Red Grapes


Pronounced ‘AH-GEE-OHR-GEE-TEE-KOH’ and also known as ‘St George’, this Greek red grape variety is a mouthful in more ways than one. Depending on where it’s grown, the style can be light and lively with red and blackcurrant flavours or rich and complex with deeper layers of red fruit and spice. Whichever style you prefer, look for ‘Nemea’ on the label – the area in the Peloponnese most renowned for this grape variety. Wonderfully food-friendly – especially with slow-cooked lamb.

If you like Agiorghitiko, you might also like … Cabernet Sauvignon


Aglianico: a real Italian grape stallion. Full-bodied, intense and tannic, the Greeks cultivated it first, but now Campania in South West Italy is most closely associated with it. Look out for Aglianico from Taurasi; this is where Aglianico is recognised through the DOCG classification system.

If you like Aglianico, you might also like … Malbec, Touriga Nacional, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon


We’re talking about a pizza-friendly Italian red rather than Streisand. However, Barbera’s wide appeal and jazzy notes could go for both. The grape’s home is Piemonte in North West Italy, but can be found throughout Italy and has travelled as far as Argentina with homesick Italian emigrants. Flavour-wise it can be a bit of a chameleon with the pizza house version being cheap and cheerful with juicy fruit, low tannins and good acidity (great to cut through fatty foods like salami and cheese). However, Barbera d’Alba and Barbera d’Asti are more serious and when aged in oak can hit much deeper notes.

If you like Barbera, you might also like … Gamay

Cabernet Franc

A grape closely associated with Bordeaux and often found in blends there, especially on the Right Bank. In the Loire you can find it on its own in wines from Chinon, Saumur Champigny and St Nicholas de Bourgueil and further afield Italian, American, Australian and New Zealand winemakers are working with it. Somewhat reluctantly described by Jancis Robinson as being ‘the feminine side of Cabernet Sauvignon’ at its best it offers easy-going tannins, a silky texture, herbaceous, fruity notes and aromas of pencil shavings.

If you like Cabernet Franc, you might also like … Carménère

Cabernet Sauvignon

The ‘Gerard Depardieu’ of the grape world: world famous, capable of brilliance and sometimes prone to bad behaviour. One might wonder why the relatively small, late ripening, thick skinned grapes are such stars on the world wine stage. The main reason is their stellar appearance in the most prestigious Bordeaux wines. With the right terroir, the blackcurrant flavours can become sublime and the potential for ageing and affinity with oak barrels produces world-beating reds. Don’t ignore ‘Cab Sauvs’ from other countries though. While French Cabernet is definitely an ‘A-List’ wine, there are also great examples from South Africa, Chile, California, Australia and the Lebanon.

If you like Cabernet Sauvignon, you might also like … Agiorghitiko, Carménère


A grape most often found in blends with Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvèdre, Hugh Johnson describes Carignan as ‘dull but harmless.’ Indeed, Carignan doesn’t have the most distinguished track record; accused of contributing to the European Wine Lake, having over half its vines pulled up in France in a bid to increase quality and being used for its colour rather than taste. Sensitive to disease, late ripening and having a tendancy to be astringent, you might wonder why wine makers bother, but in its favour old vine Carignan can produce wines of great finesse with the right skill and perseverance. In Spain, look out for the words Cariñena and Mazuelo; it’s Carignan.

If you like Carignan, you might also like … Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvèdre


Closely connected with Chile, Carménère was originally a Bordeaux grape variety. This grape likes warm conditions and in return for a sunny place to ripen will give you a wonderfully deep red glass of rounded, spicy fruit with notes that can be savoury, herbaceous, smoky and occasionally chocolatey.

If you like Carménère, you might also like … Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Montepulciano, Shiraz


According to Hugh Johnson, ‘Very good if low yielding – wine lake stuff it is not’. Its home is in the South of France where it’s widely used in Rosé. Often used in blends with grapes such as Syrah and Grenache, the grape’s fondness for sunny climes brings a softness and aromatic quality to the mix.

If you like Cinsault, you might also like … Grenache, Carignan


Quite a new kid on the German wine block, Dornfelder was created by August Herold in 1955 when he crossed two grape varieties with the aim of creating a deeper coloured grape to pep up pale German reds. It’s proved a success story in its own right though as its fresh, Summer fruit bowl flavours make it a hit – often with people who aren’t that keen on red wine.

If you like Dornfelder, you might also like … Gamay, Mavrodaphne


A little known grape variety most commonly found in Australia, Durif (sometimes call ‘Petite Syrah’) can produce full-bodied reds with bramble, blueberry and plum fruit flavours and soft tannins… if you can find it! We had a cracking one in the shop and are still trying to hunt it back down.

If you like Durif, you might also like … Shiraz, Mourvèdre


Beaujolais (home to Gamay) can bring out differing emotions; while some smile and think of light, elegant, fruity wines from Fleurie and Brouilly, others may wince and remember the thin, acidic and over-priced wines speedily shipped over for Beaujolais Nouveau Day. Fortunately, the latter are in the decline and Gamay’s reputation is being restored by thoughtfully made wines which share freshness and intensity of fruit – whether they’re a young, light style or older oaked one.

If you like Gamay, you might also like … Barbera, Dornfelder

Grenache Noir

Widely used in Southern France, but in favour further afield; find it in Northern Spain (Priorat in particular), South Australia and California. Grenache requires warm temperatures and, as a result, produces ripe, rich red-berry fruited wines. A wine maker’s favourite as it expresses its origin and so finds favour with those wishing to emphasise a wine’s terroir and part of the mix in great wines of the Rhone such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

If you like Grenache, you might also like … Carignan, Mourvèdre, Touriga Nacional, Sangiovese, Malbec, Syrah, Tempranillo


Cahors in South West France is the home of Malbec where it is used in their black or ‘ink’ wine; however, Argentina is much more commonly associated with Malbec and its high altitude sites make cracking examples – the slower ripening process bringing an intensity and freshness to the deep, juicy, dark, smooth and spicy flavours. The classic accompaniment to the huge steaks eaten there.

If you like Malbec, you might also like … Aglianico, Grenache Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Touriga Nacional, Tannat


A red Greek grape variety used primarily in the production of the sweet Port-like wine of the same name. ‘Mavro’ means black and ‘daphne’, laurel; enlightened?! Taste-wise this sweet wine can have caramel, coffee, chocolate, raisin and prune flavours. Great at the end of a meal.

If you like Mavrodaphne, you might also like … Dornfelder


Seen the film ‘Sideways’? Well, given the ubiquitous nature of Merlot, it perhaps wasn’t a surprise one of the main characters had taken against it so. Watch the movie and you’ll see. Anyway, back to the grape. Merlot can produce gloriously plummy and fragrant wines and is found in the great wines of Bordeaux such as Pomerol. This is its most prestigious home, but you’ll find Merlot all over the world and it can vary enormously in quality … which brings us back to Sideways…

If you like Merlot, you might also like … Carménère, Negroamaro


It gets a little confusing as Montepulciano is a Tuscan village and the name of the wine that comes from there, but the grape Montepulciano has nothing to do with it – other than probably hailing from Tuscany. Cleared that up? Montepulciano is grown in central and southern Italy; it’s late ripening and benefits from warmer weather and the result can be a soft yet refreshing, easy-going red with juicy, plump, plummy fruit.

If you like Montepulciano, you might also like … Carménère


Think of Mourvèdre as someone who likes to sit on the side of a swimming pool dangling their feet in with the sun full on their face and you’ll… a) perhaps think we’ve lost it, or b) appreciate that Mourvèdre requires specific growing conditions. Add to this an over-abundance of leaves and susceptibility to disease and you’ll realise that Mourvèdre isn’t the easiest of grapes, but when wine makers overcome these challenges you have a powerful wine with intense fruit flavours and earthy, gamey notes.

If you like Mourvèdre, you might also like … Grenache Noir, Touriga Nacional, Durif, Primitivo, Syrah


Oh Nebbiolo, a king amongst grapes and responsible for the prestigious Barolo and Barbaresco wines. However, with greatness often comes a long list of very specific requirements and if Nebbiolo were a pop star it’d have more riders than Mariah Carey. Nevertheless, you can forgive its need for just the right amount of sun, altitude, position, pruning (the list goes on) as it produces the most wonderful wine. Its aromas alone cause people to wax lyrical as they boast a uniquely complex mix that can include violets, roses, tar and wood smoke. Add to that great ageing potential and you’ve got a star on your hands.

If you like Nebbiolo, you might also like … Pinot Noir, Xynomavro


Widely grown in Puglia, the heel of Italy, this is a grape for lovers of ripe, fruity, concentrated wines. Full of fruit flavours such as blackcurrant, plum and cherry and notes of clove and cinnamon spice, it’s a ‘big’ wine best partnered with big, robust dishes (think rich tomato sauces and slow roasted meat). Like the sound of this? Then look out for the name Salice Salentino. An area focused on the heel of Italy’s boot; it’s plum full of Negroamaro producers.

If you like Negroamaro, you might also like … Nero d’Avola, Primitivo, Merlot

Nero d’Avola

Today it’s Sicily’s succulent little red star, but until quite recently it was shipped up to Northern Italy or Southern France and used as an ‘extra’ to lend weight and colour. As you’d expect with a grape produced so far south, you get a mouthful of ripe fruit – dark raspberries are often evident – and hints of chocolate, spice and tobacco. A grape that’s now got its own trailer.

If you like Nero d’Avola, you might also like … Negroamaro, Grenache Noir, Primitivo


Did you know that Pinotage was created in 1925 by Professor Abraham Izak Perold at Stellenbosch University in South Africa by crossing Pinot Noir and Cinsault grapes? There’s one for a pub quiz if ever I heard one. In South Africa, Cinsault was called Hermitage, hence the name ‘Pinotage’. Not really catching on until the 1960s, the Pinotage we have today can be light and juicy or dark and tannic depending on the wine maker’s will and their attitude to barrel ageing. A great wine for the barbecue – after all, that’s how it’s commonly enjoyed in South Africa.

If you like Pinotage, you might also like … Shiraz/Syrah

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir… the grape that’s launched many a wine expert’s passion for wine. However, if you’re thinking of producing the odd bottle, I’d strongly recommend you try something less difficult – like breeding pandas. The grape demands attention; it’s thin-skinned, prone to disease, only thrives on specific soil and can’t cope with much wind, frost or rain. Its home is Burgundy and within Burgundy, its most prestigious residence is in the Côte d’Or. You’ll also find Pinot Noir from Germany, New Zealand, Romania… the list goes on, but the Pinot Noirs that truly inspire the likes of Jancis Robinson are very special to France. So, what’s all the fuss about? Well, it’s quite unique: you get bright fruit flavours of cherry, strawberry and raspberry, but then there’s the silky texture and other elements that can include forest floor aromas, violets… the list goes on. Truly a grape that deserves all the attention it gets.

If you like Pinot Noir, you might also like … Gamay, Xynomavro, Nebbiolo

Pinot Meunier

It’s highly unlikely you’ll have drunk Pinot Meunier by itself, but there’s a fair chance you’ve had it in one of the world’s most prestigious drinks – Champagne. Pinot Meunier is one of the three grapes used in Champagne (the other two being Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) and with its early ripening fruit, adds aroma, fruit and body. One of our favourite Champagne houses, H. Blin uses Pinot Meunier widely and we feel it gives their Champagne an added ‘je ne sais quoi’.

Primitivo (Zinfandel)

Primitivo is predominantly found in Puglia – the heel of Italy, so how did the same grape end up in California and get called Zinfandel? Well, a lot of detective work and DNA testing has proved they are pretty much the same grape and an obscure, almost extinct variety in Croatia has turned out to be the missing link, but I’m still not sure how they ended up on different sides of the Atlantic. Answers on a postcard please… Taste-wise, you’ve got a grape that, in Italy, produces rich, dark, tannic wines and in America can give brambly, jammy, spicy wines. The USA has also been responsible for giving the world ‘White Zinfandel’ – a sugary ‘blush’ rose wine.

If you like Primitivo, you might also like … Nero d’Avola, Mourvèdre, Negroamaro


Italy’s most widely planted grape and closely associated with one of its most famous wines – Chianti. Even though we might yearn for the straw encased Chianti bottle, the often ‘thin’, acidic wine inside had neither substance nor style. Fortunately, things have improved and a greater focus on quality and skilful blending mean that the wines from Chianti country, Montalcino (where Sangiovese is called Brunello) and Montepulciano have an intensity and complexity of flavours that can include cherries, prunes, orange peel, thyme, tobacco, leather and liquorice. Look out for Morellino as well. This is the name given to Sangiovese on the southern Tuscan coast.

If you like Sangiovese, you might also like … Aglianico, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache Noir

Shiraz (Syrah)

So good they named it twice… Shiraz is the grape’s Australian name and Syrah, the name used in its homeland, France (and the rest of Europe). In its Australian incarnation, Shiraz has become synonymous with the New World’s rise to fame as wine producers. The style in Oz is often full-bodied, with rich fruit chocolate and spice notes. The warm growing conditions lend an almost sweet feel to the wine while in France – particularly in the Rhône, Syrah’s first home – pepper is the unmistakeable hallmark of the grape.

If you like Shiraz, you might also like … Carménère, Durif, Pinotage

Syrah (Shiraz)

So good they named it twice… Shiraz is the grape’s Australian name and Syrah, the name used in its homeland, France (and the rest of Europe). In its French incarnation, Syrah’s most renowned use is in the Rhône – particularly Côte Rotie and Hermitage. Here bottles can demand a very high price, but look further south and you’ll find Syrah used very successfully in blends – often with Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault – and going for considerably less dosh. In France, Syrah’s hallmark aroma is black pepper often complemented by a very pleasing mouthful of blackberry, prune and figs.

If you like Syrah, you might also like … Grenache Noir, Mourvèdre


We call this a rugby player’s grape; partly because it’s widely grown in South West France where there’s a strong rugby playing tradition and partly because it’s big, powerful and got a strong grip. Tannat is high on tannins, so drunk young it can give you a mouth-coating dryness (the ‘grip’). With age, those tannins will be softer, but you’re still getting full-on power – just think of a raspberry-flavoured Sébastien Chabal! If Tannat sounds like it’s up your street, a name to look out for is Madiran – wines from this area will contain Tannat, often blended with Cabernet Franc and/or Cabernet Sauvignon.

If you like Tannat, you might also like … Malbec, Touriga Nacional

Tempranillo / Aragonez

Probably Spain’s most famous grape variety, Tempranillo has more aliases than The Artist Formerly Known as Prince. First and foremost, it’s associated with Rioja – and is actually called Tempranillo in that part of Spain. However, go to the Ribera del Duero and it’s called Tinto Fino, go south of Madrid to Valdepeñas and you’ll find it as Cencibel and step over the border into Portugal and it appears as Tinta Roriz in the Dao and Douro and Aragones in the Alentejo. Names aside, its characterised by savoury, leathery, ‘man’s dressing room’ notes. Olé!

If you like Tempranillo, you might also like … Grenache Noir

Touriga Nacional

A native of Portugal and one of the chief grapes in Port, Touriga Nacional packs a punch with its high tannin, high alcohol, concentrated fruit flavours and generous acidity. In the wrong hands it can be a big, unwieldy mouthful; however, blended skilfully with some of Portugal’s many other indigenous grape varieties, you’re looking at a delicious, dark fruited potentially floral red. Look out for wines from the Douro and Dao for some of the best examples.

If you like Touriga Nacional, you might also like … Malbec, Grenache Noir, Tannat


Pronounced ‘ZIN-OH-MAV-RO’, this Greek grape keeps its freshness even when exposed to really hot conditions. For this reason, it literally translates as ‘black acid’ – perhaps not the most attractive name, but from its home in Northern Greece it produces lovely Pinot Noir-esque wine. Definitely one to try even if you can’t pronounce it. Also great for pub quizzes if you have to do an A-Z of grape varieties.

If you like Xynomavro, you might also like … Pinot Noir, Zinfandel

Zinfandel (Primitivo)

Zinfandel is predominantly found in California, so why is its doppelganger in Italy and called Primitivo? Well, a lot of detective work and DNA testing has proved an obscure, almost extinct variety in Croatia has turned out to be the missing link, but I’m still not sure how they ended up on different sides of the Atlantic. Answers on a postcard please… Taste-wise, you’ve got a grape that, in Italy, produces rich, dark, tannic wines and in America can give brambly, jammy, spicy wines. The USA has also been responsible for giving the world ‘White Zinfandel’ – a sugary ‘blush’ rose wine.

If you like Zinfandel, you might also like … Carménère, Negroamaro, Xynomavro

White Grapes


Thick-skinned and able to survive in damp conditions, this is the Boris Johnson of grapes. Actually, that’s a great compliment to the blond bon viveur as Albarino is one of our favourite grape varieties with its wonderful acidity and intense flavours including nectarine and lemons. Why’s it got two names? Albarino is the Spanish name and Alvarinho the Portuguese. Find it in Rias Baixas in Galicia (Northern Spain) and the Minho (Northern Portugal). A must with the seafood from that area.

If you like Albarino/Alvarinho, you might also like … Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Aligoté, Cataratto


Aligoté very much plays the bridesmaid to Chardonnay in its native Burgundy, but with its zingy flavours of apples and lemons, it can be a real star in its own right. Aligoté is the classic wine to mix with crème de cassis to make a Kir and is also found in the sparkling Crémant de Bourgogne.

If you like Aligoté, you might also like … Alvarinho, Cataratto, Melon de Bourgogne


Named after the Roman God of Wine, Bacchus is found predominantly in Germany and England and is the creation of a certain Peter Morio who crossed Sylvaner, Riesling and Müller-Thurgau in 1933. It took another 40 odd years for it to be generally cultivated and nowadays you’re still likely to find it blended with Müller-Thurgau , although English wine producers have had some success using it as a single variety. Taste-wise it can give you a Sauvignon Blanc-esque mouthful with bright, light fruit.

If you like Bacchus, you might also like … Sauvignon Blanc, Verdejo, Müller-Thurgau


Found in abundance on the western side of Sicily, Cataratto is Italy’s second most-planted white grape variety (the first is Trebbiano). A ‘versatile’ grape, Catarrato is used in the production of industrial alcohol, put in Marsala and used to make its own wine. The best Catarattos (much of wine made from Cataratto ends up in the European wine lake) are crisp and fresh yet full-flavoured with a lovely citrus hit of grapefruit and lemon. Works well with spicy food and great with roast fish.

If you like Cataratto, you might also like … Alvarinho, Vermentino, Colombard, Loureiro


World famous and strangely controversial, Chardonnay probably elicits more reactions (both good and bad) than any other grape variety we have in the shop. Many people got turned off Chardonnay when you couldn’t move for over-oaked Aussie Chardonnay during the 80s and 90s. However, for those that have stuck with it, there’s far more to this grape than the mouthful of mass produced, slightly cloying plonk that was everywhere 20 or so years ago. Indeed, Chardonnay can be sublime and many of the classiest bottles are to be found in Burgundy. Take Chablis, for example, where the grape gives a wonderfully clean, citrusy, mineral mouthful. Move further south to the Cote d’Or and (depending on where you are) you can experience it as a creamy, nutty, lemon and lime confection. And leave France and you can find great examples from California, Chile, South Africa, New Zealand and yes, Australia, all with their own distinct characteristics. And if that’s not enough, there’s always Chardonnay’s starring role in Champagne.

If you like Chardonnay, you might also like … Riesling, Picpoul

Chenin Blanc

A hugely versatile grape which produces dry, sweet and sparkling wine. Chenin Blanc’s home is in the Loire, but it’s also the most widely planted grape in South Africa (where it’s sometimes called Steen). As a dry style, Chenin gives fresh, zesty wines with fruit flavours including apple and melon often accompanied with a slightly honeyed edge. As a sweetie, the Loire is really the place to find beautiful, complex Chenin with great ageing potential. With its warm autumns and late frosts, the Loire offers prime ‘noble rot’ conditions – high class mould to you and me – which concentrates the grapes’ sugars whilst preserving freshness. Look out for names like Vouvray and Coteaux du Layon. And as for sparkling Chenin, well staying in the Loire, look out for Crémant de Loire – light, fresh and just right as an aperitif.

If you like Chenin Blanc, you might also like … Vernaccia, Garganega, Semillon


Just like Jonathan Ross, Colombard has fallen in and out of favour. It was used in Cognac until it was thought to be inferior, but has seen its popularity rise (particularly in California) due to its easy-drinking character. Often used in blends with ‘weightier’ grapes like Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc, Colombard offers a crisp, fresh counterpoint that can give flavours of melon and floral notes.

If you like Colombard, you might also like … Sauvignon Blanc, Cataratto


A native of southern Italy (Campania more precisely), Fiano is a bit like the Gina Lollobrigida of the grape world; voluptuous, fragrant and with the capacity to age well. Find aromas and flavours of mango, peach and passion fruit – a veritable fruit cocktail.

If you like Fiano, you might also like … Viognier, Gewurztraminer, Marsanne


This is the main grape used in SoaveTrebbiano and/or Chardonnay might also be added – and gives light, citrus, sometimes almond flavours. There’s also a special texture about Garganega; Jancis Robinson describes it beautifully as ‘a fine, grainy texture like that of fresh pears.’ Also find Garganega on Sicily, but under the name of Grecanico.

If you like Garganega, you might also like … Vernaccia, Chenin Blanc


A bit of a Marmite grape this one. We love its unique aromas of rose petals, lychees and Turkish delight with the odd savoury note (some mention bacon); however, we know it’s not to everyone’s taste – and we’ve seen quite a few customers visibly wince when they smell it. That said, this is a very special grape (even if you don’t like it!). Nothing else smells or tastes like it and we marvel how a grape can produce such a singular host of aromas and flavours. Its home is in Alsace – where arguably the best examples come from – but it has spread its wings as far afield as New Zealand. Food-wise, it’s traditionally recommended as a good partner to spicy food and indeed, we’ve had spectacular matches with quite pokey Thai curry. Some also suggest it can complement stinky cheeses such as Munster and it’s certainly worked well with cheese fondue. However, savouring it by itself gives us immense pleasure – even if others are holding their noses!

If you like Gewurztraminer, you might also like … Fiano, Viognier, Torrontes, Huxelrebe

Grenache Blanc

You’re most likely to come across Grenache Blanc in the Rhône Valley and the South of France where it’s commonly used in blends. In its most prestigious form, it’s one of the permitted grapes in white Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Taste-wise, it can give ripe citrus and green fruit flavours with herby notes and is sometimes described as a ‘fat’ grape as it’s quite rich and soft – making it a good balance to grapes with higher acidity and freshness. In Spain, look out for Garnacha Blanca; it’s the same grape.

If you like Grenache Blanc, you might also like … Grillo, Semillon


A full flavoured grape found on Sicily. Traditionally used in Marsala – Sicily’s fortified wine – it can also be found in dry white wine used on its own or blended with Sicily’s other grapes, Cataratto and Inzolia. Its richness works really with Sicily’s flavoursome dishes which use capers, anchovies, olives and fennel.

If you like Grillo, you might also like … Grenache Blanc, Inzolia

Grüner Veltliner

Austria’s flagship grape, Grüner Veltliner (sometimes shortened to GrüVe), is certainly enjoying a wave of popularity. Up until a few years ago, when you mentioned the Grüner, people might have thought you were referring to a noise Arnold Schwarzenegger made in the gym; however, nowadays it graces the wine lists of the most prestigious restaurants and is frequently praised by the wine cognoscenti. Part of its allure is its food-friendliness. Its combination of freshness and mouth-filling concentration make it a really versatile menu match. Flavour-wise it can also deliver a really intriguing blend of citrus fruit, spice and a certain pepperiness.

If you like Grüner Veltliner, you might also like … Riesling, Vernaccia, Pinot Grigio, Inzolia


Huxelrebe was created in 1927 when it was given the catchy name of Alzey S 3962. Nowadays, its chief home is Germany, but you can also find Huxelrebe vines in England. Its style is on the sweet side with flavours including rhubarb, apricot, honey and spice.

If you like Huxelrebe, you might also like … Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio


A native of Sicily and one of the chief contributors to the fortified Marsala wine. Inzolia is a great partner to the local cuisine as it has that winning combination of ripeness and freshness that works so well with the robust flavours of Sicily such as capers, anchovies, olives and fennel. Often described as having a nutty character, Inzolia is often blended with the other big players of Sicilian white wine: Cataratto and Grillo.

If you like Inzolia, you might also like … Grüner Veltliner, Vermentino, Picpoul


If you’ve tried Vinho Verde, chances are you’ve tasted the Loureiro grape as it’s widely used in the ‘green wine’ of Northern Portugal. It’s an interesting grape; on the vine the grapes look unlike others as they’re tightly packed together in elongated bunches. Aroma-wise it stands out as well as you can detect laurel flowers, lime blossom and acacia; indeed, Loureiro translates as ‘laurel’ or ‘bay’. On the palate, Loureiro can give you apple and peach flavours and a good old zing. Just great with spicy sausage.

If you like Loureiro, you might also like … Catarrato, Torrontes


We find it helpful to think of Arthur Daley when trying to pronounce this grape variety (think of him saying ‘All ‘wight ma’ son), but that’s where the association ends… unless Arthur has been widely crushed in the Rhône Valley and exudes rich flavours of peach, melon and apricot. Anyway, moving swiftly on… Marsanne is often blended with Roussanne and less frequently with Viognier, although you will find delicious examples of it as a single variety wine from Tahbilk in Australia where the grape has had a long and illustrious career – and we’re back to Arthur Daley (aka George Cole!).

If you like Marsanne, you might also like … Muscat, Viognier, Fiano

Melon de Bourgogne

Not a melon from Burgundy, but the grape used in Muscadet; the fish-friendly wine produced in the Western Loire. The grape was originally cultivated in Burgundy until it was banned in the sixteenth century. Seems a bit steep to bar a grape variety from a whole wine region; maybe it was too high spirited! Anyway, back to Melon de Bourgogne… style-wise you’re looking at a grape that makes wonderfully crisp, fresh, green apple, pear and fruit flavoured wine and if it’s been aged on its lees (marked ‘sur lie’ on the label), you’ll get an even greater concentration of flavour. Also well worth looking out for sparkling Muscadet.

If you like Melon de Bourgogne, you might also like … Aligoté, Picpoul


Pronounced ‘MOH-SKOH-FEE-LEH-ROH’, this pink skinned grape produces wonderfully perfumed wine. The best known examples come from the Peloponnese on the Greek mainland and are produced at relatively high altitude. This prolongs the ripening process and concentrates the aromas and flavours whilst maintaining a freshness and keeping the alcohol levels in check. The resulting wines can give you a flavour palette including rose petals, spice and a grapey character similar to that of Muscat.

If you like Moschofilero, you might also like … Muscat, Viognier


The grape that launched a thousand bottles of … Liebfraumilch. Yes! Müller-Thurgau is the main grape behind Black Tower and Blue Nun. Perhaps not the best claim to fame, but it certainly put German wine on the map in terms of volume if not quality. Müller-Thurgau started life in 1882 when it was created out of a cross between Riesling and Madeleine Royale. Nowadays, its home is still very much in Germany, but you can find it in Hungary, Czech Republic, New Zealand and even Japan. Fortunately, its days connected with thin, overly sweet wines are mostly behind it and at its best it’s fruity, soft and delicately floral.

If you like Müller-Thurgau, you might also like … Bacchus, Viognier


It’s difficult to know where to start with Muscat; it has so many different names and styles that you can end up feeling slight baffled. One thing that is surprisingly straightforward about this ancient grape variety though is its ‘grapeyness’. Now, you may think we’ve slightly lost it when we describe a wine as being ‘grapey,’ but in a world where we describe grape flavours as being anything from tropical to leathery, Muscat really stands out as the one that tastes of grapes. So, that’s the uniting factor, now for the diverse bit. Muscat appears in sparkling, dry and sweet forms and within those categories it encompasses all manner of styles. In France, it can be light, dry and floral in Alsace and sweet and honeyed in the South (look out for examples of ‘Muscat vin doux naturel’ such as Muscat de Frontignan, Muscat de Lunel and Muscat de Saint Jean de Minervois). In Italy, it makes the frothy, light, sweetish Moscato d’Asti. In Greece, you have the revered dessert wines, Muscat of Samos and Patras. In Australia you have the unctuous Rutherglen Muscat a ‘brown Muscat’ which serves up a dark, sticky confection. So, think of it as the ‘e-harmony’ of grapes; it’s just about finding the right Muscat for you.

If you like Muscat, you might also like … Viognier, Fiano, Gewurztraminer, Torrontes, Moschofilero


Picpoul translates rather misleadingly as ‘lip stinger’ due to its high acidity. Now, while it’s true it does have a wonderful freshness, we’d call it lip-smacking rather than stinging as you’ll also find ripe, citrus flavours and an enticing minerality in good Picpoul. Picpoul is grown chiefly in the Languedoc in the South of France. It’s also found in the Rhône – usually in a blend – and is one of the grape varieties permitted in white Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Its most renowned home is in the classified area of Pinet, down the coast to the west of Montpellier. The areas which comprise this Appellation D’Origine Controlee (AOC) are close to a salt lake lagoon containing oyster beds and Picpoul de Pinet is the wine of choice to partner seafood from that area. Indeed, it’s generally a really fish-friendly wine and so it’s no wonder that it counts Rick Stein amongst its fans.

If you like Picpoul, you might also like … Chardonnay, Colombard, Vernaccia, Melon de Bourgogne, Inzolia

Pinot Blanc

Pinot Blanc is often likened to a lighter style of Chardonnay; light on acidity and with a flavour profile that’s more easy-going crowd pleaser than challenging and complex thought-provoker. (Think Wogan rather than Paxman.) That said, its soft, light, delicate aromas and flavours make it a versatile food match and in its best incarnations – Alsace and northern Italy produce some really cracking examples – it’s a real understated joy. Drink it young.

If you like Pinot Blanc, you might also like … Roussanne, Vermentino, Ugni Blanc

Pinot Gris/Grigio

As there was a time when you couldn’t go to a restaurant without hearing 1. The Gypsy Kings, 2. James Blunt, 3. Adele (please delete or add as appropriate depending on your era), so no lunch table was complete without a bottle of Pinot Grigio. Perfect with light, lunchtime food and unlikely to interrupt your chat, Pinot Grigio’s fresh character and almost clear colour was stylish, Italian and just the ticket. However, this is only one version of the grape variety. In Alsace, Pinot Gris (previously called Tokay d’Alsace) is a more serious mouthful. The style is fuller and can have flavours of pear, apple and peach, floral and spicy notes and a kind of mineral texture and made into sweeter versions, it can deliver delicious rich, sherbetty, apple strudel-like flavours. All in all a versatile grape that gets around a bit; just like certain pop stars who shall not be named (see above).

If you like Pinot Gris/Grigio, you might also like … Grüner Veltliner, Torrontes, Alvarinho, Huxelrebe


The grape variety responsible for Italy’s smile-inducing sparkling wine. Its light, frothy character and fruity flavours including apple, pear and lemon are just perfect for a party, celebration, treat at the end of a tough week… any time really. Just a note on the name; from 2010, Prosecco ceased to be the name of the grape. Now the grape is called Glera and Prosecco refers only to the wine from that particular part of northern Italy.

If you like Prosecco/Glera, you might also like … sparkling Muscadet (Melon de Bourgogne)


In and out of fashion like a pair of bell-bottoms, Riesling has certainly been through highs and lows. Originally from Germany, this white noble grape probably saw its lowest point in the 70s and 80s when over-production and out-of-date marketing led the wine-drinking public to believe it was just sweet and naff. In terms of highs, 500 years ago it had greater renown than the wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy and it’s definitely experiencing a resurgence at the moment. The best bottles are still thought to come from Germany (the Mosel and Rheinland in particular) with Alsace coming a close second and newcomers New Zealand and Australia also in the mix. The style can range from crisp and fresh through to voluptuous – depending on how mature the grapes are when harvested. Whether the style is steely and citrusy or more honeyed and peachy, the defining feature of Riesling is a kind of ‘oiliness’ – sometimes likened to kerosene or rubber (not really selling it here am I?!) which can intrigue or dismay in equal measure. Definitely worth a try and surprisingly good with soft cheeses like Brie and Camembert.

If you like Riesling, you might also like … Chardonnay (e.g.Chablis), Alvarinho, Grüner Veltliner


Perhaps not a particularly well known grape variety, but one with an impressive CV. You’ll often find Roussanne teamed up with Marsanne in France’s northern Rhône Valley in prestigious appellations such as Crozes-Hermitage AOC and Saint-Joseph AOC. Roussanne is also one of the six permitted grape varieties in white Châteauneuf-du-Pape and it’s also had success in the States. So, what are Roussanne’s credentials? Well, taste-wise it depends on the age of the wine, but it can give rich flavours of apricot, peaches, pear and honey and aromas can include honeysuckle and jasmine.

If you like Roussanne, you might also like … Marsanne, Pinot Blanc, Viognier, Fiano

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is a class act and no mistake. It’s associated with some of the finest white wines in the world: Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé and Sauternes. Add to that the fact that we’re asked to point out our New Zealand Sauvignons more often than any other wine style and you know there’s something about this grape that hits the mark. Now, whether it’s the ‘greenness’ you get with Sauvignon (think grass and nettles) or the parade of attractive fruit flavours (gooseberry, grapefruit, lemon and lime) or even the occasional tasting note of ‘cat’s pee’, you can betcha’ there’s something in there that appeals. Of course, there are significant variations in its flavour profile across the globe – many Loire Sauvignons have a unique mineral quality whereas New Zealand Sauvignon is often characterised by bright, upfront fruit. However, what’s in no doubt is that this grape doesn’t need to be thick skinned (it isn’t) – it’s got a huge worldwide fan club.

If you like Sauvignon Blanc, you might also like … Verdejo, Bacchus, Colombard


Semillon is a real star of a grape, but receives much less of the limelight than Chardonnay and Sauvignon. Rewind a couple of hundred years though, and Semillon was the most widely planted grape in the world. So why isn’t it headlining nowadays? Well, it might have something to do with the fact that it isn’t as buttery as Chardonnay or as crisp as Sauvignon, but this is precisely what makes it great in both a lead role and as a supporting act. By itself it can deliver soft fruit flavours of apple and fig and green notes including grass and asparagus. In a blend it can add richness to Sauvignon (a combination often found in Bordeaux) and freshness to Chardonnay (a popular double act in Australia). It’s its starring role in the delicious dessert wines of Bordeaux that make it a true idol though. Semillon is thin-skinned and presents a great habitat for noble rot. This natural process, which sweetens the juice whilst maintaining freshness, produces some of the most exquisite (and expensive) wines on the planet. Here Semillon is definitely the main attraction.

If you like Semillon, you might also like … Chenin Blanc, Grenache Blanc


Argentina has become the main home of Torrontes – a grape variety that can deliver flavours reminiscent of Muscat, Gewurztraminer and a certain soft drink with a totally tropical taste… This fruit cocktail combination of grape, lychee, pineapple and grapefruit lends both a freshness and concentration to the wine and (after extensive tasting) we’ve found that this works wonderfully well with curry. Best drunk young.

If you like Torrontes, you might also like … Fiano, Gewurztraminer, Viognier

Trebbiano (Ugni Blanc)

Trebbiano is Italy’s most planted white grape – so it’s significant in terms of volume – but while its production is prolific, praise for the grape is pretty thin on the ground. Hugh Johnson uses just six words to cast his judgement, ‘Mostly thin, bland wine; needs blending.’ However, in the right hands it can produce complex, flavoursome wine, e.g. Trebbiano di Lugana. Also, look out for the grape Procanico on wine labels from Orvieto; it’s a Trebbiano clone. And if you’re in France, you’ll find Trebbiano masquerading as Ugni Blanc.

If you like Trebbiano, you might also like … Pinot Blanc, Vernaccia

Ugni Blanc (Trebbiano)

Ugni Blanc – pronounced ‘OOH-KNEE’. Not the noise you make when you admire someone’s lower leg (get it?!), but a grape variety used in Southern French wines, Cognac and Armagnac. Like its Italian cousin, Trebbiano, Ugni Blanc has few distinguishing features and is blended with other grapes to make dry white wine. However, in terms of real estate value, Ugni Blanc moves up the property ladder in Cognac and Armagnac where it’s the main grape in the brandy produced there.

If you like Ugni Blanc, you might also like … Pinot Blanc


Find a wine made from the Verdejo grape and chances are it comes from the Rueda area in north central Spain. The style is fresh yet full; you can get mouth-coating lime and lemons with herbaceous hints and nutty notes. A great partner to many of the dishes from that part of Spain. Try it with ‘gambas al ajillo’ – prawns cooked with garlic, chilli and bay leaf. Not to be confused with Verdelho – a different grape which you’ll find in Portugal, Spain, Australia and in the fortified Madeira wine from the island of the same name.

If you like Verdejo, you might also like … Sauvignon Blanc, Bacchus


If Vermentino were a film, it’d be shot in some of the most glorious locations in the Mediterranean (the grape thrives in the French and Italian Riviera, Corsica and Sardinia) and your leading man would have a wonderfully romantic name and wouldn’t break a sweat in high heat. Sorry, I’m getting carried away – I’ll stop the corny comparisons. Taste-wise, Vermentino makes bright, fresh wine with citrus fruit flavours, herbal notes and a kind of ‘hot pebble’ aroma which transports us right to the South of France. Great with the local catch and a salad of ripe, sweet Mediterranean tomatoes.

If you like Vermentino, you might also like … Alvarinho, Catarrato, Inzolia, Loureiro, Pinot Blanc


When we talk about Vernaccia, we’re really talking about Vernaccia di San Gimignano – the version of this grape grown around the Tuscan hill town of San Gimignano. In addition to me visiting in May 2013 (?!), its high point was in 1966 when it was given the first ever DOC in Italy. It’s fiercely held on to this; indeed it’s top trumped it with DOCG classification in spite of encroachments from the prolific and undistinguished Trebbiano grape. So what’s so special about Vernaccia di San Gimignano? Well, it has wonderfully concentrated flavours, but with a lightness of citrus touch and a hard-to-put-your-finger-on-it mineral quality that comes from its sandstone soil. Extremely food friendly; we’ve tried it with lots of dishes from Penne Arrabiata to roast salmon.

If you like Vernaccia, you might also like … Chenin Blanc, Colombard, Garganega, Inzolia, Trebbiano


If you like your white wine full-flavoured and aromatic, then you’ve probably already encountered the wonderful world of Viognier. With its floral aromas of white blossom and honeysuckle and potential flavour combination of peaches, apricots, mango and passion fruit with a little bit of spice and ginger thrown in for good measure, it’s often a real turn off for lovers of crisp Sauvignon Blanc. However, over the past fifty years it’s gathered enough fans of that floral, full-on fruitiness to see it go from near extinction to worldwide phenomenon. The most prestigious examples are found in the Rhône Valley in Condrieu, but you’ll find it (often blended) in the Languedoc, Spain, Portugal, South Africa, Australia and Argentina.

If you like Viognier, you might also like … Fiano, Marsanne, Moschofilero, Torrontes

i Robinson, J. Cabernet Franc Accessed 4/06/2013
ii Johnson, H. (2010) Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book 2011. Mitchell Beazley: London, p.15 (Carignan)
iii Johnson, H. (2010) Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book 2011. Mitchell Beazley: London, p.15 (Cinsault)
iv Robinson, J. Tempranillo Accessed 8/08/2013
v Robinson, J., Harding, J., Vouillamoz, J (2012) Wine Grapes. Penguin Group: London. p. 393.
vi Johnson, H. (2010) Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book 2011. Mitchell Beazley: London, p.19 (Trebbiano)