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A grape varietal is a strain of vine. There are nearly 10,000 varieties, belonging to the Vitis Vinifera species native to Asia Minor. A distinction is made between table grapes eaten fresh or dried and specific wine grapes intended for vinification. After domestication a few millennia ago, the species has mutated by crossbreeding between varieties to promote resistances, better yield or other desirable traits. Around a hundred varieties are grown, of which a dozen are dominant.

Learning about wine via a grape variety approach involves knowing how to detect their distinguishing characteristics in order to better understand the role of the terroir: A Chardonnay vinified in Burgundy will not have the same profile as an Australian Chardonnay. We also learn to identify them in the composition of blended wines. A real challenge in blind tastings!

Black Grape Varieties

  = Widely used grapes
  = Lesser used grapes

White Grape Varieties

  = Widely used grapes
  = Lesser used grapes

Our Grape Varietal Guide
Here is everything you can expect to learn about each grape type





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Regions and AOCs, where to find wines made of a particular grape? 
Locate main production areas and corresponding appellations

Vin français pinot gris


The French regions in which they are established

Vins du monde pinot gris


Global localisation

Mono-varietal or blended, discover the organoleptic characteristics specific to the grape variety according to the types of wine it produces :
White wine, red wine, rosé wine, sweet or sparkling wine

Vins blanc pinot grigio


Is its color pale yellow or golden?. Which aromas can be perceived: white fruits or exotic fruits? Does the nose pop more floral, or spicy? Which type of white wine does it produce given its terroir and whether it is blended or not?

Vins rouges


Is its color bright red or more brick-like?. Which aromas will you smell, how tannic is it? Does the nose pop more fruity, or spicy? Which type of red wine does it produce given its terroir and whether it is blended or not? 


Is its colour pale salmon or intense pink? Does the palate offer freshness, fruitness or floral notes? Is the nose tart? Which type of rosé wine does it produce given its terroir and whether it is blended or not?

Let yourself be guided with a few culinary pairings suggested according to each type of wine

Vins blanc pinot grigio


Aperitif, tapas, seafood? Barbecue or aperitif? Or a fine cuvee to be relished with a gastronomic dish?

Vins blanc pinot grigio


Red meats, dishes in sauce, or grills or exotic specialties, what will you match it with?

Vins blancs sucre


Cheese, desserts, fish, seafood, poultry - so many dishes to enhance these grape variety, which will you choose?


What is a grape variety in relation to wine?

The specific vines that are grown due to their wine making properties

There are a wide variety of grape varieties, more than 10,000, all descended from the same Vitis Vinifera ancestor whose origin dates back to the Tertiary era, some forty-five million years ago!

Over the centuries, man has tamed the wild grape varieties that seemed to adapt best to the soil and climate, by domestication. Crosses were made to obtain better resistance and yields. Among them, black grape varieties (essentially red wine) are separated from white grape varieties (essentially white wine). Sometimes the same grape variety is found under a different name depending on the latitude.

There are 210 indigenous grape varieties used in the production of French appellations, and 400 in Italy. In some wine-growing regions, such as Alsace, the selection is so ancient, so integrated into tradition that the grape variety replaces location to denominate the terroir. Sometimes the wine comes from a single grape variety (monocépage), sometimes it is the result of the association of several blended. Broadly speaking, black grape varieties produce red wine, and white grape varieties produce white wine. Some grape varieties prosper in the cool northern regions (Pinot Noir, Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Gamay...), while others prefer warm to temperate, southern areas (Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet-Sauvignon, Mourvèdre...).

The value of knowing them

The approach to wine tasting via grape varietals is very interesting. Learning to explore them is a great way to learn to understand one's taste in wine while traveling through the terroirs. The grape variety approach as an identifier of the style of a wine is quite recent. It is linked to the progress of ampelography: the study of grape varieties, (its etymology comes from ancient Greek 'ampelos' (vine) and 'graphein' (to write)).

This method is valued more by nontraditional wine countries, who are looking for a structured system of definition rather than by tradition or geography. The new world wine-producing countries often work their wine with a single grape variety (without blending several), and vine varieties imported from Europe adapt well to these types of climate. This is also another reason why these newer wines do not have a geographical denomination or a controlled appellation of origin: it is the grape variety that is given pride of place and takes precedence over the origin (terroir). This is something that is sometimes reproached as the notion of terroir is absent, and because little work is perceived to done by the winemaker.

Finally, we can learn to identify grape varietals in blended wines thanks to their organoleptic characteristics.


All vine varieties are descended from a single variety called 'Vitis Vinifera' by the botanist Linné. It is said to date from the Tertiary Age. Some say that the northern vineyards are the result of the ancient indigenous vines (wild vines), while others believe that humans domesticated the species by selecting those that were better adapted to the soil and climate. The experts have therefore not always agreed on the parentage of different grape varieties. Ampelography and modern scientific techniques have dispelled doubts by tracing the DNA of some varieties under dispute.

Like all great human works, the discovery of wine is claimed by most of the civilizations of the time. The Egyptians attribute it to Osiris, the Armenians to Noah, the Greeks to Dionysus and the Romans to Bacchus, divine and greedy gods. According to Herodotus, the Persians were already fond of wine, and when they discussed a serious problem of the state, they did so twice: once on an empty stomach and once under the influence of wine. Wine from the Caucasus, known as the oldest wine in the world, once reached the shores of the Persian Gulf.

This world was the forerunner of many sciences and techniques and took on the task of regulating the production and marketing of wine. With incredible discernment, they made a distinction between "plain wines" for everyday consumption and "mountain wines" reserved for priests and noblemen. In 3000 B.C. the Egyptians planted vines to produce "funeral wine". At the same time, it is known that the Chinese were already drinking wine. Grape, wheat or rice wine? Still, they used it to ferment cabbage and make the ancestor of sauerkraut that we know today.

In Babylon in 2000 B.C., the famous code of Hammurabi regulated the purchase of wine. A merchant who cheated on quality and quantity had to be thrown into the water. The Greeks planted their grape varieties in their preferred region: Tuscany. Today it is still the province that offers the best Italian wines. The appearance of the vine in Gaul: We must give Caesar back what belongs to him because it was the Romans who organized the main and prestigious vineyards of France.

The Gauls, fierce Celts and strong drinkers of cervoise would prove to be excellent winemakers! They were the ones who conceived the idea of keeping wine in oak barrels, whereas the Romans, Greeks and Phoenicians and all their predecessors knew only the wineskins and amphoras that were not very suitable for maturation. French wine was so well exported to Rome that the Emperor Domitian had the vines pulled out to eliminate competition for Italian winegrowers. With the collapse of the Roman Empire, the church took over, Popes, bishops and monks reigned over the largest estates. Burgundy wines benefited from the influence of the abbeys of Cluny and Cîteaux for example. Until the Revolution, it was the wines of Paris and Orleans and Champagne that were to hold the upper hand, as the difficulty of transporting the wines only encouraged cultivation as close as possible to the places of consumption. In the 19th century, the railways transported large quantities of wine from the South of France to water "the working masses". Languedoc Roussillon gained an unfortunate reputation there. The phylloxera disease ravaged ¾ of the French grape varieties.

Thanks to Pasteur's discoveries, French vineyards recovered from the ruin, and the quality improved to reach what we know today: among the best wines in the world. The Appellations d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) rigorously determines which grape varieties can be used to make an AOC wine and in what proportions. Other, freer winegrowers make wines from France far from the regulations by practicing the game of blending with more freedom to produce wines that are just as interesting. More common abroad, varietal wines (made from a single grape variety) also find their place in the French production landscape and arouse the curiosity of experts. An approach that also adapts well to the climate changes of our era.

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