Principal Grape Varieties

Principal Grape Varieties

The grape variety or blend of grape varieties used to make a wine is a key factor influencing the style and quality of wine that is produced. In this blog we’ll share about the main aroma and taste characteristics of the main grape varieties.

You can use these descriptions to assist in analyzing a wine and in determining the types of grapes used to make a wine.However, the wines taste is subjective to different people, there is no right and wrong in tasting wine, so just relax and enjoy your wines!

White Varieties


Chardonnay is one of the most popular and widely planted grape varieties. Chardonnay is the grape used for the white wines of Burgundy in France.  The wines from Chablis come from the coolest part of Burgundy, and have high acidity and a light body. These wines are typically unoaked. Other places well known for producing Chardonnay wines include Australia and California.Chardonnay can also be used in the making of Champagne, where it is often blended with Pinot Noir.

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc produces dry wines that are medium-bodied. They are often fermented in stainless steel tanks and are usually not matured in oak, to retain their characteristic Sauvignon Blanc aromas. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and Sancerre from France are popular wines made from this variety.

Black/Red Varieties

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon produces dry wines, range between medium and full-bodied.  The wines are often matured in oak, which adds flavours of cedar and vanilla.  Due to its high levels of tannins, Cabernet Sauvignon is often blended with other grape varieties, such as Merlot in Bordeaux, which adds softness and body to blend.  It’s also grown widely in California, Australia, Chile and South Africa.  In Australia, it’s sometimes blended with Shiraz, which adds aromas of spice.


Merlot makes wines that are generally dry and medium-to-full-bodied.  They are often matured in oak, giving aromas of vanilla.  Merlot is widely grown in a number of places, such as Chile and California to produce soft, fruity wines.  It’s also commonly blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, which adds tannin and acidity to the blend.  Bordeaux is the most famous region for Merlot-Cabernet Sauvignon blends.

Pinot Noir

Wines made from Pinot Noir tend to be dry and light-bodied, and are often matured in oak, which can give vanilla and clove aromas.  Pinot Noir is the grape used for red Burgundy and it’s the principal black grape in New Zealand.  When producing red wines, Pinot Noir can also be used in the making of Champagne, where it’s often blended with Chardonnay.


This grape variety is known as Syrah in France and Shiraz in Australia.  It produces dry wines that are medium-to-full-bodied.  Many are matured in oak to give flavours of vanilla or coconut to the wine.

The Northern Rhone in France can produce wines that are medium-bodied with fresh black fruit (blackberry) and pepper aromas.  In comparison, warm regions in Australia can produce full-bodied Shiraz wines with jammy black fruit (black cherry) and licorice flavors.