Photo: StockFood / Feig & Feig
Need a wine cheat sheet? Don’t get stumped by a wine list ever again with our quickie guide.
Pronunciation: pee-no nwahr
Typical flavors: Cherry, violet, earth, and mushroom
Best-known regions: Burgundy, France; Sonoma, California; Willamette Valley, Oregon; Central Otago, New Zealand
Fun fact: It’s known as the “heartbreak grape” because its thin skin makes it hard to grow.
Typical flavors: Blackberry, currant, raspberry, black pepper, and black olive
Best-known regions: Rhone Valley, France; Barossa, Australia
Fun fact: Australians call it Shiraz. It’s the same grape, but the warm weather down under produces a heavier, fruitier style.
Pronunciation: ka-burr-nay fronk
Typical flavors: Red berry, red plum, and green bell peppers
Best-known regions: Bordeaux and the Loire Valley, France; North Fork, Long Island
Fun fact: When crossed with Sauvignon Blanc, it produces Cabernet Sauvignon.
Typical flavors: Plum, blueberry, rose, and cinnamon
Best-known regions: Bordeaux, France; Columbia Valley and Horse Heaven Hills, Washington
Fun fact: Despite being the basis for some of the greatest Bordeaux wines in the world, sales of Merlot plummeted after Paul Giamatti’s character in the film Sideways screamed that he wouldn’t drink any “bleep”ing Merlot.
Typical flavors: Bitter cherry, strawberry, violets, and spice
Best-known region: Tuscany, Italy
Fun fact: Sangiovese is the main grape in Chianti wines; some modern Tuscan winemakers often blend in Cabernet Sauvignon. Considered some of the best Italian wines, they’re nicknamed Super Tuscans.
Typical flavors: Black fruits, plum, and black cherry
Best-known region: Mendoza, Argentina
Fun fact: It used to be one of the five main grapes in Bordeaux, but it gets a lot of disease so they pretty much kicked it out.
Photo: StockFood / Braun, Stefan
Pronunciation: SO-vin-nyon blahnk
Typical characteristics: Tangy pink grapefruit, flint, bell pepper, and green grass
Best-known regions: Loire Valley and Bordeaux, France; Marlborough, New Zealand
Fun fact: In the 1960s, the Sauvignon Blanc being made in America wasn’t very good. When Robert Mondavi starting producing it well, he called it Fumé Blanc to help with the marketing. Sales were great!
Typical characteristics: Yellow apples and vanilla
Best-known regions: Burgundy and Champagne, France; Napa and Sonoma, California
Fun fact: When you taste a “buttery” Chardonnay, that quality comes from the oak it was aged in, not the grape.
Typical characteristics: Apricot, peach, and petrol
Best-known regions: Germany; Alsace; the Finger Lakes, New York
Fun fact: Rieslings range from sweet to completely dry—the style usually depends on the area where it’s grown.
Typical flavors: Dried cherry, tobacco, and wild strawberries
Best-known regions: Rioja and Ribeira del Duero, Spain
Fun fact: Tempranillo means “little early one,” so nicknamed because the grapes ripen early.
Gewurztraminer grapes. Photo: StockFood / Siffert, Hans-Peter
Typical flavors: Lychee, mango, passion fruit, ginger, gingerbread, nutmeg, and clove
Best-known regions: Alsace; Germany, where it’s drier and less aromatic
Fun fact: Gewurztraminer is one of the most aromatic grapes, and has the same aroma compounds as lychees.
Alyssa Vitrano is a wine expert with certification in Viticulture & Vinification and Blind Tasting from the American Sommelier Association. She is also the founder of Grapefriend.com, a website that combines her love of the grape and pop culture.
More wine wisdom from Alyssa Vitrano: