Wine Grape Varieties: Learn About The Best Types Of Wine Grapes

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Grapes are widely grown fruits and perennial vines. The fruits are developed on new shoots, called canes, which are useful for the preparation of jellies, pies, wine, and juice while the leaves can be used in cooking. This article discusses which grapes are used to make wine.

What are the Best Grapes for Wine?

To say there are lots of wine grape varieties is an understatement. These include grapes that ripen early in the season, those that are early to mid-ripening, mid to late ripening, and, of course, the late-ripening grapes. The ones you choose will depend on your region and preference.

Early ripening varieties include:

  • Chardonnay
  • Viognier
  • Gamay noir
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Melon
  • Pinot noir
  • Muscat Blanc
  • Orange Muscat

Early mid-ripening varieties are:

  • Arneis
  • Trousseau gris
  • Chenin blanc
  • Tinta madeira
  • Gewurztraminer
  • Tempranillo
  • Malvasia vianca
  • Syrah
  • Semillon
  • Sylvaner

Mid and mid-late ripening wine grape varieties include:

  • Zinfandel
  • Barbera
  • Burger
  • Carnelian
  • Centurion
  • Colombard
  • Freisa
  • Grenache
  • Marsanne
  • Merlot
  • Riesling
  • Sangiovese
  • Symphony
  • Alicante Bouschet
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Sauvignon
  • Cinsaut
  • Dolcetto
  • Durif
  • Malbec
  • Tannet
  • Nebbiolo
  • Valdiguie

The best types of wine grapes which grow at a later time are:

  • Ruby Cabernet
  • Rubired
  • Mission
  • Petit Verdot
  • Muscat of Alexandria
  • Aglianico
  • Carignane
  • Mourvedre
  • Montepulciano

How to Grow Grapes for Home Winemaking

Growing wine grape varieties is a long-term investment. Select a cutting to propagate a new vine, taking one or two cuttings per plant. This should be done in late fall when leaves have dropped.

Cutting should be ¼ inch in diameter and at taken from canes at least a year old. Make the cut just below a bud at a 45-degree angle, then another about an inch (2.5 cm.) above the bud. Three buds should be present on the cutting.

Store cuttings in peat moss sealed with plastic and keep in refrigerator at 40 degrees F. (4 C.) until spring. Additionally, you can also purchase these cuttings from a reputable company at this time.

Planting Wine Grape Varieties

Select a site at home that receives 6 hours of direct sunlight each day. There should not be shade. Grapevines can tolerate pH from 5.5 to 7.5. Well-drained soil is best while fertilizer is not essential for growing grapes. Don’t use herbicides near the grapevine.

At spring planting time, the end of the cutting should be in ground while that nearest the tip should be above ground.

If you purchased the grapevine from a nursery, soak the roots for 3 hours. The hole should be slightly larger than the root system of the grapevine. Keep a 6- to 8-foot (2 to 2.5 m.) distance between plants and 9 feet (3 m.) between rows. Any staking should be around 5 to 6 feet (1.5 to 2 m.) in height.

Irrigate with an inch (2.5 cm.) of water per week for the first growing season. You should not fertilize the plants for the first year.

Pruning and weeding of your wine grapes will be essential in order to get that long sought-after harvest necessary for making your wine.

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A Beginner’s Guide to 24 Popular Wine Grapes

McKenzie Hagan | August 18, 2020

We all know that wine comes from grapevines, but do you know which ones? In this beginner’s guide to wine grapes, we break down 24 of the most popular wine grapes every wine lover should know.

From commonly known grape varieties like Merlot to ones you may have never heard of, like Pinotage, this guide will pull back the curtain on wine making and so you can see what goes into the wine you love.

General Guide to Making Wine from Grapes

This guide covers the basic principles of making wine from grapes. There are some more advanced steps and procedures that can be included in your method of winemaking, but with that being said, if you follow the process outlined below you will be able to craft very pleasant and enjoyable wines at home.

Equipment: Primary fermenter, stirring spoon, hydrometer, siphon tubing kit, 6 gallon carboy, airlock and bung. A thermometer and brewing belt may be used to monitor and control temperature. A grape crusher/destemmer, a wine press, and a filter can be used decrease time and labor.

***Be sure to clean and sanitize anything that your grapes and/or must comes in direct contact with.

The Grapes

The first thing you need to do to make wine from grapes is to source your grapes. Begin at a reputable vendor that takes the proper care in the handling and storage of the grapes. They should be able to tell you about where the grapes are from and the average Brix, pH, and acidity. If possible, inspect the grapes to select the best looking cases that they have available for the style of wine that you would like to make.

After purchasing and receiving your grapes the first step is to remove any foreign and undesirable vineyard material, such as insects and other types of vegetation, and remove any leaves still present in your boxes of grapes.

Try and sort the grapes to remove any moldy bunches, or rotten and spoiled berries. Discard any grapes that look damaged or unhealthy. This can be time consuming, however, it minimizes the risk of some problems down the road in the vinification process.

After sorting your grapes the next step is the crushing and destemming. This is not a required step for white winemaking, although it does make the pressing easier. Crushing and destemming is required for red winemaking, as it plays a major role in what is known as phenolic extraction.

***Phenols often referred to as polyphenolics, polyphenols, or simply phenols, are compounds including many natural color pigments, tannins, and flavor compounds that are present in fruits and vegetables.

Crushing and Destemming

Crushing is the first operation where tannins are extracted. When whole bunch clusters of grapes are crushed, tannins are extracted from the grape skins, seeds, and stems. Of these, the stems are the only tannin imparting component that can be removed prior to crushing.

Destemming is the removal of stems from grape bunches and may be done before or after crushing. If done after, there is more mess and time required, and more tannin will be extracted. The decision on when to destem depends on your equipment at hand, time, and patience. There are various machines on the market that can be used to crush and destem your grapes. Both crushing and destemming can be done by hand without the use of specialized equipment, but the process will be very labor intensive and time consuming.

***Stems especially green, non-woody stems increase pH, which will reduce color intensity, fruitiness, and freshness. Stems add bitter and harsh tannins, that will require longer aging and maturation to become balanced and drinkable.

After crushing and destemming the grapes, a red wine will need to be macerated. Maceration is the process of letting the crushed grape berries soak in the juice before, during, and after fermentation. The process of maceration is to extract phenolics (flavor and aroma compounds) and intensify color. It is during this period that red wines acquire part of their structure, color and flavors, and that wine’s aging potential can be influenced.

Macerating enzymes, such as Pectic Enzyme, may be added to the must at the crush to increase juice yield, tannin extraction and to prevent possible pectin-related problems, such as haze, at bottling time.

White wines do not benefit from maceration, since no color extraction is required and in general tannins are not desirable.

***As a general rule of thumb, the longer the maceration/fermentation period, the more tannins, color, and flavors will be extracted and the more full-bodied and colored a red wine will be.

In white winemaking, either whole (uncrushed) grape bunches, or pre-crushed must, may be pressed. In white winemaking, pressing always takes place prior to fermentation and within a few hours of being crushed. Pressing is the process of extracting the juice from the grapes through pressure. There are several styles and sizes of presses available, choose a size and style that fits your needs. Pressing may also be done by using a nylon straining bag and squeezing the juice out by hand.

***In red winemaking, grapes are first crushed and destemmed, macerated, and fermentation begins. Just before or after fermentation is complete, grape solids (skins, seeds, pulp, and stems) are transferred to the winepress for pressing.

Alcoholic fermentation is the conversion of must into wine, it is the single most vital and critical winemaking procedure. Constant care and supervision during fermentation is a mandatory practice. One of the critical factors, however, is yeast selection. Yeast is more than just a fermentation agent, yeast shapes the style of the wine, influences the wine’s qualities, and reduces the risk of fermentation problems.

Fermentation can start on its own from wild yeasts, which have formed on the grape skins and in the winery. Wild yeast fermentations must be monitored because they are prone to microbial spoilage and the results are not predictable. Controlling wild yeast is easily done with the addition of campden tablets or potassium metabisulfite.

Cultured wine yeast strains are genetically identified, cleaned, and grown in isolated laboratory conditions. Each type has been selected to work best for particular styles of wine or situation during fermentation. When choosing a yeast, consider the following fermentation factors:

  • The style of wine being made
  • The temperature of fermentation
  • Alcohol tolerance of the yeast
  • Rate of fermentation
  • Foam production
  • Flocculation
  • Volatile acid (VA) production
  • Sulfur dioxide (SO2) production
  • Malolactic (ML) compatibility
  • Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) production
  • Nutrient requirements

***See our Wine Yeast Guide to help determine the best yeast for your wine.

Red Wine Fermentation

***Before beginning fermentation, test the must for Brix (SG), titratable acid (TA), pH, and sulfur dioxide (free SO2). Record these measurements and make any adjustments necessary. Testing would be done with a refractometer or hydrometer for sugar content an acid test kit for TA acid test paper or a pH meter to check the pH and a Titrets kit for the sulfite levels.

In red winemaking, following crushing and any cold soak maceration, the initial vigorous fermentation takes place in a large open fermenter, and in order to minimize oxidation, reduce the risk of spoilage, and to keep dust and fruit flies (a major source of acetobacter, mother of vinegar) out, a heavy plastic sheet or tarp is kept over the vessel, which also traps a protective layer of carbon dioxide (a byproduct of fermentation) on the surface of the must. To begin fermentation warm the must to at least 68*F, but not much higher as heat is generated by yeast during fermentation, and add your selected yeast. Twice a day during fermentation the cap (residue of skins and grape particles that float on the must during primary fermentation) needs to be punched down. To do this, remove the cover and using a sanitized spoon, paddle, or plunger, to stir the cap back down into the juice. Continue this until the wine has finished fermenting, which will typically last 7-14 days, depending on fermentation temperature.

When vigorous fermentation has subsided and the Brix (SG) is below -1.3B* (0.995), rack the wine and transfer it to another fermenter, and press the pomace (residual grape skins, solids, stems, and seeds). At this point test the wine, at a minimum for TA, pH, and free SO2. These values will be different from the pre-fermentation test, as fermentation can decrease TA, and raise pH and SO2 levels. Make any adjustments that are needed to balance the wine to the intended style. At this point you can clarify and stabilize the wine however it will improve greatly if allowed to age for up to 6 months in a cool dark place. During the aging period, change the sanitizer in the air lock monthly. Monitor the level of wine in the vessels and top up as needed. Rack the wine again before clarification if the wine has been aged.

***Caution: Fermentation of large volumes of must will release asphyxiating quantities of carbon dioxide gas. To eliminate any potential health hazards, properly ventilate the fermentation area to the outside. And never conduct fermentation in a closed container without the use of a properly functioning air lock, otherwise, the consequences of an exploding fermenter can be disastrous.

White Wine Fermentation

***Before beginning fermentation, test the must for Brix (SG), titratable acid (TA), pH, and sulfur dioxide (free SO2). Record these measurements and make any adjustments necessary. Testing would be done with a refractometer or hydrometer for sugar content an acid test kit for TA acid test paper or a pH meter to check the pH and a Titrets kit for the sulfite levels.

In white winemaking, must should be fermented in a properly air locked fermenter. In most cases there is no requirement for color or tannin extraction, therefore there is rarely a pre- or post-fermentation maceration, and there is no need for a hot fermentation. In fact, a cooler fermentation in conjunction with an appropriate yeast strain is most beneficial for optimal flavor and aroma development, and has a number of benefits essential to making fruit-forward wines. Fermentation for white wine is usually carried out between 55*F and 65*F, this slows it down allowing for slower aromatic development and may take several weeks, depending on temperature and Brix. The cool temperature and slower fermentation also preserves the more subtle and delicate flavors and aromas that may be volatilized with an otherwise vigorous fermentation. Once the wine reaches a Brix (SG) of -1.3B* (0.995) the fermentation is complete and the wine may be racked and transferred to another vessel. At this point the wine should be tested for TA, pH, and free SO2. After making any necessary adjustments the wine may be clarified and stabilized.

***Caution: Fermentation of large volumes of must will release asphyxiating quantities of carbon dioxide gas. To eliminate any potential health hazards, properly ventilate the fermentation area to the outside. And never conduct fermentation in a closed container without the use of a properly functioning air lock, otherwise, the consequences of an exploding fermenter can be disastrous.

Clarification is the general class of physical and chemical stabilization processes used to achieve and maintain clarity throughout the wine’s life, and includes racking, fining, and filtration.

Wine is clarified throughout the winemaking and vinification by several rackings or transfers, and if desired, by fining following fermentation, and optionally by filtration prior to bottling. You can rack a wine as little or as often as you deem necessary, but be cautious of the negative effects of over processing and extended exposure to air. A clear wine requires a minimum racking schedule of:

  • Following alcoholic fermentation.
  • Post fermentation, when the Brix (SG) has stabilized at -1.3B* (0.995) or lower for at least 2 weeks.
  • After fining and stabilization.
  • After aging and the wine is ready for bottling.

Racking will always results in a smaller volume of clear wine as the sediment volume is separated and discarded. This lost volume should always be replaced immediately, with a wine of similar style. Testing for free SO2 should be done throughout the aging and racking process to be certain that the wine is still protected against spoilage bacteria and to protect against unwanted oxidation.

Stabilization through fining and filtration is the clarification of a wine through chemical or mechanical means. There are many chemical fining agents available including bentonite, isinglass, kieselsol, gelatin, Sparkaloid, and SuperKleer. These products aid in the binding of suspended solids in the wine into larger clumps that then precipitate out, leaving a film on the bottom of the vessel, of which the clear wine will need to be racked off. Fining can be the last step prior to bottling, and should always be done prior to filtration, to avoid clogged filtration pads. Filtration is done by forcing the wine through a filter pad by gravity or the use of a pump. There are typically three levels of filtration: coarse, polish, and sterile. Coarse filtration removes any particulate larger than 8 microns. Polish filters remove anything larger than 2.5 micron. The sterile filters remove anything larger than 0.5-1 micron, which includes yeast and bacteria.

Once your wine has been clarified, stabilized, and aged to the where you would like the wine, it's time to bottle. Once bottled your wine will need additional time to mature in a cool dark place.

Every grape has its unique flavor and character. These traits form the significant characteristics found in red wine and other wines. So it’s vital to know the best types of grapes for red wine to get the best quality.

1. Carmenere

Carménère is Chile’s most common grape, as well as the one with the most interesting background. It was originally cultivated in France and has been used to make red wines for years. It’s a part of the Cabernet family. Its name, which means “crimson” refers to fall colors that thrive during harvest.

Carménère is a late ripening grape which can be tough to grow. It thrives best in warm or moderate climates, but farmers must be careful of rain as well as irrigation toward harvest time.

2. Grenache

Grenache is a dark grape grown all over the world for use in creating red wines. It’s the most frequently used grape in Rhone blends, but in Spain, it is typically made into a special grape. It’s undoubtedly one of the most cultivated red wine grapes today.

Grenache is pale, fruity, semi-translucent, and sweet and mostly used to brighten and lighten heavier reds. Its aroma is that of candied sweet red fruits and spice such as pepper and cinnamon.

3. Malbec

This is a purple grape which is used in red wine. It’s one of the 6 grapes used in the Bordeaux wine. As well as being associated with Bordeaux, this grape is referred to as an Argentinian varietal. It’s grown worldwide.

Malbec grapes are known for their dark rich colors, and they are often termed as dark purple. They are also known for their earthiness.

Malbec wine also pairs well with steak and other red meats.

4. Merlot

Merlot is a dark grape with a blue skin which is used in blends as well as single varietals. It’s associated with California, Bordeaux, Australia and Chile. It is used in blends to lessen the harshness of other tannins and grapes.

This wine’s taste and appearance vary on whether it’s produced using International Style or a more traditional method used in Bordeaux. The New World Merlots are inky and purplish with notes of plum and blackberries. Traditional Bordeaux Merlots are often lighter in color. They taste of garden-fresh red fruits and contain a leafy or vegetal strike.

5. Nebbiolo

This is an Italian grape used in Ghemme, Barolo, Barbaresco, and Gattinara. It’s mostly linked to the Piedmont region. It’s a grape that produces unusual flavors after production and lots of years of aging.

The color of the Nebbiolo is light, ruby red. A few winemakers find this color unappealing and add other grapes in a bid to make the color a bit deeper.

Nebbiolo is also known for its strong flavor which includes harsh tannins. The flavors include chewy, earthy ones like licorice and anise. It is an extraordinarily strong wine, but if aged properly, its taste is fantastic.

The Best Fruits for Making Homemade Wine

Wine can be made from more than just grapes. In many ways, grapes are the easiest fruit from which to make wine, but we also have a lot of expectations for wine made from grapes, a lot of ideas of how it should taste. Plus, wine made from grapes is widely available, so unless you’ve planted vines specifically to make wine, it’s worth exploring other options. Get a sense of what kinds of wine different fruits will yield with the guide below. Be sure to check out Homemade Fruit Wine to get started.

Apples make a light white wine that is best when aged at least 2 years. That helps make them a good base wine for blending.

Blackberries yield a bold red wine, best when aged 2 years. Blackberries combine beautifully with apples or pears.

Blueberries make a light rosé that is ready to drink after just 1 year.

Cherries create a delicious jewel-tone cherry wine that is great for holidays and special occasions. Let it age at least 2 years.

Grapes make for fast, clean fermentation, which at least partly explains why they’re the top fruit for winemaking. You can harness their power by blending with other fruits.

Peaches are messy to use, but peach wine delivers great aroma in a full-bodied white wine.

Pears make a wine that can taste flat on its own but is much improved when combined with raspberries.

Plums get chopped up to ferment and create a wine with excellent character and color matures young and is ready to drink after 1 year.

Raspberries make delicious wine on their own, and they’re useful for improving the color and aroma of other wines.

Rhubarb takes longer than other fruits to age into fully developed, drinkable wine (maybe that’s because it’s technically a vegetable?)—up to 4 years—but it’s easy to make.

Strawberries make a sweetheart of a wine, but it has a long fermentation period, so don’t rush to bottle it. It’s best when aged for at least 1 year.

Inspired by Homegrown Pantry, © by Barbara Pleasant, photography by © Kip Dawkins Photography. Used with permission from Storey Publishing.

12 Types Of Grapes That Make Great Wine

Grapes are perennial vines and widely grown fruits, which are developed on new shoots known as canes. These are beneficial for preparing wine, pies, jellies, and juice, while the grapes’ leaves can be used for cooking purposes.

If you’re wondering what grapes make great wine, below are the different types of grapes that are commonly used to produce a variety of wines:

One of the most delectable grape varieties for winemaking is Pinot Noir, which is often compared to Gamay wine because of its abundance of flavors.

When it comes to wine innovation, Gamay wine is a less known variety than Pinot Noir, but it makes a perfect addition to any dinner party because of it offers diverse pairing options and has light body. Plus, it’s a less expensive option.

However, what makes Pinot Noir a better choice is that it’s also an intricate grape variety that’s known to be difficult to cultivate still, many wine enthusiasts are willing to pay a high price for its delicate cedar, red cherry, and pomegranate flavors.

Pinot Noir is also being cultivated in New Zealand, Germany, Baden, and Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

Also referred to as Primitivo, Zinfandel is a black-skinned wine grape variety that’s grown in several California vineyards. Typically, the grapes produce red wine, and in the US, a semi-sweet rose wine known as White Zinfandel is more popular than the red wine variety.

The red wine’s taste depends on the ripeness of the grapes. If the grapes are from a cooler region, red berry fruit flavors predominate. In warmer areas, pepper and anise notes are more common in Zinfandel wines.

  • Cabernet Sauvignon

Renowned as one of the most widely recognized red grapes in the world, Cabernet Sauvignon is cultivated and grown in all well-known and major wine producing locations, such as Napa Valley, Australia, Bordeaux, Tuscany, South Africa, and Sonoma County, among others.

This black-skinned grape produces a dark, acidic, and dense wine profile. Cabernet Sauvignon wines are known for their noticeable acidity, high tannins, and full body.

Riesling is often produced in Germany’s Rhine region. Known for its highly acidic profile, Riesling also has a flowery aroma. This variety’s flavor depends on the region where it’s planted Wines made from Riesling pair well with spicy dishes, like Asian and Indian cuisines.

It’s considered as one of the most versatile varieties of grapes that originated from the Loire Valley vineyards in France. The wine’s flavor and the grape’s sweetness can be altered to adapt to your taste buds. Chenin Blanc wines are best when paired with oysters and pulled pork dishes.

It’s a red wine grape known as the primary grape of France’s Southern Rhone wine region, where it’s usually blended with Mourvedre and syrah grapes. Unlike some grapes, Grenache ripens quickly, which makes violet-scented, high alcohol wines full of red fruit flavors.

Also, Grenache is grown in the Languedoc-Roussillon region in France, Central Valley in California, South Australia, and northern Spain.

It’s a white wine grape variety that’s grown across the globe, from Champagne and Burgundy in France, to southern hemisphere countries, like South Africa and Australia.

Chardonnay can be floral and citrusy, but it’s excellent in different winemaking techniques since it has a little aroma. Usually, Chardonnays range from acidic and steely to spicy, butter, and lush, depending on the climate where it was cultivated.

Despite originating in France, Malbec became more popular in Argentina, where it’s grown extensively to make the finest wine variety.

When cultivating Malbec, it requires hot weather to ripen quickly. Often blended with other wines, Malbec produces full-bodied red wine and perfectly matches poultry and red meat.

  • Sauvignon Blanc

If you’ve tried a Chardonnay and enjoyed white wine or green-skinned grapes, you’ll also like the Sauvignon Blanc grape variety. Originally from France, other notable regions, such as New Zealand, Ukraine, California, and South Africa, are also cultivating this species.

Compared to other wines that taste good as they age Sauvignon Blanc grapes are known to taste best while still young. So, take note of this when buying a bottle of wine from this grape variety. However, most wine experts use the terms ‘fresh, crisp, and elegant’ when describing Sauvignon Blanc, so you might want to try it when you’re looking for a wine that fits your preferences.

  • Shiraz Or Syrah

It’s a red wine grape known as Shiraz in Australia and Syrah in France.

French Syrah has moderate to high levels of acidity and tannins, and it’s rarely aged in an oak barrel. On the other hand, Australian Shiraz is known for its more robust tanning, riper fruit, and high alcohol content. In both countries, this red grape variety shows notes of boysenberry, smoked meat, violet, and olive.

It’s a grape variety with a dark blue skin that’s used in single varietals and blends. It’s associated with Australia, Chile, Bordeaux, and California. But, it gained fame as the key grapes in Bordeaux wines from the Right Bank of the region, where it’s blended with Cabernet Franc. Now grown throughout the world, Merlot has fruit flavors of blueberry and plum, and comes with a velvety texture.

Merlot is often used in blends to lessen the harshness of tannins and some grapes. This wine’s taste and appearance differ, depending on whether it’s produced using The New World style or the traditional methods.

New World Merlot wines are inky and purplish, with notes of plum and blackberries. The conventional Bordeaux Merlots are lighter in color and clearer. They also have a taste of red fruits and contain a leafy or vegetal strike.

It’s a grape variety used for making red wines. In central Italy, the best wines are made from Sangiovese. Unlike other grapes, it produces full-bodied or medium-bodied wines, with moderately high tannins and high acidity levels. Sangiovese wines often have black and red cherry, herb, leather, and tobacco notes.


Whether you’re a beginner who likes to get familiar with the types of grapes that make great wine, or you’re a budding enthusiast who wants to know more about the regional roots of grapes, it can be overwhelming to dive into the expanding world of winemaking.

However, with the above information, you can be assured that you’ll learn about the different types of grapes used for making wines, which can be helpful when you’re looking for the right wine suited for your taste or preferences.

Step 20: Cork the Bottles

Screw the caps on tight, being careful not to damage the thread. Bring a pan of water to the boil, turn it off and put the corks on the top, with a lid on, and leave for a few minutes to soften.

Use a bottle corker to push the corks into the bottles. The corker will come with instructions. For this one you put the cork inside it, put the handle in and then push the handle down, pushing the cork into the bottle.

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Watch the video: What Are The Main Grape Varieties In Burgundy?

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