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Grape Varieties Handbook

GRAPE VARIETY 'HANDBOOK'

What started as an endeavour to produce as concise and accurate a guide as we can to grape varieties seems gradually to be expanding to include basic detail on soil types, wine faults, closures, regulations and wood ageing... So if you would like to contribute - or disagree - do not hesitate to Email us.

The grape title is generally searchable (by clicking on it) for all the wines available containing the variety. But do bear in mind that there are many grape synonyms - which we try to point out but may not ourselves use, and one or two where we have included information as interesting general knowledge.

In alphabetical order (click on a letter to go down the list).

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A

Aglianico is a dark skinned grape of Greek origin (it is likely the name itself is a corruption of Hellenic) grown in Southern Italy. Generally produces deeply coloured wines offfering powerful concentrated flavour.

Airén, a Spanish white grape that is the world's most planted grape variety and is known for its remarkable drought resistance. The white wines that it provides, even when carefully vinified, are pretty dreary - perhaps best described as neutral. In Spain much of the production is, mercifully, distilled into brandy.

Albariño or Alvarinho are the Spanish or Portuguese names respectively for the same white grape. It appears as a single varietal wine in Galicia and is almost always found as one of the constituent varieties of Vinho Verde and very occasionally as a single varietal here too. Generally produces quite vibrant wines of medium to full body. Often compared with Viognier on account of its aroma which is usually described as 'peachy'.

Ale is probably not what you'd expect to find under 'grape varieties' but we do stock two bottle conditioned (qv) ales from a local brewery which are of a remarkably high standard and well worth a try. Although described as Ale they probably ought to be described as Beer because Ale is, strictly, just water and malt - with no hops, which were not added till the idea was imported from Germany (then still brewing top fermented beers) in the 15th century. The term 'Ale' is now used to distinguish top fermenting beers from those which are bottom fermenting or lager beer. Top fermenting beers ferment at warmer temperatures than bottom fermenting beers and have greater complexity of flavour in consequence. Bottom fermented lager thus has a clean, crisp taste for those that enjoy it and shows a neutral, bland flavour for those that don't...

Alfrocheiro Preto is a Portuguese red variety particularly prominent in the Dão blend of grapes and which is noted for its good colour, juicy character and retaining some fresh acidity even when fully ripe.

Alicante Bouschet is a red-fleshed grape that produces deeply coloured but nondescsript wines really only suitable for blending. The variety is alleged to display more character when grown in the Alentejo region of Southern Portugal.

Aligoté, the 'second' grape type of white Burgundy, which generally produces rather thin and lean wines, which can be refreshing and nervy but little more. In the old Eastern bloc countries the variety is quite widely distributed as it still produces fresh, crisp wines even in warm conditions when fully ripe.

Antão Vaz is a grape that is widely planted in southern Portugal and seems to be able to cope with well with hot conditions - showing retained acidity when picked early or able to benefit from barrel ageing when picked ripe.

Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC or AC) is a European system developed and honed mostly in France to control the quality and quantity of wine produced from a specific delimited area of production. Alcohol content and methods of cultivation and vinification are controlled, culminating in tasting approval by the local state accredited panel. Although undoubtedly useful in controlling quality the system finds it difficult to offer protection both to producers (by, for example, allowing tiny areas that can be called Premier Cru without noticeable difference from those that cannot) and at the same time to the consumer (by rigorous organoleptic analysis for example). Sometimes unhappy compromises are the result. But, rather like democracy, it seems a terrible system - just better than all the others.

Appellation d'Origine Protégée (AOP) From 2010 EU legislation has changed what is effectively the same Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée system (see above) into AOP. The only notable difference is that the constituent grape varieties (mention of which was often prohibited under earlier legislation) can now be declared on front labels. AOP will gradually replace AOC and AC.

Aragones, or sometimes Aragonez, is the Southern Portuguese name for Tempranillo - in the North it is known as Tinta Roriz!

Arinto, a Portuguese white grape variety that produces fresh crisp wine with plenty of acidity even when grown in the hot conditions of Southern Portugal. Its wine is aromatic and ages well. Also one of the many grapes used in White Port.

Arneis, white grape of Piedmont in Northern Italy. Grown in very limited quantities in its homeland it is also encountered in Australia where it is aromatic and expressive with an intriguing perhaps almondy, perhaps slightly spicey lasting power.

Arrufiac or Ruffiac, white grape variety from Gascony. Virtually its only home is the Plaimont Cooperative, where it is well treated and rewards by offering additional depth of flavour to their Côtes de St Mont.

Azal Branco, one of the white Portuguese grapes that gives freshness to and is a constituent of most Vinho Verde. There is also a red version Azal Tinto, which does the same for the red version of Vinho Verde.

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B

Baga is Portugal's most planted grape variety also known as Tinta Bairrada, probably because its predominant plantings are to be found in the Bairrada region of Portugal. Versatile grape which ages well and is generally recognised for producing high levels of acidity and tannin, though when vinified for Rosé the tannin (from the skins) is avoided.

Barbera, Northern Italian red grape which is the second most planted red grape in Italy (after Sangiovese). Although low in tannin Barbera tends to be appreciated in warm climates for still retaining some important acidity when ripe. Also occurs where Italians have emigrated such as California and particularly South America, but the resulting wine, whilst fresh is still 'everyday' rather than outstanding. Five DOCs in Piedmont produce the most noteworthy Barberas. Barbera D'Alba produces wines that are 100% Barbera, whilst Barbera D'Asti, Barbera del Monferrato, Colli Toronesi and Rubino di Cantavenna may produce blends.

Bical, white grape from Portugal that is perhaps most famous for being called (in the Dão region at least) Borrados das Moscas or fly droppings. It is frequently grown in the Bairrada and Beiras areas, where it gives interest to the whites, which are also made in sparkling style.

Bonarda, the most widely planted red grape of Argentina which is probably of Italian origin, although very little is now found there. It is slightly peppery but pleasingly fruity in style.

Bottle Conditioned or Bottle Matured are used to indicate where a Beer (normally for Bottle Conditioned) or Port (normally for Bottle Matured) have not been anything more than simply filtered or racked and both keep better and retain and acquire more flavour as a consequence. They will all show a deposit in the bottom of the bottle and therefore should be poured carefully - perhaps decanted. Unfiltered Port is sometimes described as 'Crusted' Port because there is a 'crust' (deposit) in the bottom of the bottle. The opposites are beers that are 'Racked Bright', which is the default for bottled beers or 'Filtered' Ports which is the default for mainstream Ports such as Ruby or most LBVs.

Bourboulenc or Malvoisie, white grape type from the South of France (though often thought to have originated in Greece) occurs in a wide variety of Southern French appellations most particularly in Châteauneuf du Pape White where it is appreciated for its acidity retention even when fully ripe.

Brunello (the 'little brown one') is a red grape which is a clone of the Sangiovese grape (Sangiovese Grosso - the 'plump' Sangiovese) most obvious in Tuscany's Brunello di Montalcino, regarded as one of Italy's best wines. They are big, deeply coloured and powerful, with enough tannins and structure to be long lived. Brunello di Montalcino wines have one of the longest ageing requirements in Italy, three - and sometimes four - years, two of which must be in wood. Riservas must age for five years.

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C

Cabernet Generally this is shorthand for Cabernet Sauvignon particularly when blended with another grape - such as Shiraz. But, especially in Italy, it is a catch all for Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet Sauvignon, which is generally slower and more difficult to ripen, was the result of a cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. It is appreciated for its full and gutsy style - the backbone of many Médoc Châteaux where Cabernet Franc often provides the more obvious fruit in the early years. When ripe and subject to a little judicious oak ageing, the Cabernet Sauvignon mellows into an attractive, alluring and very complex wine. Cabernet Sauvignon is the second most widely planted grape type in the world. Even in the New World it has a tendency to outlive a pure Shiraz for example. Cabernet Franc can also be long lived especially when it ripens slowly (often particularly noticeable in the Loire Valley) but tends to a more subtle and subdued style and does not, as a general rule, display the depth of flavour of which Cabernet Sauvignon is capable.

Camarate is probably the same variety - or at least similar and related to - Castelão formerly known as Periquita.

Canaiolo Nero is a Central Italian grape that used to form the basis of Chianti in the nineteenth century. Its lack of resistance to phylloxera even after grafting led to its rapid decline. Small quantities are now more appreciated as a foil to Chianti's predominant Sangiovese, where its role is compared to that of Merlot in Bordeaux which is is considered to 'soften' Cabernet Sauvignon. Canaiolo Nero has not yet travelled further than Sardinia.

Carbonic Maceration (or as the Australians often refer to it, Cab Mac) - and known in French as Macération Carbonique is the fermentation system most famously used for the wines of Beaujolais. It relies on fermenting grapes which are placed uncrushed in a tank flushed with carbon dioxide so as to exclude oxygen. The resulting 'whole berry fermentation' gives an enhaced fruitiness and produces minimal tannin making a wine which is ideal for early drinking though, remarkably, is also usually capable of ageing to advantage.

Carmenère, a red Bordeaux grape which has now resurfaced in Chile, where it produces deliciously fruity, quite light but appealing red wines, which have become a sort of Chile trademark. It gains attractive interest when combined with just a touch of oak. In Bordeaux itself it is now fairly rare, though its intense colour is still thought to be the origin of the colour carmine.

Carignan, originating in the northern Spanish district of Cariñena (and known in Spanish speaking countries by the same name) , it is now the most widely grown red grape in France particularly in the Languedoc-Roussillon. High yielding, producing deep purple coloured wines high in tannins and alcohol. Carignan is most often blended with Grenache and Cinsault.

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Castelão Francês is a dark red grape that used to be better known as Periquita until one producer managed to patent the name as his own (but as it means literally a little parrot this may not be altogether entirely surprising). Its versatile, fleshy fruit produces attractive red wine, which can also respond well to barrel ageing. Nowadays often known by the Portuguese as simply Castelão, who seem a little sensitive over its Francês or French links - for which to be fair there is virtually no evidence! The grape also has other synonyms which in some areas can include Trincadeira Preta.

Cencibel, the dominant red grape variety in Valdepeňas and La Mancha is yet another name for Tempranillo.

Chardonnay, This grape perhaps came from the Lebanon as Obaideh and almost definitely took its European name from the Maconnais village in Burgundy of the same name. Nearly always fruity but can be acidic when unripe. When well ripened is often described as 'buttery' and 'fat' and if grown under hot conditions can be so fat as to need oak for balance to make the wine palatable. With a long ripening period and with delicate oak ageing can be very complex and long lived. Almost all white Burgundy is made from Chardonnay and it forms a prominent part of Champagne's blend. Now grown in virtually every wine producing country in the world - including England (see Nyetimber here)!

Chenin Blanc, white grape type that originated in France's Loire valley . Wines produced from this variety include the well known names of Vouvray, Coteaux du Layon and Saumur. French Chenin Blanc has an intense, fascinating aroma; its high acidity balancing the sweetness and allowing some of these wines to age for many years - particularly some of the sweet versions. In Coteaux du Layon France has a very long lived pure Chenin Blanc botrytis produced wine whose qualities and longevity rival and often surpass those of Sauternes. Indeed the grape is remarkable in France for being a single variety vinified alone yet producing wines in all styles from bone dry to unctuous. Even so, it is probably more publicly recognised now for its South African production where it is the most widely planted grape type by far. It is also planted in North and South America as well as New Zealand and Australia, though rarely sold outside a blend in the latter two. In South Africa its ability to retain freshness (this factor was also very important in its original use for South African brandy distillation) whilst being vinified very slightly sweet are capitalised upon with considerable success.

Ciliegiolo named after its supposed cherry like aroma and flavour (ciliegi is cherry in Italian) is a Tuscan indigenous red grape. Predominantly used for blending where it is thought, like Canaiolo Nero, to 'soften' Sangiovese. Recent single varietal bottlings are also now (2012) considered to offer considerable promise.

Cinsault or Cinsaut, red grape from the South of France, which is widely used for rosé production. This takes advantage of its soft and aromatic properties. It also occurs in many reds from the South and can be used to offset the harshness of the widely planted and highly productive Carignan. It is one of the many permitted grape types in Châteauneuf du Pape and is planted both in North Africa and South, where it was originally hoped to imitate the wines of the Rhône. Life is however rarely that simple...

Clairette, white grape that is widely cultivated in southern France. Clairette is one of the white varieties allowed in the production of red Châteauneuf du Pape wines.

Colombard, originating in the Charente district of France where it was used primarily in the production of Armagnac. Colombard was also widely planted in California's San Joaquin valley in the 1970's and early 1980's due to its ability to grow in hot climates and still retain good levels of acidity. Colombard produces crisp, off-dry wines with spice and floral attributes. In the New World especially it is used extensively for blending - in California predominantly with Chenin Blanc, in Australia with Chardonnay and Riesling.

Concrete has been used to make vessels to store wine since the nineteenth century - and possibly much earlier (it was after all an invention known to the Romans!) Nowadays vats are normally lined with resin but, particularly for white wines before the invention of stainless steel, they were more airtight than wooden vats. The character of the concrete vat seems to have been transformed in the early part of the 21st century by the arrival of the first egg-shaped vat. This shape, whose interior is treated with a solution of tartaric acid prior to first use, seems to be beneficial for careful and low volume white wine making. Firstly there are no corners in an egg so the fermentation temperature is more consistent and stable throughout the liquid in consequence. Second, lees ageing seems to keep greater purity and taughtness than when conducted in other containers (including stainless steel). This seems to be because micro-oxygenation occurs, though the jury is still out on the hows and whys.

Corked or Corky - see TCA below.

Cortese, a white grape grown in north west Italy, primarily in Piedmont and parts of Lombardy. Cortese produces good quality wines with often delicate, fruity and citrus aromas and flavours, since it retains acidity even at full ripeness. The best wines made from Cortese come from the area of Gavi - with those coming from vineyards around the village of Gavi itself known as Gavi di Gavi generally considered to be one of the most prestigious of Italian white wines.

Corvina Veronese, red wine grape and the principal varietal in both the Valpolicella and Bardolino wines of the Veneto region in north-eastern Italy. In both wines Corvina, which is the concentrated, cherryish one, is blended with Rondinella and Molinara to produce light bodied and light coloured wines characterised by tart cherry and almond flavours.

Cot, red grape of Bordeaux, not now widely grown and known almost everywhere else and more famously as the Malbec

Cross, See Hybrid

Cuvée sometimes causes misunderstanding and means literally a vatful - from 'cuve' the French for a vat. (On the same basis 'bouchée' from 'bouche' a mouth means a mouthful.) So the Cuvée Personnelle means literally a personal vatful - in the case of our respected Rhône wine this is a personally selected and vinified vatful rather than one that is for personal drinking!

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D

Diam Corks are a type of so called agglomerated corks which are made by Diam, a French based company that has patented a process to remove aromas from cork. They are designed to offer the best of natural cork without the disadvantages. The cork is first milled into granules and then cleaned by supercritical CO2 (under pressure and part gas and part liquid) that 'disinfects' the cork including removal of the trichlorohanisole (see TCA below), which is generally considered to be responsible for cork taint. The cork granules are then reassembled and baked with a food grade binding agent to give a universal and similar structure to every cork. This is considered to give consistency to the ageing process as a small amount of air transmission is still possible. Referred to as 'controlled permeability', this property may also help to dissipate the slight sulphur whiff which can sometimes lurk under screwcaps. The majority of Champagne houses now use Diam corks as well as a significant number of other wine producers. This is reckoned to be cork without the fault. Some of course - particularly in Australia and New Zealand - have given up on cork altogether and swear by screwcaps. But the results of ageing wines for long periods under screwcap are still uncertain..

Disgorging or Disgorgement in French is integral to the process of bottle fermented sparkling wine - including Champagne. A frozen pellet of sediment is removed and then replaced with a 'dosage' (a mixture of wine and sugar) which adjusts the relative dryness - or otherwise - of the sparkling wine for the consumer (which, to give an idea of its style will generally be described as Extra Brut, Brut, Demi-Sec and so on).

Dolcetto, (little sweet one) red wine grape grown mainly in the southwest of Italy's Piedmont region. Dolcetto wines have high acid levels and are deep purple in colour. With perfumed bouquets and rich, fruity berry flavours with a slightly bitter finish.

Dornfelder, a German red wine grape created in 1955 from a cross of Helfensteiner and Heroldrebe both of which are also crosses. Dornfelder grows predominantly in the Pfalz, Rheinhessen and Württemberg regions. Dornfelder is also grown in England where it is used for blending.

Dosage See Disgorging above.

Durif, red wine grape that is now considered to be a cross between Syrah and a variety called Peloursin, grown in the Rhône valley in the late 19th and up to the middle of the 20th century. Neither variety is generally found in French vineyards today, Durif plantings on any scale are confined to Australia where its darkly coloured juice really needs blending with something more characterful! The majority, though not all, of Californian plantings of Petite Sirah are likey to be Durif.

E

Encruzado, the backbone of Portugal's Dão white and sometimes available as a single varietal. Handled especially carefully the variety produces well balanced wines which can improve with age.

Erbaluce, white wine grape which is a speciality of Caluso in northern Piedmont where it produces predominantly light, dry white wines although both a sparkling Caluso Spumante and (best known of all) a rich pudding wine, Caluso Passito are also produced.

Eethyl Acetate is a compound formed from acetic acid and alcohol and although in small quantities can impart a pleasing fruitdroppy character, in larger amounts smells of nail varnish - or nail varnish remover!

F

Fer Servadou is a robust red grape grown now almost exclusively in the South West of France, particularly in Madiran, where it adds aroma and good colour.

Fernão Pires is Portugal's most widely planted white grape variety, which is capable of producing a variety of styles from crisp and dry to sparkling and botrytised pudding wines. Aromatic with a slight peppery quality. Also known as Maria Gomes.

Fiano, white wine grape from Campania in south eastern Italy. Fiano di Avellino DOC located in the hills around Avellino and twenty five other villages east of Naples. Well regarded dry white wines are produced that have to contain a minimum of 85 percent Fiano.

Flor refers to a film of yeast that floats on the surface of a wine (especially dry - Fino and Manzanilla - sherry). This consumes the sugar to produce the fermentation and then uses the alcohol and oxygen in the atmosphere to produce a film on top of the sherry in the barrel - thus imparting a 'flor flavour' and excluding oxygen from the rest of the wine. For this reason Sherry barrels are never filled more than about five sixths full to allow the flor to work.

Furmint, white wine grape from Hungary's Tokay region. Furmint grapes have a thin skin which makes them susceptible to Botrytis Cinerea or Noble Rot, which causes the famous shrivelled Aszŭ berries with their concentrated sugars and intense flavours. Furmint is blended with Hárslevelü grapes to produce the great pudding wines of Tokay.

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G

Gamay, French red wine grape whose full name is Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc. Gamay excells in Beaujolais where it accounts for 98 percent of all vines planted. Gamay produces light to medium weight wines with high acidity and low tannins that are very fruity and immediately drinkable.

Garganega, white grape variety that is the principal grape used in the production of Soave wines from the Veneto region of Italy. Vigorous vines can produce large quantities of fruit that make bland wines. Soave is made from a minimum of 70 percent Garganega blended with other varieties such as Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco and Trebbiano. When, however, yields are controlled and with careful vinification, Garganega can produce wines with a very attractive freshness and often a notable almond character.

Gewürztraminer is actually pink skinned but accepted as a white grape. It possesses a deep golden (or perhaps, more accurately, coppery) colour, a heady, aromatic perfume and it makes probably the weightiest and most full bodied white wine (the competition for this title comes from another Alsace stalwart the Pinot Gris). Gewürztraminer's origins are in Northern Italy - the name means perfumed or spicey (grape) from Tramin, a village in the German speaking South Tyrol. Here the old Traminer variety was found to have mutated into what became known as Gewürztraminer. But it is in Alsace where it excels and here, where the climate is able to give the grape sufficient acidity as well as ripeness, it shows an appealing and quite exotic character. New World versions tend generally either to be picked too ripe to have sufficient acidity for much character or picked too early to have acquired anything more than a rather bland freshness. One or two producers have extracted more interest but it is still unknown in the writer's experience for them to retain the same appeal by the time of the next vintage. Alsace versions can be very long lived and indeed Grand Cru Alsace requires at least two years in bottle to begin to show its full potential.

Graciano is a variety once widespread in Rioja and Navarra but loosing favour because of its susceptibility to disease and (especially) low yields. It shows a good colour and a fragrant bouquet, whilst its high acidity even when ripe gives it a great ability to age well. The grape is known as Xeres in the tiny plantings in California. Unsurprisingly Argentina produces small quantities of Graciano (confusingly here called Graciana) in Mendoza.

Granite or Granitic is not a grape type at all of course but this rock type is generally reckoned to be good for acidity in the wine - particularly in the New World where acidity is a component that can be lacking in generally warm climates.

Grenache, or more correctly Grenache Noir, is known in Spain - where it originated and where it is the most widely planted red grape - as Garnacha or Garnacha Tinta. It thrives in hot, dry regions where it ripens with very high sugar levels and where it can produce wines with alcohol levels of between 15 to 16 percent. Grenache wines are sweet in character (particularly obvious in many grenache rosés), fruity, low in tannins and normally lacking in colour except when yields are kept low. Grenache is widely planted in Languedoc-Roussillon, Provence and the southern Rhône. It is the primary grape in a total of up to thirteen different varietals in the red wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Grenache Blanc, or Garnacha Blanca is the white variety of Grenache. Widely planted in both France and Spain, it produces wines that are high in alcohol and low in acidity and is best blended with other varieties for character.

Grillo, white grape of Sicily used in the blend for Ambra (amber) Marsala. The variety is also found in the South of France . Slightly tangy in character.

Groslot, Red wine grape grown in the Anjou district of the Loire Valley,where Groslot is the principal variety used in the production of Rosé d'Anjou. The resulting wines tend to have relatively low alcohol levels with high acidity and, when made with skill, can exhibit stylish apply flavours with definite hints of mint and sometimes even (it is said) a subdued nuttiness.

Grüner Veltliner, white wine grape grown principally in Austria where it is the most widely planted variety, accounting for one third of the entire Austrian vineyard. It produces pale, crisp, light to medium bodied slightly spicy wines which often exhibit some very attractive mineral qualities.

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H

Hárslevelü white wine grape that is the secondary component, after Furmint, to Tokay Aszú. Hárslevelü grapes are thick skinned and are therefore not as susceptible to Botrytis Cinerea (noble rot) as Furmint; they are however very aromatic and add suppleness and a strong slightly spicy, perfumed character to Tokay Aszú.

Huxelrebe, a German white wine grape which is the product of a cross between Weisser Gutedel and Courtillier Musqué. The grape is named after viticulturist Fritz Huxel who bred this hybrid extensively during the 1920's. Huxelrebe is grown pimarily in the German regions of Rheinhessen and Pfalz, where if carefully pruned the vines can produce grapes with both good acidity and a high sugar content resulting in good Auslese wines. Huxelrebe is also grown in England where it produces light, crisp wines with a nettle-like, herbaceous quality similar to Sauvignon Blanc.

Hybrid indicates a grape variety that has ancestry which includes an American Vine Species. This is now rather frowned upon - at least by the European Union. If the grape's ancestry is entirely European it is called simply a 'cross'.

I

Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) is the recently instituted Italian 'local' wine designation comparable to France's Vin de Pays. Quite why this was instigated so soon before all local designations are due to be merged with those of food in the IGP system (see below) only the Brussels bureaucrats or possibly the Italian civil service can say!

Indication Géographique Protégée (IGP) is the new designation for origin specific wine and food, which is known in English as 'PDO' or Protected Designation of Origin. This is a designation for use throughout the EU and will gradually replace the well-known French Vin de Pays classification. The wine appellation system originally propagated through Europe by the French ('AOC' or Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) is becoming Appellation d’Origine Protégée (AOP) to merge at a higher level into the same EU wide system.

J

Jaen is an indigenous Portuguese grape confusingly cognate with a Spanish variety, which shares little of the same character and so is unlikely to be the same. Commonly found in the reds of Dão it shows soft brambly fruit, which provides a good foil for the concentration of the predominant grape types - particularly Touriga Nacional.

K

Kékfrankos Rather juicy red grape which adds fruitiness to many blends in Hungary. When grown in Austria it is known by its synonym of Blaufränkisch. Capable of benefiting from oak age too, it was once thought to be the Gamay of Beaujolais because of its fruity character.

Kerner or Kernling - the last is a variant of the first but both produce grapes that are virtually identical. This is the third most planted grape in Germany even though first bred only in 1969 from the Trollinger and Riesling. It manages to retain a lot of the Riesling character being both fruity and steely. Now also quite widely planted in England.

L

Lagrein, a red wine grape grown predominantly in the Trentino-Alto Adige region of northern Italy. Lagrein produces deep, dark red wines called Lagrein Dunkel or Lagrein Scuro. Lagrein is also used to produce Rosés that are considered to be some of Italy's best, known as Lagrein Kretzer or Lagrein Rosato.

Lambrusco, a red wine grape grown throughout Italy but primarily in Emilia-Romagna. Probably best known in export markets as a semi-sweet pale red with slight effervescence. In Italy the preferred style is dry and it is also made in white and Rosato versions, with the better wines coming from four DOC regions around the cities of Modena and Reggio Emilia.

Limestone is a rock type rather than a grape type of course and appreciated in Europe particularly for its alkaline qualities - it produces wines that would otherwise be higher in acidity as in Burgundy for example, where all the soil types seem to be "argilo-calcaire" [Argile is Clay and Calcaire is Limestone].

Loureiro, white wine grape used in the production of Vinho Verde, in northern Portugal. A high yielding grape with crisp acidity and a distinctive Bay leaf like aroma.

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M

Macabeo, white wine grape that is the most widely cultivated white variety in northern Spain. In Rioja it is called Viura and is the most important white grape. Macabeo is a high yielding varietal, yet when yields are restricted it can produce wines that are light, high in acidity (so can be used to good effect in sparkling wine) and with good fruit.

Madeleine Angevine is of Loire origin and is now a succesful English variety which flowers and matures well under relatively damp conditions and produces wine of stylish crispness and aroma (which can be enhanced by a little retained sugar).

Malbec, a red wine grape grown in Bordeaux, Cahors, parts of the Loire and notably Argentina, where Basque emmigrants took it with them. In Bordeaux it is most commonly grown in the Blaye and Bourg regions normally playing a subordinate role to, and blended with, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. In the Loire Malbec is becoming rarer and is always blended - normally with Gamay and Cabernet Franc. It is in Cahors where Malbec comes into its own; it must account for 70 percent in any blend. The other varieties permitted are Merlot and Tannat. The resulting blends are often, though not always, at their best when aged in oak, resulting in darkly coloured, generally fairly tannic wines with dark berry fruit that, when allowed to mature slowly, reveal complex cedary fruit flavours. In Argentina Malbec is the most widely planted quality grape and produces full-bodied, deeply coloured and brambly wines of remarkable quality. This has become THE grape of Argentina...

Malmsey, the sweetest and richest version of Madeira which is made from Malvasia (known on the Island of Madeira as Malmsey). Malvasia, an ancient grape varietal thought to have come from the area around the Aegean. Malvasia is primarily a white wine grape with many subvarieties including a red grape Malvasia Nera grown mainly in the Piedmont and Puglia regions of Italy. The most recognised white variations are Malvasia Bianca del Chianti, Malvasia del Lazio, Malvasia delle Lipari, Malvasia di Candia, Malvasia di Sardegna and Malvasia Istiana. But much better known to us all as Malmsey! These other names grow all around the Mediterranean and produce golden, perfumed wines with hints of apricot, musk and almonds.

Malolactic Fermentation is not strictly a fermentaion at all but a bacterial reaction that often occurs naturally soon after the 'normal' alcoholic fermentation and converts the malic (appley) acid in wine to lactic (creamy) acid, and as in alcoholic fermentation produces carbon dioxide in the process. Not all wines undergo this fermentation though the majority of reds and Old World white wines do. (Where white wines are ripe in style preserving the malic acid can confer freshness.) When malolactic fermentation is not required, prevention is generally by the judicious use of sulphur dioxide and whistle clean bottling aided by filtration. If these precautions are inadequate then the danger is that the fermentation just gets delayed and then takes place in the bottle.

Malvoisie is a white grape and synonym for Bourboulenc (qv).

Maria Gomes is the same as Fernão Pires.

Marsanne, white wine grape widely grown in the northern Rhône. Marsanne is the principal grape in the white wines of Crozes-Hermitage, Hermitage, Saint Joseph and Saint Péray. Marsanne is traditionally blended with Roussanne in the white wines of the northern Rhône. These two white grapes are often permitted in the red wines of northern Rhône Crus; this dates back to when a vineyard would contain several varieties. Marsanne has the ability to produce wines with considerable body and can develop magnificently with age, as in Hermitage Blanc which exhibits complex honey and hazelnut flavours. Small quantities of Marsanne are grown in both Australia and the U.S.A.

Mataro is exactly the same grape as the Mourvèdre. The name is more commonly used in Australia but is also in French listings.

Melon de Bourgogne, white wine grape originating in Burgundy where it is now very rare but is permitted for Bourgogne Grand Ordinaire. Now widely planted in the Loire in the Pays Nantais - the vineyards of Brittany - which lie on both banks of the river close to its mouth. The wine produced here is Muscadet and the only grape permitted is Melon de Bourgogne. Four Appellations produce these wines. Easily the most important is Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine, which is southeast of Nantes and produces 85 percent of Muscadets. Here the wine is bottled direct from the cask (or more typically an underground cuve or tank) in the spring following the vintage, having spent the winter on its lees. This produces more flavourful wines that, whilst retaining a brisk character have fuller and more obvious fruit. These wines are labelled Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine sur Lie AC.

Merlot, is the second great grape (after Cabernet Sauvignon) of Bordeaux and is the predominant variety in both Saint Émilion and Pomerol. Merlot grapes ripen earlier than those of Cabernet Sauvignon, have lower tannins and higher sugar levels. This results in single varietal wines that are generally softer, higher in alcohol, easy to drink and which can be appreciated much earlier than their Cabernet Sauvignon counterparts. When the grapes are harvested as late as possible the resulting wines are deep purple in colour with plum and blackberry fruit combining soft velvety tannins with a full body. This is the New World style of Merlot wines, though be careful when choosing because some New World stlyles, with hot temperatures and short ripening periods can border on the bland - though this mildness tends to be an appreciated quality in much of American production. In Bordeaux the grapes are usually harvested before full maturity (often by design but sometimes by necessity) resulting in lighter bodied, higher acidity wines with some of the flavours of raspberries and strawberries.

Merwah is a native Lebanese grape variety, which it is suggested may be related to Sémillon.

Molinara is the 'second fiddle' grape variety to Corvina in the Veneto of North East Italy, where it generally provides a helping of freshness and acidity to the blend.

Monastrell is Spain's second most planted red grape which is known as Mourvèdre in France and Mataro in some parts of the New World

Montepulciano is, confusingly, both a grape variety and the name of a town in Tuscany that produces Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (which of course is not made from the grape of the same name but largely from Sangiovese.) Montepulciano is most prominent in Abruzzo and the Marches where it produces deeply coloured, well balanced and often plummy, demonstrative wine.

Moscato is Italian for Muscat and almost invariably refers to the best Muscat variety, the Muscat à Petits Grains.

Mourvèdre is a Spanish red grape known in its home country as Monastrell, which is widely grown in the South of France. When fully ripened (not always easy under French conditions) wines produced from its thick skinned grapes tend to have good 'extract' and be well structured. Mourvèdre can produce good quality, garnet coloured wines with spicy and peppery characteristics. These can however be somewhat tannic and hard and so Mourvèdre tends to be blended with other grapes such as Grenache and Syrah.

Müller-Thurgau is a white grape cross of the Riesling and Sylvaner grapes created by Dr. Hermann Müller in the 1800's. Widely planted in the Rheinhessen, Baden and Pfalz regions of Germany and also planted in Hungary, Austria, England, northern Italy and New Zealand. It is a high yielding, early ripening grape that is prone to both frost and rot. Due to its high yields it tends to produce wines that are low in acidity with little apart from straightforward fruit flavour. Without being blended with a more characterful grape it has little ageing potential. Known in Luxembourg and in English vineyards as Rivaner.

Muscadelle is one of the three white wine grapes authorised in Bordeaux and used in the blends for pudding wines with Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc. Muscadelle is intensely perfumed and is therefore used in small quantities (5 percent in the wines of Sauternes and Barsac). Muscadelle is also found in the sweet wines of the Premières Côtes de Bordeaux AC and in Australia where it is called Tokay and found in pudding wines called Liqueur Tokays.

Muscat is the archetypal and classic eating or table grape. Its name probably derives from the French musqué as the aroma was so bold that it was thought similar to musk.The variety has lots of sub types, some of which are listed below.

Muscat à Petit Grains is a candidate for the oldest cultivated wine grape in the world and is certainly the most refined member of the Muscat family, producing wines that are noticeably more delicate than its common stablemate the Muscat d'Alexandrie.

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Nebbiolo, The black grape of Piedmont was quite probably so named because of the frequent nebbia or mists of the area. Partly in consequence, the variety tends to ripen late and is most famous as the grape of Italy's most long lived and prestigious wine, Barolo. The grape also occurs in North and South America, though, so far, examples have not met with conspicuous success. Tiny (and successful) quantities are also grown in Australia.

Negroamaro, Red grape that is widespread in Southern Italy, but surprisingly attractive fruit flavours result when carefully vinified - though its name means black and bitter of course!

Nero d'Avola is a black (red) grape also known as the Calabrese, which suggests an origin on the mainland in next door Calabria. Although plantings are not as numerous as previously the grape is now recognised for its ability to mature in oak and offer a style of generous complexity.

Noble rot (or Pourriture noble in French) is the name used for the beneficial version of the fungus botrytis cinerea. It attacks individual grapes and concentrates the grape sugars by removing water and some acids and increasing glycerol levels. The resulting yields can be reduced by as much as 50% but the concentration of the juice leads to sweet wines of intense, complex flavour and long-lived character. Most would agree that the world's best sweet wines (most famously Sauternes) use grapes affected by noble rot.

Non Vintage (NV) means that the wine is not necessarily the product of one year but could be the product of two or more. This is not indicative of inferior quality but just indicative that what is in the bottle is not the produce of one unique year. Examples of wines that are Non Vintage include most Champagne, Tawny Ports and Sherry. Tawny Port is generally denoted by an average age and Sherry uses the Solera System where young wines replace older wines which are withdrawn, keeping the style at the same time consistent yet constantly ageing.

O

Oak barrels have been used since Roman times (perhaps earlier) as a sort of early version of the shipping container. (A list of the bewildering number of different barrel sizes is available here). For wine the barrel as a method of storage for transport turned out to be a beneficial circumstance and the oak barrel’s tannin content seemed to have the side effect of making wine more long lived.
Today oak is commonly divided into two (layman’s) varieties: French and American. Both are hardwood where French oak is slower growing and therefore has tighter grain (or is less porous) than American oak. The result is that the more open texture of American oak imparts flavour more quickly to the wine than does French oak. This is accentuated by the fact that French barrel staves are also split, in order to prevent too many cell walls being broken and thus preventing a quick release of the flavour characters of French oak. American oak was always traditionally used for spirit manufacture and so staves were sawn rather than split as quick release of flavours was ideal. It was also much cheaper to produce a sawn stave than a split one and contributed to a considerably more economical use of the available wood. Cheapness was accentuated by the fact that American oak was kiln dried whereas French oak was air dried for 2 or 3 years or more. This further contributes to the more subtle (mellowed) flavours of French oak together with the considerably higher pricing of a French oak barrel.
In order to improve the competitiveness of French cooperages there have been experiments with making barrels with French staves and American ends and, to improve American quality, of air drying American oak. As heat is required to enable the curvature of the staves both French and American cooperages experiment with the level of toast – with American oak traditionally being subject to fiercest toasting. As a broad generalisation one could say that French oak tends to give subtlety whereas the tang of American oak is suited to balance the more direct flavours from the hotter areas of the New World. After three or four vintages the quality of the oak becomes less important as the barrel serves as a vessel to achieve the slow oxygenation and thus gentle ageing of wine.

Obaideh, An indigenous Lebanese grape - just possibly the original name for the Chardonnay grape in its Middle Eastern homeland?

Orange Muscat is a variety of Muscat that displays an aromatic and very orangey flavour in all the wines produced from it.

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Pais is a red grape that is known in California as Mission. Appropriately enough the variety is thought to owe its plentiful plantings to Franciscan monks who used it for producing sacremental wine. Although long ago overtaken by Cabernet Sauvignon as Chile's most widely planted grape, Pais requires little or no irrigation and is a vigorous grower, so still retains a small place in some red wine blends.

Palomino Fino is a white grape that is easily sherry's predominant grape. It is also found in parts of the New World where it is principally important in making sherry copies. Its lack of acidity when ripe is of no disadvantage to sherry producers but if ever used for table wine the variety needs careful blending with something fresher or is otherwise best avoided.

Parellada is a Spanish white grape used in Cava production, which can add finesse to the blend when grown in cool conditions.

Perrum is Portuguse for Palomino (see above) so needs to be in a blend with other grapes!

Pedro Ximénez or Pedro Jiménez is a white grape variety used in fortified wines in Southern Spain - particularly in Sherry. Most famously used for the treacly sweet sherry often known as PX. Also grown in Australia to produce limited quantities of sweet styles and in Chile where (picked ripe rather than raisined) its neutral style is used in dry blends to provide a foil for other grape types.

Petite Sirah is almost certainly nothing to do with Syrah or Shiraz but a name for California's oldest vines, which now provide robust wines of some equilibrium and character in hot conditions - giving balance to blends or especially when mature, good foody wines! It seems that the majority of the Petite Sirah vines are in fact Durif but it is certain that not all are and it may well be that the name was invented to describe any red grape types with small berries. As an aside, although they didn't get the spelling right the 'Syrah' is indeed the French language's only feminine grape type!

Phylloxera is a root feeding aphid that was imported unwittingly from America and decimated much of the European vineyard areas during the nineteenth century by destroying the roots of the vine. Its effect on livelihoods is sometimes compared with that of Ireland's potato blight. The cure turned out to be grafting European vines (Vitis Vinifera) onto American vine (Vitis Cinerea) rootstock, which had evolved resistance to the pest. There are still a few areas which can produce healthy vines without grafting: in particular Chile and some Mediterranean islands which are sufficiently isolated. Areas with sandy soil, such as Listel in the South of France, and Colares in Portugal, also have proved immune to the disease. All the 'classic' areas of the Old World are however now so grafted.

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Phoenix is a recently crossbred grape variety gaining wide acceptance in English vineyards, where its blossomy aroma is compared with the refinement of the England's most popular planting, the Bacchus.

Picpoul is a white grape from the South of France formerly a staple of the now virtually defunct vermouth industry. What plantings remain are now recommended as a crisp fruity Muscadet reminiscent style to go with seafood

Pinenc is a synonym of the Fer or Fer Servadou.

Pinotage is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault first created at Stellenbosch University in the 1920s. Its heartland is still South Africa, where, when carefully vinified, it can provide expansive, full wines which, especially with a short sojourn in barrel, are capable of ageing in to a wine of notable grace and complexity. Younger, less expensive versions are now generally picked rather less ripe than in the past and are consequently less flamboyant, and - although still with obvious fruit - can offer a balanced and attractively spicey introduction to the grape variety.

Pinot Blanc is another mutation of the Pinot Gris (née Pinot Noir) and is a white grape that was originally mixed in with the Chardonnay in Burgundy vineyards. Nowadays although still permitted it is not often found. Alsace is its French stronghold, where quite full-bodied wines are made. In Germany and Austria it is appreciated for its weighty style and harking back to its Burgundian roots is called Weissburgunder. It is known as Pinot Bianco in Northern Italy, where it tends to be picked unripe to retain acidity. Elsewhere it is grown in the Old Eastern Europe. In the New World its only base is California, where, copying Burgundy, it tends to end up in the bottle with Chardonnay.

Pinot Grigio is enjoying worldwide popularity as a Chardonnay 'next step' but is particularly appreciated for its fresh crisp fruit character, which is the way the Northern Italians prefer it (unlike for example the fuller weight of Alsatian Pinot Gris). When grown on the plains the variety is generally picked unripe shows a gentle slightly 'herby' fruit character. The mountainous areas of North East Italy make for much more interesting zesty aromas and flavours. The Californian examples, almost unique in the New World steer a middle course between the Alsace and Italian styles and are remarkably successful.

Pinot Gris is a prominent white mutation of Pinot Noir that used to be known as Tokay Pinot Gris in Alsace and as Pinot Grigio almost everywhere else. It is interesting to see the different styles continue in the New World. A Pinot Grigio made by a Frenchman will generally taste very Alsatian but where the producer is more influenced by Italy (as, say, in Argentina) it will be in an Italian lighter style.

Pinot Meunier is in the top ten of France's most planted red grapes. It is particularly appreciated in Champagne where its late flowering and early ripening are prized in Champagne's cool lattitudes. Although permitted in one or two other appellations it has largely died out elsewhere where its lack of individuality is perhaps less easy to disguise than in the three grape sparkling blend that is Champagne. The variety is found in Southern Germany as the Müllerrebe and in the New World is largely confined to those producers in California and Australia seeking to make Champagne 'look alike' Sparkling Wines.

Pinot Noir is one of the most tricky grapes to grow anywhere and has had in particular a difficult transition to the New World, where, if too quickly ripened it produces a rather caramelly confection and when slowly matured often seems to produce just simple light - but highly priced - wines. Some would say this is also true of the grape's Burgundian heartland! But it still seems to border on the impossible to imitate Burgundy's best Pinot Noir wines anywhere else in the world.

Port has been listed under grape types because as a matured and fortified wine (where brandy is used to stop the fermentation) the precise grape varities have correspondingly less influence on its final character. It is probably more important that the Port producing area formed the first demarcated wine region in the world, created in 1756. High up in its Douro homeland the grapes have the opportunity to become fully ripe and include - for the reds Touriga Nacional - Port's most revered variety, Touriga Francesa ,Trincadeira Preta, Tinta Cão and Tinta Roriz. The white grape types (all of which are in fact included in the blend for our Delaforce White.) are mind boggling in their variety: Malvasia, Viosinho, Arinto, Boal, Codega, Esgana Cão, (literal translation is dog strangler!), Folgosão, Gouveio, Rabigato, (literal translation is tail of the cat!) . Further information on different Port types is available on the Port page here.

Primitivo is an Italian grape, found particularly in Apulia, which used to be thought to be the same grape as Zinfandel in the USA. (It is certainly similar but now reckoned not to be the same.) It tends to produce hefty and sometimes heady reds with lots of brambly fruit. Generally a good foil for the tomatoes that are so widespread in much Italian cooking.

Procyanidins are not a grape type but a constituent of grapes – particularly those varieties in Gascony and Sardinia which undergo long fermentations. Procyanidins are the most active polyphenols limiting the production of a protein that causes constriction of the arteries. Roger Corder of Queen Mary College, London has suggested this may go some way to explain the so called French Paradox. So choosing red wines from the South West of France could help the paradox to become less uniquely French!

Prosecco is an Italian grape, native to the North East of Italy, where it is prized for its late ripening in this relatively cool area. It is used to produce a little still wine but is principally known for its sparkling wine, where often a touch of retained sugar (even if labelled extra dry!) balances well with the slight bitterness of the Prosecco grape, to produce a lovely light refreshing fizz..

Q

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R

Reduction is (the opposite of oxidation) the removal of oxygen. Oxygen, except in very small, carefully controlled, quantities leads to wine spoilage.

Reichensteiner is a white grape crossing of Müller Thurgau, Madeleine Angevine and an Italian grape. It is mostly planted in the Rheinhessen of Germany but is now possibly even more important in England's burgeoning wine industry.

Rice See Sake below

Riesling is the classic grape of Germany where it produces a wide range of differing styles of wine, which are often sweet but display characterful and characteristic balance owing to the high retained acidity of the Riesling grape. This freshness is also the case in New World production, (even sweet 'late harvest versions) although the grapes are generally riper in character and the 'minerality' of Europe is replaced by a 'limey' style. It is a grape of lots of personality quite differently expressed under different conditions.

Rivaner is the synonym for Müller-Thurgau that is used particularly in Luxembourg and England.

Rondinella, Italian grape found in the Veneto that is a minority constituent of Valpolicella. The grape is generally easy to produce, but itself provides little individuality.

Roupeiro is an endemic Portuguese grape which is aromatic and floral but tends to lack staying power unless blended with other varieties for support.

Roussanne is a generally difficult grape to grow found in the Rhône Valley - particularly the North, where it is blended with the easier to produce Marsanne. Roussanne has an aromatic almost herby character.

Ruby Cabernet, workhorse grape found particularly in California where it originated (at University of California at Davis) produced from a Carignan Cabernet cross. It produces bland wine - albeit in a beautiful pretty ruby colour. Consequently single varietal wines are rare and where they exist are rarely worth discovering! Although its name takes after Cabernet its character (or lack of it!) indicates that it really is more of a Carignan child.

Rufete or Tinto Pinheira, Portuguese grape type that is enjoying a small resurgence in the Dão valley particularly. It had originally been less favoured because it was not very productive but its bluish berries are now found to produce an intensity of fruit and aroma that mellows delightfully with age.

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S

Sake is of course not a grape but a style of what is generally considered as 'wine' made from rice. Sake is really made like a rice beer, during which the starch of specially selected, steamed rice (on which a bloom of mould is encouraged to grow) is, with the addition of cultivated yeasts, converted to sugar and then to alcohol and carbon dioxide through fermentation. Once the fermentation - which, for the better grades, is often cool and prolonged - is completed, the liquid is drawn off, filtered, heated, and placed in casks for maturing. None of the carbon dioxide is retained so there is no effervescence. Sake's alcohol ranges from 12 to 16 % - high for beer, low for most spirits, so perhaps that is why it is normally treated as a wine. Like wine Sake too is usually drunk to accompany food. It is colourless (or very pale yellow) and slightly sweet, and is traditionally served warm in small porcelain cups called sakazuki.

Sangiovese is Italy's most widely planted variety and the backbone of Chianti amongst others. A late ripening grape, it generally gives wine of good structure. Sangiovese is also found in Argentina, California and Australia, but the results as single varietals in the New World have not lived up to those of the Old, though often confers a pleasing sprightliness in New World produced blends.

Sauvignon Blanc has now overtaken Chardonnay in popularity. Being a very productive variety it can produce large quantities of wine for modest effort but the result is rather flavourless and unremarkable and shows no sign of the gooseberry and flowering currant character that is the bedrock of its reputation. For this it needs a cool, lengthy ripenening period. This is most obviously found in the Loire and parts of South West France as well as New Zealand. Intriguingly when the variety is grown in Germany it is known as Muscat-Silvaner, which gives an indication of all their characters. Australia has to plant Sauvignon carefully and often pick early to get good results, whilst California seems to have been so used to producing its rather bland style that California Sauvignon is rarely worth its price - even if it is referred to as Fumé Blanc. Chile is also showing that it can produce Sauvignon Blanc of some character especially in its cool climate areas, whilst South Africa, with long experience of white grape growing, also produces good demonstrative examples.

Savatiano is a white grape type that is widely planted in Greece. Capable of producing clean dry whites its character is normally hidden in the Resin scented Retsina of which it is the principal ingredient.

Sémillon (or Semillon if you don't speak French) is a classic white grape of Bordeaux, where with a small quantity of Sauvignon it is vital for the production of Sauternes, Cadillac, and other sweet wines of the region. This blend is also used to produce dry wines particularly in Entre Deux Mers, but these have declined in popularity and the styles that still sell use the rather bland dry Sémillon as a background to show off Sauvignon and Muscadelle. Indeed much the same can be said of its adopted homeland of Australia, where it is used to show off the character of Chardonnay without itself intruding. Other plantings are in America, where in the South it produces bulk wine which is sometimes used in a blend to highlight another variety and in the North is popular with those who want to produce copycat Sauternes.

Sercial or Cerceal in Portuguese is the driest style of Madeira (and must contain a minimum of 85% of the Cerceal grape). The variety retains its fresh, acidic character even when ripe. On the Portuguese mainland this is known, rather confusingly, as Escagna Cão or Dog Strangler! precisely because it retains its acidity.

Seyval Blanc is a hybrid grape bred by Bertille Seyve and amoung the commonest three grape types planted in England.

Shiraz is the Australian name for Syrah and has become synonymous with a different style of wine to that produced in France - to such an extent that Southern French 'varietals' may now display Shiraz to indicate a rich, ripe, upfront style that the locals might consider lacked subtlety. In Australia the variety has what can sometimes be exhibitionist blackcurrant flavours often tamed by blending with the rather more restrained Cabernet Sauvignon. Indeed the blend has become an Australian classic and in a distinct compliment even the French are finding this combination to be the basis of interesting wines (see here.) Though on second thoughts perhaps they always have - as wines from the Rhône Valley (predominantly Syrah) were used to 'improve' the wines of Bordeaux in the nineteenth century. South Africa and Argentina also grow Shiraz and Syrah, generally as single varietals, and tend to take their choice from the actual style of wine they think they have produced. The links to a town in ancient Persia of the same name seem tenuous incidentally, as research suggests its wine was white!

Silvaner or Sylvaner has Eastern Europe as its origin, and is still widely planted in the Czech republic. It came to prominence as Germany's most planted grape before the productive Müller-Thurgau took over. The variety is reputed for its crisp acidity and mild fruit character. New World plantings are hard to find.

The Solera System is a blending system most famously used for sherry that makes consistent the different vintages and preserves the original style of wine as long as the solera remains. Anything from 10 to 30% of wine is removed from the oldest 'scale' (tier) - there may be as few as four or as many as fourteen or more - and wine from the second scale replaces it and so on. Blending is achieved because no barrel is ever emptied. The system is paricularly relevant for flor wines because each barrel is refreshed once a year which provides new nutrients for the flor to continue flourishing.

Stelvin is the most prominent brand of screwcap bottle closure that in wine terms has become generic (like a Hoover!) Originally developed in France (Stel=star, vin=wine) they were widely adopted in Switzerland in the 1980s and in New Zealand in the 1990s and are now used on a much wider scale. The brand is now owned by Amcor, an Australian multinational.

Sulphur and Sulphites Sulphur is the non metallic element and sulphites are the result when sulphur is combined with oxygen and dissolves in water. Use of sulphur is very difficult to avoid in winemaking without adversely affecting wine quality (a noticeable effect is the fault of volatile acidity - perhaps best described as 'vinegariness' which was widespread in times past) both in itself and in its keeping quality. Good winemaking will use sulphur sparingly, though this is easier in wines made in smaller quantities. Generally you play safe with larger volumes and use more wide ranging amounts. Some consumers reckon they have a particular sensitivity to sulphur and its compounds, although small quantities are a naturally occurring result of the fermentation process. These days wines invariably have "contains sulphites" on the label, so avoiding them is often a matter of trial and error. (Owing to clean, modern winemaking, use of Nitrogen, and a tradition of centrifuging rather than sulphuring of the wine for cleanliness Louis Chatel wines, for example, have been found to have low sulphite concentrations.) More information on Sulphur and the implications for Organic Wines are available here.

Syrah is the Rhône's noblest grape, producing as it does the Northern Rhône's Reds almost exclusively and now a good proportion of Châteauneuf du Pape and Gigondas as well. Not as ripe in style as that of Australia's Shiraz the Syrah of France generally struggles to mature fully so is more capable of great depth of flavour, and when aged with care for a period in oak can become a very long lived wine indeed.

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Tannat is the black grape of Gascony that is famously tannic and robust. Skilful vinification by one of the principal producers of the region has now produced a style that is less harsh and emphasises the fruit, but does not lose the complexity. Basque emmigration to Uruguay has meant that this grape has a South American home too, where its vinification is more traditional and versions of good old fashioned mellow maturity can be found. The variety has become more popular since it was approvingly cited as a source of Procyanidins (qv).

Tarrango Australian hybrid red grape (a cross of Touriga Nacional and the white Sultana), which was designed to offer a fruit style that gave lightness and freshness even in the sometimes searing heat of Australia. The results, with one or two notable exceptions, are undistinguished in general terms, though can be pleasant enough if you need a lightweight Australian red.

TCA is short for 2,4,6-Trichloronisole which in the wine world is the principal constituent of what is known as cork taint (often colloquially referred to as 'corked' or 'corky' wine). It exhibits itself most obviously by imparting a pungent, musty or cardboardy smell to the wine. Its origins are a reaction between plant phenols, chlorine and fungus or mould. Chlorophenols are generally pesticides or sterilising agents (remember TCP?) which are used - though now in more limited ways than before - to disinfect and 'clean' natural corks, wooden barrels, pallets and sometimes silicone (often used for barrel bungs). The problems caused by TCA are magnified by the fact that at extremely low levels they cannot be detected by smell and may be harmless or even conceivably beneficial - in chemical analysis they have been found in miniscule quantities in award winning wines. In slightly greater but still tiny quantities they suppress other aromas and flavours and just make a wine seem rather dull, downbeat and muted - which is perhaps their most insidious effect. If TCA appears in quantities greater than tiny it is likely to be excruciatingly obvious that something is wrong. Some humans can smell TCA in quantities as low as 3 in a trillion! The classic cure is the screwcap, but also 'Diam' corks (see above) and Polymer stoppers. Of course if the problem is with an affected barrel you are not much better off - though clearly the concentration in a whole barrel of wine is likely to be less, given the size of the vessel, than in a bottle with an affected cork. Cleanliness of items supplied to the winery is clearly key - and beware of chlorine!

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Tempranillo is best known as the principal ingredient of Rioja, where is ability to age well is important. Being itself of relatively mild flavour it easily shows oak influences and allows other grape varieties to show their character. It is known by a host of other names elsewhere in the Iberian peninsula but still as Tempranillo in Argentina, where it is usually unoaked to make simple appealing fruity red.

Terret Blanc is a variety that was important when Southern French vermouth was. It retained acidity in hot conditions and now retains a place as a minority constituent of many of Southern French appellations.

Tinta Amarela is a synonym for Trincadeira Preta. A dark-skinned plump grape producing aromatic wines which is grown particularly in the Douro (mostly for Port production) and the Dão region. More recently it has been grown with great succcess in the Alentejo, south of Lisbon. It tends to flourish in the heat and when ripe is more than capable of producing complex wines.

Tinta Barocca is a hardy red grape variety where it produces dependable hearty red wine in the Douro and is part of the blend for Port.

Tinta Cão is perhaps the most recently appreciated variety for Port production. It flourishes in the Douro heat and seems to occur nowhere else!

Tinta Miúda is the Portuguese name for the fast disappearing Graciano.

Tinta del País although it means literally country red turns out to be yet another Spanish synonym for Tempranillo.

Tinta Negra Mole is a red wine variety widely planted in Madeira, where it usually makes the sweeter wines. It also occurs in Portugal's Algarve, where its production is lighter weight and dry, and in Spain where it is called just plain Negramoll.

Tinta Roriz is the (Northern) Portuguese name for Tempranillo or Aragones as it is called in Southern Portugal! Tinta Roriz is one of the constituents of the blend of grape varieties that make port.

Tokay Pinot Gris is the Alsatian name for Pinot Grigio. Originally known just as Tokay, which is confusingly the name of Hungary's celebrated sweet wine, the idea is that Tokay Pinot Gris will eventually be known just as Pinot Gris. The different name does serve to emphasise the very different fuller style of wine from that of the nervy Pinot Grigio of Northern Italy.

Torrontés the original white grape of Argentina - though possibly Italian in origin (and almost certainly not Spanish). Needs slow ripening to preserve its acidity and when vinified with extra care can show an attractive aromatic style reminiscent in flavour of the best Viognier, but with a more snappy finish.

Touriga Franca or Francesa is widely grown in the Douro Valley and is probably the most important constituent of Port, where it is deemed to offer a certain delicacy of fruit and aroma. Also used in unfortified wines of the area, where again it tends to impart a certain elegance.

Touriga Nacional is the most revered Port grape variety. Small berried, tannic and with a concentrated flavour. It also is a required minimum constituent (20%) of Dão.

Trajadura is a white grape used in Vinho Verde, where is appreciated for its fuller flavour. Known as Treixadura, when grown in North West Spain.

Trebbiano of ancient Italian origin is known in France as Ugni Blanc and is the most widely planted white grape of Italy. It has the only distinction of retaining fresh acidity even when ripe but has otherwise little character. In Portugal it is known as Thalia. It is also planted in South America, South Africa and even Australia, though in many instances this is for Brandy production (see Ugni Blanc below.)

Trincadeira Preta, usually shortened to Trincadiera, is the Southern Portuguese name for the grape known in the Douro as Tinta Amarela

Twin-top Corks are agglomerated corks which are 'protected' by a layer of pristine natural cork top and bottom and were one of the most successful competitively priced corks before plastics appeared on the scene. Still quite widely used - particularly and most obviously for Sparkling Wine and Champagne.

U

Ugni Blanc known in Italy as the Trebbiano is the workhorse grape of the Cognac and Armagnac distilleries, where it is appreciated for its prolific yields and high acidity. Also occurs widely in the South of France for the same reasons, where it is best avoided unless part of a blend of other more refined grape types.

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V

Verdejo is a classic grape of the Rueda area of Spain where it can produce aromatic and quite full and characterful white wines - though often blended with Sauvignon Blanc or Viura to give even more character.

Verdelho is a Portuguese white grape type found principally on the island of Madeira, where it also gives its name to a style of wine (which must include over 85% of the variety). This style, (probably as a result of tradition rather than any inherent quality of the grape type) makes it richer than the driest, Sercial, but not as sweet as Bual or the sweetest, Malmsey. Verdelho has had success as a varietal wine in Australia where it retains freshness in the heat, and is probably the same variety as the Verdello of Spain and Italy. When grown in the Douro Valley the grape is known as Gouveio, where it helps to make White Port.

Verdicchio is both an Italian wine with a full DOC and a grape, which counts as unusual in Europe. The wine is famous for its amphora shaped bottle and the grape variety is capable of producing clean, attractively fruity, fresh wines, which in dearer examples can offer complexity as well.

Viognier is a variety often described as exotic and lush. It is certainly fashionable, particularly in California, probably as a result of being the grape of the rare and almost impossible to obtain Northern Rhône Château Grillet. Lush examples from California and increasingly Australia are certainly common, where the grape's aromatic qualities - said to be reminiscent of peaches and apricots - shine through. However the wines, whilst attractive, mostly lack any other features. It is still in France where the most complex Viognier is to be found, though the number of inexpensive examples that are angular rather than lush is to beware of. Yet the world's best value Viognier selection - lush and lengthy - is to be found here!

Viura is another name for the Macabeo. As the Viura name was used in Rioja it is probably now more commonly known as Viura. Also used elsewhere in Northern Spain, particularly in Rueda and Cava.

Volatile Acidity (V.A.) is commonly referred to as vinegar taint. Unsurprisingly, it is generally considered a wine fault, though particularly in Bordeaux and - famously - in Château Musar very small quantities are appreciated for the additional complexity they provide. The characteristic needs careful handling as too much can also cause ethyl acetate (qv) levels to increase, which means you get two faults for the price of one.

W

White Zinfandel is the Rosé version of the Red grape Zinfandel, which was originally produced allegedly by mistake by Sutter Home, who thought they would try to produce white wine but failed to separate the red skins in time! The result was surprisingly appreciated and the name stuck..The style is now widely imitated and "White Zin" has become synonomous with a pleasing pink of a straightforward sweetish character, which is now rarely in fact pure Zinfandel. It has been rather slated by purists - onesuch has written "Often dubbed ‘blush’ it embarasses us to say, Zinfandel Rosé is the Americans vinous answer to Coca-Cola but certainly a prettier colour."

X

Xarel-lo is a white grape type important in Cava production in Catalonia. Still wines made from the variety can be quite full-bodied and powerful and generally need 'toning down' with a blend.The variety is known as Cartuxa on the Barcelona side of the Pyrenees.

Y

Z

Zinfandel was long considered to be the same grape as the Primitivo of Southern Italy's Puglia region. In fact it seems to be its twin with the rare Crjenak Kaštelanski (from Central Dalmatia) as the clone mother. (The Croatian grape, Plavac Mali is the nearest local relation still in production.) Zinfandel needs to be properly ripe to show off its slightly peppery full and fruity character. With a little oak treatment it certainly has the capacity to age and achieve a good deal more elegance than in its youth when it can be a little brash, unless carefully vinifed for early drinking. Generally these last are of Italian inspiration, as except when produced for an anonymously blended 'jug' wine the Californians generally like to show off their ageing potential...The variety is also found on a very limited scale in both South Africa and Australia, where the wines tend to be orientated towards the American market.

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