What Grapes Go Into That Wine?

With most domestic (and other New World) bottles, one usually knows what grapes went into making it— it’s right there on the label. But many wines from France, Spain, and Italy are named by their place of origin rather than their grape content. 

So in the case of wines labeled Bordeaux, or Côtes du Rhône, or Chianti, or Rioja, it can be difficult to determine the exact grapes used to make them, assuming you really want to know. This is not an exhaustive list, but here’s a rundown of some grapes known to be used in several familiar wine region bottlings. 

  • FRANCE—a country steeped in the tradition of naming wines after their place of origin, and easily the first place to look for translating place names to grapes.     
    • Bordeaux—five classic Bordeaux grapes are blended in making red Bordeaux wines: cabernet, cabernet franc, merlot, malbec, and petit verdot. Although the wine is a blend, one grape usually dominates— either cabernet or merlot. Three grapes are often blended in making white Bordeaux wines: sauvignon blanc, sémillon, and muscadelle; usually one of the first two dominates.
    • Burgundy—pinot noir for red wines; chardonnay for white wines.
    • Beaujolais—gamay (red wines only)
    • Chablis—chardonnay (white wines only)
    • Champagne—pinot noir, pinot meunier, chardonnay. 
    • Languedoc-Roussillon—for red wines, blends will be some combination of grenache noir, syrah, cinsaut, mourvèdre, and carignan; for white wines they will be blends of grenache blanc, marsanne, roussanne, and picpoul blanc.
    • Loire—for red wines, cabernet franc-based blends; for white wines, either chenin blanc or sauvignon blanc.
    • Côtes-du-Rhône—for red wines, blends will be some combination of grenache noir, syrah, cinsaut, mourvèdre, and carignan; for white wines,  blends of grenache blanc, marsanne, roussanne, and picpoul blanc.
    • Condrieu—viognier (white wine only)
    • Cornas—syrah (red wine only)
    • Côte Rôtie—syrah, viognier (a red and white grape, usually fermented together)
    • Hermitage and Crozes Hermitage—for red wines, syrah, marsanne, and  roussanne; for whites, marsanne, roussanne. So, for reds, it is syrah-based, with the addition of two white grapes in support.
    • Châteauneuf-du-Pape—usually grenache noir-based, but will also include cinsaut, syrah, and mourvèdre.
    • Gigondas—some combination of grenache noir, syrah, mourvèdre, (red wines only).
    • Vacqueyras—some combination of grenache noir, syrah, mouvedre, (red wines only).
  • ITALY—Italy seems split on the issue, naming some wines after place, others after the grape. Here are a few of the former.
    • Barbaresco—nebbiolo (red wines only)
    • Barolo—nebbiolo (red wines only)
    • Brunello di Montalcino—sangiovese
    • Chianti—sangiovese
  • PORTUGAL—Portugal has a plethora of grapes. Here are the red grapes commonly included in Port wine.
    • Port—touriga Francesca, touriga nacional, bastardo, tinto cão, tinta roriz, tinta amarela, tinta barroca
  • SPAIN—similar to France, Spain uses place of origin to label most of its wines. Here are a few of the more common ones.
    • Cava—xarel-lo, parellada, macabeo, chardonnay (sparkling white wine)
    • Jumilla—monastrell (mourvèdre), garnacha (grenache) tintorera, cencibel for red wines.
    • Priorat—tempranillo, garnacha (grenache)
    • Ribera del Duero—tinto Fino/tinta del pais (bet you didn’t see that one coming)
    • Rioja—tempranillo, garnacha (grenache)

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