The wine-producing vine, as we know it, or 'vitis vinifera' to give it its botanical family name, will produce and ripen fruit throughout the mainly temperate regions of the world. Broadly speaking this area lies between 30° and 50° North and 30° and 50° South of the equator. Outside these latitudes it is either too cool - grapes will not ripen fully, or too hot - grapes ripen too early with low acidity and high alcohol.
In more marginal regions where heat is great, altitude and ocean influences can have a cooling effect and likewise in some of the cooler regions, south facing slopes and proximity to water can maximise the vine's exposure to the sun. These factors are known as microclimates and can greatly influence the location of a vineyard site and the choice of variety planted.
As a general rule, grapes need a minimum of 1500 hours of sunshine to ripen fully, red more so than white, which is why you will see more white grapes planted in cooler regions such as Germany and New Zealand.
The trend towards selling varietal wines continues unabated with many countries now labelling at least some of their wines as 'Merlot', 'Chardonnay', 'Riesling' etc. Many top quality wines however, are not permitted to use varietal names because of the 'cépage' (grape mix) required by law. Red Bordeaux wines, for example, are a blend of often four different grapes including, but not exclusively, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Other equally fine wines such as red and white Burgundy are made from single grape varieties but choose, for marketing and historical reasons, to use their regional appellations.
Many people have enjoyed an excellent Barolo or a Chianti but have never heard of Nebbiolo or Sangiovese. Others may enjoy a nice bottle of Chablis and not realise that it is 100 per cent Chardonnay. Our varietal index is designed to tell you a little about the most popular grape varieties and to lead you to wines that include, even in part, those grapes. We hope you find this format useful.
White grape of the Northern Rhône and primary constituent of white Crozes-Hermitage and St.Joseph it is also a permitted blend for red Hermitage. It produces wines high in extract and alcohol with pronounced floral and almond characteristics. Often blended with the more refined Roussanne for a touch of elegance. Seen as a varietal in the Victoria region of Australia, notably Chateau Tahbilk.
Syrah (or Shiraz)