When learning the ins and outs of wine appreciation, it’s always best to start at the source. In the case of wine, the source is arguably the grapes themselves. So much of the flavor, aroma, and texture of wine has its origin in the types of grapes used in its production. Chances are you’ve already the term “Noble” being used to describe certain grapes. This is a word used to describe a certain category of grapes that are known for producing consistently high-quality wines. These grapes can be grown almost anywhere and tend to produce wine with a similar flavor regardless of the region.
There were originally only six Noble grapes but in recent years that list has expanded to include up to 18. If you are just starting out with wine appreciation, an understanding of the original six Noble grapes is a great place to start.
Probably the lightest of the red grapes, Pinot Noir is fragile and extremely difficult to produce. As a result of the growing challenges, Pinot Noir wine tends to more expensive than other wines. Pinot Noir wines have a light body, a low amount of tannins, and a medium to high acidity. They are also extremely easy to pair with a wide variety of foods.
Ubiquitous and popular, Merlot is often the first red that springs to mind when one thinks about wines. Smooth and mellow when compared with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot is an ideal option for those looking to get a start with wine appreciation. Merlot grapes produce wines with a full-body, low to medium tannins, and a medium acidity.
The most widely grown grape in the world, Cabernet Sauvignon is the poster child for red wine. Wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon tend to be high in tannins and acidity with a medium to full body.
Bonus grape: Syrah/Shiraz
Depending on who you ask, there are either three or four noble red grapes. Syrah (or Shiraz) is often regarded as one of the original noble varieties. Flavourful and rich, Shiraz is known for its intense peppery notes. Shiraz wines have medium to high tannins, medium acidity, and a full body. Best suited to warmer climates, they have become extremely popular in the Southern hemisphere.
The most widely grown white grape in the world, Chardonnay is known for its incredible diversity of flavor. Chardonnay wines are full-bodied and have an almost creamy texture. Depending on the wine itself, Chardonnay can have a low or medium acidity.
Sauvignon Blanc produces notably dry white wines and, like Chardonnay, can be aged in oak barrels to create a creamier, full-bodied taste experience. Sauvignon Blanc wines tend to have a medium to high acidity as well as a light to medium body.
Finally, we have Riesling. While most commonly regarded for its sweetness, certain Riesling wines can be extremely dry. Highly acidic, Rieslings can range between low and medium bodied.