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wine in vineyard

The Noble Grapes

While there are between 5,000 to 10,000 varieties of vitis vinifera (wine grapes) in the world only a percentage of these are made commercially. A good estimate is roughly 1,400 different varieties that are made and sold all over the globe. This single blog will cover every single one of those varieties.

Yeah right! We have kids, jobs and wines to drink so we will be focusing on the main group, the noble varieities, and the alternates. There has historically been 6 red and 6 white noble varieties but overtime the list has expanded. Now there are up to 18 noble varieties (9 white and 9 red) which are considered the common varieties people will know. Pretty much everything else is termed an alternate. While the noble varieties are well-known, the “alternates” are becoming more and more popular and even have their own contest in Mildura every year. (Yeah I know Mildura, but hey the wines are bloody good and I will cover some of those in the next blog.)

This blog however will give you a little history of the grape, description of the wine, price points you can expect to pay and food to pair the style of wine with.

Enjoy and book a tour today to find out even more cool stuff!

Noble White Varieties:

  1. Pinot Grigio – A grape originally from northern Italy which makes light, crisp wines with stone fruit and high acidity. The same grape will make Pinot Gris which is a more full bodied, viscous and spicier which can cellar for a while. Entry level wines will be $15 – $20 and worth the money. More expensive versions ($60+) can be worth the money if you want to splash out. * {With any wine splurging do some research on the vintage once you pick the wine} Pair with an oily seafood as Pinot Grigio and Viognier have a nice oily/waxy texture that matches that type of seafood well. Pasta and chicken dishes go very well too. (Creamy Smoked Salmon Pasta, Lemon Chicken Piccata)
  2. Riesling – This versatile grape comes from the Rhine region of Germany and makes dry to sweet wines with beautiful aromatics (great noses), honey and stonefruit. They are gorgeous young but can age very well and are worth cellaring. Also makes great dessert wines as the grape has a thick skin and can stand further ripening. For a good starter Riesling it’s worth spending $20-$25 but moving up to $40-$50 can increase the quality tremendously. For a dry Riesling pair with a light citrus seafood dish while ones with a bit of sweetness (residual sugar) go wonderfully with spicy Asian dishes. A dessert Riesling will go wonderfully with a glass in our opinion but if you must eat then a light fruit/citrus tart would be close to heaven. (If you’re lucky enough to have a high metabolism or unlucky enough to work out then have some vanilla ice cream with the Riesling poured over with the tart. You won’t regret it.)
  3. Sauvignon Blanc – While everyone in the world knows Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc it originally comes from the Loire Valley in France and is the grape of a wine called Vouvray. It is usually a light, crisp dry white but can be made using oak which makes it more medium bodied. It can have gooseberry, passionfruit flavours with grassy and herbaceous smells. Most Sauvignon Blancs are meant to be drunk that year if not the day you buy it. You can definitely find an easy drinking Sav starting around $10-$15 but $30 will get you quality and top end will be $60+. It’s a great wine to drink with friends on the sunny verandah but goes well with cheeseboards as well.
  4. Chenin Blanc – A variety from the Loire Valley as well this used to be popular back in the 80’s/90’s but lost that spot to Sauvignon Blanc after the Marlborough boom. Chenin Blanc has more citrus and stonefruit flavours than Sav, is usually dry and ages very well. Good entry level ones are around $20-$25 and you won’t see many more than $40. Depending on the style (light or textured) it can go well with just a glass, a cheeseboard or a light chicken dish.
  5. Moscato – A sweet wine made from Muscat Blanc grapes originally from France. It has varied flavours consisting of honey, citrus, pear and spice. It’s usually lower in alcohol and are light aperitif style wines. Entry level Moscato’s can be $5-$10 but if you are looking for one it’s worth forking out the $20-$25 for a good quality one. Moscato pairs best with gin, a slice of lime and a bit of mint
  6. Gewürztraminer – This German grape can be made dry, slightly sweet or in a late harvest dessert style wine. It’s very aromatic with lychee and sweet spice. There isn’t as much Gewurz as other varieties so you’ll pay $20-$25 for an entry level and $40-$50 for a good quality one. These wines will pair well with duck, chicken or pork and especially if made with herbs and spices.
  7. Semillon – Semillon, originally from France, has adopted Australia (Hunter Valley in particular) as its second home. It makes light dry and slightly sweet wines but is a very prominent dessert wine grape as it’s susceptible to botrytis rot. You will also see this blended with Sauvignon Blanc as it adds a bit of texture and oily waxy texture to the wine which goes well with the light fruitiness of the Sauvignon Blanc. A decent beginner Semillon will start around $10 with good quality wines affordable at $20-$25. The dessert versions will be $20-$25 as well but are usually smaller bottles, around 375 ml instead of the normal 750 ml. Any sweet and spicy Asian dish would match Semillon perfectly.
  8. Viognier – As many others have this grape originates in France but has been spread throughout the world. It has a nice thick skin which can produce full bodied wines with a waxy texture, floral nose, stonefruit characteristics and can be made dry or slightly sweet. It’s an interesting variety that can be tough to make by itself but it helps balance a lot of wines and is commonly used in blends. This is the most popular white wine used in co-ferments {see glossary} with red grapes (particularly Shiraz). A good Viognier will start at $20 – $25 with a few getting up to $35 – $40. Get the wok out as these wines go very well with spicy Asian dishes, seafood and grilled chicken.
  9. Chardonnay – One of the most well-known white varieties around the world, this versatile French Grape can be made into many styles but predominantly dry wines with citrus and stonefruit. The use of oaks can alter the wine from a light crisp style to a big heavy, buttery style. It’s worth it doing some research on what style you like and what producers do what styles. A nice light easy drinking Chardonnay will be $15 – $20 with good quality ones charging $35 – $40. Upper level Chardy’s can charge $60+ and can possibly cellar for 15-20 years. Lighter Chardonnay’s go very well with shellfish, seafood or grilled chicken while a heavier one pairs wonderfully with a creamy chicken dish.

Noble Red Varieties:

  1. Pinot Noir – This red grape from Burgundy in France is maybe the most well-known red variety that means pine and black hence the spicy earthiness Pinot Noir’s usually have. It is a thin-skinned grape that can be fickle and tough to grow hence the prices are usually a bit higher than some other red varieties. A good starter Pinot Noir will start around $25 -$30 but a better quality one can be $45 – $50. Most are made to drink young but they can have long cellaring potential. Lighter Pinot’s pair well with fatty fish dishes or roasted chicken while bigger, more tannic one’s go great with gamey dishes including duck, turkey or casseroles.
  2. Grenache – Grenache originates from the Rhone Valley in France but is well-known in Spain and many other parts of the world. Grenache needs a lot of heat to ripen therefore loves hot climate regions and has gorgeous dark fruits, spicy pepperiness and a bit of meatiness. They can be heavy but usually are medium bodied (very popular Rose grape as well) and generally have a nice dry finish which makes them very food friendly. Most Grenaches (of all qualities) will be between $20 and $40 but some can push $60+. They pair very well with many foods including seafood, red meats or spicy dishes.
  3. Merlot – A nice lighter grape that tends to be fruity and easy drinking. This Bordeaux variety is usually quite smooth with darker fruits such as black cherry, raspberry and plum. It goes well in blends and can range from light cool climate wines to big, heavy hot climate wines. This variety goes extremely well blended with Cabernet Sauvignon. Spend $15 – $20 for a good entry Merlot with really good quality ones charging $40 – $50. Merlot goes very well with stews and slow cooked meats.
  4. Sangiovese – This variety comes from Tuscany in central Italy and is the base of Chianti; arguably the most well-known Italian variety globally. Sangiovese has nice savory or earthy characteristics which is nicely balanced with the cherry fruit is always exhibits. They can be light and smashable or big and heavy with good cellaring potential. A good entry Sangiovese will put you back $20 – $25 while one to show off to friends would push $70 – $80. This is always a great pizza wine but also goes very well with any fatty roasted red meats or hard cheeses.
  5. Nebbiolo – This Italian variety from northwest Italy makes the well-known Barolo and Barbaresco wines that wine people talk about and covet. This grape makes lightly colored red wines which can be high in tannin which means they can have great aging potential. Younger Nebbiolo’s can show tar, dark fruit and floral characters while older ones allow more wild herbs, cherries and earthiness. Look to spend $20 – $25 for a good young entry level Nebbiolo with good quality one’s worth taking to a mates for dinner pushing $35 – $40. Barolo and Barbaresco wines are made to go with truffles while other Nebbiolo’s can pair well stews, slow braises or rich pasta.
  6. Tempranillo – This variety is predominately grown in Spain but is very popular in the new world as well including Australia. It generally has red fruit flavors that also have a spicy earthiness to it. It’s generally light in color but packs a lot of flavor and is medium to heavy bodied. A variety you see a lot by itself but goes well in blends as well adding nice earthy fruitiness. Expect to spend $15 – $20 for an entry level Tempranillo and $30 – $40 for a good quality one. A BBQ with grilled meats and some roasted vegetables on the side would be the perfect match for almost any Tempranillo.
  7. Cabernet Sauvignon – This extremely well-known grape originates from France but is grown all over the world. It makes the most well balanced full bodied red wines in the world but can have a range of styles and flavors. They can be medium bodied with light flavors but tannin and body that sits on your tongue for a long time. Or they can produce big, heavy, full body and fruity wines that pack a lot of flavor and can last the whole night. The region it’s grown and producer determine the style and flavor however they can exhibit earthiness, spice, dark fruit, savory tastes or any combination of all of these and more. A decent entry level Cab Sav will be $15 – $20 with really good quality reasonable ones charging $70 – $80+. The weight and tannin in Cabernet Sauvignon help it pair well with red meats and food with umami flavors.
  8. Syrah – France is the home to this well-known variety that is often called Shiraz in Australia {In Australia Shiraz will be warm/hot climate wines and Syrah will be cooler climate wines or style} and is what we’ve become known for. They usually are dark colored wines with red and dark fruits that jump out of the glass and have a nice peppery finish to them. Like most wines nowadays they are generally made to drink sooner rather than later but can age for 10 -15 years. Good starting Shiraz’s will be $20 – $25 with higher quality ones $60 – $80. Syrah has very bold tastes to it and therefore pairs well with bold foods. Roasted game dishes, BBQ’s and soft cheeses will go well with any Shiraz.
  9. Malbec – This grape originates from France but has claimed Argentina as it’s new home in todays wine world. These wines tend to have a really dark color that’s like ink and with robust tannins that can bode well for ageing. It blends very well adding dark red and purple fruits and body. Single variety wines can be very big and need time to soften or red meat to pair with. Good entry level Malbec’s will be $20 – $25 a bottle with high quality ones going for $50 – $60. Any lean cuts of meat such as sirloin or skirt steak would pair brilliantly with a Malbec.