, and disease, Garnacha is versatile for creating aged red wines.
  13. Graciano: Native to Spain's La Rioja, Graciano yields spicy, aromatic, and intensely perfumed wines.
  14. Malbec: Originally from southwest France, Malbec has achieved its greatest acclaim in Argentina. It is celebrated for its deep color and intensity, particularly in the Luján de Cuyo DOC, the first appellation of origin in the Americas.
  15. Mencia: A high-quality Spanish variety, Mencía is predominant in the Bierzo and Valdeorras appellations, known for producing expressive and aromatic wines.
  16. Merlot: This French variety shines in Pomerol and Saint-Emilion, and is widely cultivated in Spain's Ribera del Duero. Merlot is appreciated for its plush, velvety texture and ripe fruit flavors.
  17. Mision: Historically significant in the New World wine scene, this grape is known for its resistance to phylloxera. It's still popular in the Canary Islands as Palomino Negro and is often used for sacramental wines and mistelas.
  18. Mourvedre (Monastrell): Originally Spanish, Mourvedre is extensively planted in southern France and also found in Australia and California. It contributes to the aging potential of wines, especially when blended with Tempranillo, Carignan, and Syrah.
  19. Nebbiolo: Synonymous with Italy's Piedmont region, Nebbiolo is the star of Barolo and Barbaresco wines. It's known for its powerful tannins and aging potential.
  20. Nero d'Avola: A Sicilian native, also known as Calabrese, Nero d'Avola produces robust, tannic wines with a deep color. It takes its name from the town of Avola in southern Sicily.
  21. Periquita: A Portuguese variety, Periquita is found from the Sado river plains to Setúbal and the Arrábida mountains, yielding intensely colored and flavorful wines.
  22. Petit Syrah: Originating in France, this grape is a cross between Syrah and Peloursin. It produces deeply colored, herbaceous wines and has found success in California, South America, and Australia.
  23. Petit Verdot: A part of the classic Bordeaux blend, Petit Verdot is valued for its color, structure, and violet perfume.
  24. Pinot Noir: The elegant grape of Burgundy, France, Pinot Noir is also a key component in Champagne. It's celebrated for its delicate structure and complexity.
  25. Pinotage: South Africa's signature variety, created by crossing Pinot Noir and Cinsaut. It yields fruity wines with berry and cassis notes.
  26. Primitivo (Zinfandel): This grape found its fame in Southern Italy and California. DNA studies have linked Primitivo with Zinfandel. It produces structured, deeply colored wines with good aging potential.
  27. Refosco: From Friuli Venezia Giulia in northern Italy, Refosco is also planted in Slovenia and Croatia. It yields medium-bodied, fruity wines with herbal and spicy notes.
  28. Sagrantino di Montefalco: Native to Umbria, Italy, Sagrantino was traditionally used for sweet "passito" wines but now also makes robust, tannic dry wines.
  29. Sangiovese: The quintessential Tuscan grape, Sangiovese is synonymous with Chianti. It's known for its cherry and violet aromas, herbal notes, and high acidity.
  30. Syrah: A grape of uncertain origin, Syrah is used in Spain's Castilla y León wine region. It's known for its bold flavors and suitability for aging.
  31. Tannat: Originally French, Tannat is significant in Uruguay, where it's considered the national grape. It produces robust, tannic wines.
  32. Tempranillo: A versatile Spanish variety, Tempranillo is essential in the Ribera del Duero and Cigales appellations. It's known for its fruity flavor, ruby color, and various regional synonyms.
  33. Tinta de Toro: A unique variety from the Toro appellation in Spain, Tinta de Toro is known for its fragrant and aromatic wines.
  34. Tinta Fina: An early-ripening variety sensitive to pests and drought, Tinta Fina is less resistant to high temperatures.
  35. Zinfandel: Emblematic of California, this grape, originally from Croatia, produces fruit-forward wines when young.

The diverse range of red grape varieties, each with its unique profile and heritage, showcases the rich and multifaceted world of wine. From the robust and tannic to the light and fruity, these grapes cater to an array of palates, reflecting the cultural and geographical diversity that influences their cultivation and winemaking.

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