Wine Varieties

  1. White Wine Varieties
  2. Red Wine Varieties









& White Burgundy

Chardonnay always produces a dry wine.  First and best known worldwide as a white Burgundy.  White burgundy is always 100% Chardonnay.  Most often (but not always yielding a wine of tremendous character, magnificent flavor, and an almost “oily” mouth feel with a long complex finish that lasts seemingly forever on the palate.  Chardonnay outside of western Europe is offered big, creamy and juicy with copious amounts of oak.  In Burgundy, it is more complex and long-lived, with less tropical and more mineral and apple flavors. 


Common Descriptors: Apple, Green Apple, Lemon, Pear, Apricot, Butterscotch, Vanilla, Spice, Tropical Fruit, Oak







Pinot Grigio

& Pinot Gris

Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris are in fact the exact same grape variety.  The grape originated in France (from the Burgundian Pinot family), and is known as Pinot Gris in France, where it is most cultivated in Alsace. Across the border in Italy it is known as Pinot Grigio. While French in origin, it is really the Italians that we have to thank for bringing such huge global recognition and fame to the variety. The Italian style Pinot Grigio wines are typically lighter-bodied, crisp, and fresh, with vibrant stone fruit and floral aromas and a touch of spice. In contrast, Alsace Pinot Gris wines are more full-bodied, richer, spicier, and more viscous in texture. They also tend to have greater cellaring and ageing potential. This wine is best when it is young.


Common Descriptors: Melon, Pear, Tropical Fruit, Citrus Fruit, Honey, Smoke,



 Sauvignon Blanc

Sometimes labeled “Fume Blanc”.  This is the principle grape used in the Graves region of Bordeaux.  A very dry wine and generally made lean in style.  Sometimes aged in oak for a richer style, but the true varietal is bone dry and austere. 


Common Descriptors: Grassy, Spicy, Herbaish, Green Apple, Citrus





& Ice Wine

Riesling does very well in central Europe, Canada and in California, and is also grown in Australia and New Zealand. Riesling is affected by where it is grown - New World Rieslings (California and Canada) are dry and have the taste of melons, while German Rieslings are tarter like Grapefruit. Riesling goes very well with oriental dishes. It also goes well with seafood of all types, and is one of the few wines that goes well with chocolate. In Niagara Ontario, Riesling is used in the creation of Ice Wines, as are Vidal grapes.


Common Descriptors: Lively, Fragrant, Fruity, Flowery, Grapefruit, Melon



Grenache is often used for rosé wine, and is common in France, Spain and California. Light in tannins, it produces a lighter-bodied, fruity wine.


Common Descriptors: Raspberry




Chenin Blanc

Widely planted in the Loire Valley in France and is South Africa’s most important grape.  In California, the grape yields a very attractive, soft, light-bodied wine.  It is usually made in dry or semi-sweet style.  A perfect aperitif wine.  This wine is amazingly long-lived, with 20 years or more with good vintages. 


Common Descriptors: Fruity, Pear, Lemon, Soft, Easy Drinking




From a German origin.  This wine is usually finished in a slightly sweet to medium-sweet style to counter the grape’s tendency towards bitterness, but dry versions have also shown well.  A friendly and willing grape of the Muscat family with rich, pungent character and a nose like roses.  Pairs well with dessert.


Common Descriptors: Fragrant, Spicy, Aromatic, Fruity, Turkey/Thanksgiving wine




The finest selection of the Muscat family with several varieties: Muscat Blancs a Petits, Brown Muscat, Muscat d’Alexandria, and Muscat Ottonel.  Muscat Blancs a Petits Grains is the grape of southern French dessert wines, Italian wines, Italian sparklers, and even great Grecian wines.  Grown Muscat is very rich and full in Australia’s Liqueur Muscat’s.  Black Muscat also exists as a very dark variety.



Very widely planted in Italy; more than Sangiovese and Nebbiolo, Barbera is a grape known for its tarry character and low-tannins.


Common Descriptors: Red Fruit, Currents, Blackberries, Smoke, Vanilla, Spice



Cabernet Franc

Closely related to the familiar Cabernet Sauvignon, this grape is being used in the states to make some very interesting wines. It is traditionally used in France as a blending partner in wines, particularly to modulate the character of Bordeaux wines.


Common Descriptors: Herbal notes, tobacco




Cabernet Sauvignon


Almost all California Cabernets are dry and, depending on the produces, range in style from light to extremely full-bodied.  This is one of the Nobel grapes in the Bordeaux region.  Excellent vintages can come into their own only after 5 to 10 years in the bottle. Some styles are made “Ready to Drink” others are “BIG” wines meant to age at length.  It is the Tannin of the skin of the grape that gives it its aging potential.


Common Descriptors: Cherry, Chocolate, Red Berry, Black Berry, Tobacco, Leather, Spice, Vegetal, Earthy, Vanilla, Peppery, Mint, Oak, Tart



Pinot Noir

& Burgundy

This is a very fragile grape.   The most expensive red wines in the world are a group of Pinot Noirs from Burgundy, France…Romanee-Conti.  All red burgundies are 100% Pinot Noir.  This wine can seem light in style, but is generally very intense in flavor.


Common Descriptors: Ripe Berry, Plum, Spice, Vanilla, Soft, Blueberry 




This grape variety has been an important blending partner in Bordeaux along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and others. It has become the most popular red in Argentina and Chile. Deep color, ripe berry aromas and powerful fruity flavors.  Its characteristics fall somewhere between Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. 


Common Descriptors: Ripe Berry, Plum, Anis




Nebbiolo is the predominant grape in the Piedmont area of Italy, where Barolo is made. It's also grown in Switzerland, California and Australia. Its main characteristics would be that of tannic, prune, and chocolate.


Common Descriptors: Prune, Chocolate




A red-wine grape grown in the Tuscany region of Italy. Used to make Chianti and other Tuscan reds. Some versions (clones) include Sangiovese Grosso, and Sangiovese Piccolo. Also grown in California where it is used to produce up-and-coming medium-bodied reds with rich cherry or plum-like tones. 

Common Descriptors: Cherries, Raisins, Earth, Violets





The surprise grape of California that had developed into one of the best red varietal grapes.  Its European origin is unknown.  Zinfandel wine is made in many different styles.  Depending on the producer, the wine can range from big, rich, intensely flavored types with substantial tannin, to very light, fruity wines. 


Common Descriptors: Peppery, Spicy, Black Berry, Red Berry, Woody




Merlot was once thought of as a grape to be blended with Cabernet, because its tannins are softer and its texture more supple.  It is now achieving its own identity as a premium varietal.  It produces a soft, round wine, and generally it does not need the same aging as the Cabernet Sauvignon. 


Common Descriptors: Black Berry, Red Berry, Spice, Blueberry, Mint, Oak, Grapey, Soft




Gamay is a light, fruity wine that should be consumed young, the same as its French counterpart, Gamay Beaujolais, grown in the Beaujolais district of France.  Some domestic Gamays lack the fruitiness associated with the French Beaujolais.


Common Descriptors: Fruity, Light, Easy Drinking




Petite Sirah

Like Zinfandel, the Petite Sirah grape was long used for the blending of generic Burgundies.  The grape yields inky-colored wines that are high in tannin, full-bodied with a spiciness in the aroma, and taste that can stand up to hearty foods.  Excellent with wild game. 


Common Descriptors: Rich, Firm, Deep Fruit, Grapey, Spicy





& Syrah

It is known in France and California as Syrah, and in Australia as Shiraz. The Rhône region of France has grown it for centuries.  You can get some very nice Rhône wines that are 100% Syrah. Syrah can possess a mineral, blueberry, or sometimes spicy/peppery flavor. Some remarkable wines are being produced in Australia, Ontario and South Africa with this grape.


Common Descriptors: Spicy, Rich, Deep Fruit, Grapey, Prunes, Berries



Similar to the Grenache grape of the Rhone Valley in France.  It is mainly used for blending in dry, red wines. 


Common Descriptors: Fruity, Raspberry