An exploration of wine

Top 5 grape varieties of the moment

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Wine Grapes grape varieties book

Wine Grapes – the bible of grape varieties

There are 1,368 commercially-grown grape varieties documented in the above great tome. I will never taste them all, but I have tasted a fair few of them – 50? 100? 150? I don’t know.

But there are grape varieties that I keep coming back to, or that I seek out on wine lists. That’s a sign of greatness – perhaps the ultimate sign. There are others that really excite me too.

Right now, in May 2018, these are my top 5s – white and red, and less well-known of each as well. I’m sure others will disagree… (no Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Malbec, Tempranillo, Sangiovese, etc. in the Top 5?! Nope, they all just missed out).

Top 5 White varieties

  1. Chardonnay: ABC-ers are fools. Taste a Montrachet before you judge Chardonnay
  2. Riesling: singular, yet versatile
  3. Pinot Gris: note, Gris not Grigio
  4. Sémillon: much underrated, even as a pure varietal white, though best blended
  5. Albariño: brisk, lively, refreshing taste of Atlantic North-West Spain

Top 5 Unusual white varieties

  1. Godello: a richer expression of the Atlantic North-West
  2. Assyrtiko: the profound, ageworthy white of Santorini
  3. Nascetta: fascinating, waxy, lemony, salty-mineral variety being revived in Piemonte
  4. Viognier: in a great vintage, can beguile and satisfy in equal measure
  5. Grüner Veltliner: characterful and savoury in either white pepper or tropical expressions

Top 5 Red varieties

  1. Syrah: versatile, satisfying and regal
  2. Nebbiolo: it’s taken time for me to get to grips with this grape. And it is stunning
  3. Cabernet Sauvignon: ABC-ers, again, are fools
  4. Pinot Noir: when it’s good, it’s great; when it’s not, it’s horrid
  5. Grenache: at the heart of Châteauneuf and Priorat, and undergoing a revival

Top 5 Unusual red varieties

  1. Nerello Mascalese: the expressive heart of Etna Rosso
  2. Barbera: fresh and bright, supple structure and can carry oak well
  3. Graciano: deep, dark, spicy blue fruit that can stand alone from just being a Rioja component
  4. Touriga Nacional: polished black fruit and characteristic violets, with fine-grained tannin
  5. Aglianico: smoky, spicy, baked black fruit that lights up the South of Italy

There are plenty of worthy varieties for drinkers to seek out that didn’t make these 4 lists, including:

White: Sauvignon Blanc (of course), Gewürztraminer (Savagnin), Chenin Blanc, Furmint, Garganega, Viura (Macabeo), Muscat Blanc, Verdejo, Loureiro, Treixadura, Hondarrabi Zuri, Vermentino, Verdicchio (di Matelica), Greco (di Tufo), Fiano, Carricante, Petit Manseng, Sercial, Verdelho, Bual, Malvasia, Terrantez, Palomino Fino (Listán Blanco), Erbaluce, Encruzado

Red: Malbec (of course), Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Gamay, Xinomavro, Mavrotragano, Agiorgitiko, Corvina, Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Dolcetto, Zinfandel (Primitivo), Cinsault, Mourvèdre, Bastardo (Trousseau), Nero d’Avola, Carmenère, Baga, Tannat, Mencía

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