Fiano: FEE-AH-NO. Italian. Aromatic white, bright, with interesting texture, and potential to age. Super pretty.
Fume: FOO-MAY. This is cheating a little, but a term used to indicate a generally unoaked white has seen some time in barrel. Generally applied to Sauvignon Blanc.
Garganega: GA-GAH-NEH-GA. Italian. Aromatic textured white, citrus and almond notes.
Gewurztraminer: GU-VURZ-TRA-MI-NAH. Alsace. Highly aromatic, great with spicy food. Lychee, rosewater, turkish delight and a fine acid line.
Gruner Veltliner: GROO-NA VELT-LINNA. Austrian. Mineral and spicy, with a fine acid. Can develop honeyed notes.
Petit Manseng: PETEE MAN-SENG. French. Spice and stone fruit, aromatic and floral.
Pinot Blanc: PEE-NO BLONK. Alsace, mostly. Apple and citrus, spice notes.
Pinot Grigio: PEE-NO GRI-JO. Italian. See PINOT GRIS. Vibrant, citrus, peach blossom, with a fine acid line.
Pinot Gris: PEE-NO GREE. Alsace. SAME grape as PINOT GRIGIO, above, just treated in a different manner. Richer, more stone fruit than apple, more spicy notes, and sometimes a slight oiliness to the palate.
Marsanne: MARR-SARRN. French, Northern Rhone specifically. Often blended with ROUSSANNE and VIOGNIER. Vibrant and intensely aromatic – fruit blossom, pear, nutmeg – when young, with age developing stone fruit and spice notes.
Roussane: ROO-SARRN. French, Northern Rhone specifically. Often blended with MARSANNE and VIOGNIER. Herbal and nutty, with a fine acid. Nashi, cider apples.
Savagnin: SA-VA-NYAHN. French, Jura specifically. See TRAMINER. The problem child. The grape vines were originally believed to be ALBARINO – a different, Spanish variety, and were made in that style. After DNA testing, it was discovered to be Savagnin. NOT related to Sauv Blanc. Made often as an aromatic, slightly spicy style, with texture and character.
Semillon: SE-MEE-ON. French. Not exactly ‘alternative’. We have oodles of semillon planted and have been making wines from it for, well, forever. But it has been lost a little in the wine conversations of late, so… Complex, bright, citrus and the spice of honey. Nutty and with the potential to age beautifully.
Traminer: TRA-MI-NAH. French/Italian, south Tyrol more specifically. See also SAVAGNIN. Often made in a sweeter style. Late picked, or cordon cut, the spice notes intensify and develop a honeyed character balanced by a fine acid profile.
Verdejo: VER-DAY-HO. Spanish, Rueda more specifically. Fragrant, with stone fruit and passionfruit notes. Acid and a slight herbaceousness.
Verdicchio: VER-DI-KEY-OH. Italian. Bright, light fruits, and a slight herbaceousness. Good length and acidity.
Vermentino: VER-MEN-TEE-NO. Italian. Aromatic, pretty white variety. Some chalkiness, and light textural characters. Herbal notes.
Viognier: VEE-ON-YEA. French, Rhone specifically. Peach and pear, with minerality and some vibrant floral notes. Veers into apricot and dried ginger in riper styles. Quite overtly spicy – cardamom, ginger.
Aglianico: AH-LYA-NI-KO. Greek and Italian. Full and powerful, with firm tannins and relatively high acids. Suited to ageing.
Barbera: BAR-BEAR-RA. Italian. Intense colour, high acid, and relatively low tannins. Berries, sour cherry, some tarriness.
Cabernet Franc: CA-BUR-NAY FRONK. French, Bordeaux and the Loire. Genetically related to Cab Sauv and Merlot. Violets and blueberries, tobacco leaf, cassis and berries.
Graciano: GRA-SEE-AR-NO. Spanish, Rioja specifically. Highly aromatic – red cherry and briar rose, with a plummy, dark fruited palate. Often blended.
Grenache: GRE-NASH. French (Rhone) and Spain. Cherry and forest floor notes, spiced, juicy. With higher alcohol can become very intense. Often also used for rose styles.
Lagrein: LA-GREEN. Italian. High acid and very tannic in cooler climates. Firm minerality with an earthy and dark fruit palate.
Malbec: MARL-BEK. French. Inky, with fine tannins. Violets, cassis, tobacco leaf, with a plush palate structure.
Mataro: MA-TAAH-ROW. See also MOURVEDRE (also MONASTRELL). French and Spanish. Often relatively high alcohol. Deeply coloured, with firm tannins, and an aromatic nose. Occasionally gamey, with blackberry and earthy notes.
Montepulciano: MON-TEH-PULL-CHAR-NO. Italian. Deep colour and low acidity, with mild tannins. Dark berry and chocolate, often with charry or vanilla notes from the oak.
Mourvedre: MOOR-VED-REH. See also MATARO (also MONASTRELL). French and Spanish. Deeply coloured, with firm tannins, and an aromatic nose. OCcasionally gamey, with blackberry and earthy notes.
Nebbiolo: NE-BEE-OH-LOH. Italian, specifically Piemonte. Tarry with rose petals, cherry and raspberry. Light in colour but firm in tannin.
Nero d’Avola: NE-ROW DAH-VO-LLA. Italian, specifically Sicilia. Fruit forward, with a luscious character. Some pepper notes, with a fine acid, and integrated tannins.
Petite Sirah/Durif: PE-TEE SI-RAA/ DUE-RIFF. French (originally, not so much now) and Californian. NOT related to syrah/shiraz. Spicy, plummy and with a definite tannin profile.
Petit Verdot: PE-TEE VUR-DO. French, more specifically Bordeaux. Smokey, with cassis, molasses, black plum and cedar. Excellent colour – great in blending.
Primitivo: PRI-MI-TEE-VO. Croatian, and Italian, specifically Puglia. See also ZINFANDEL. These two names refer to grapes with the same DNA, but generally a different provenance. Primitivo is the Italian style, with blackberry, olive and chocolate as defining characters. Fine tannins and a smooth palate.
Sagrantino: SAH-GRARN-TEE-NOH. Italian, specifically Umbria. Deep purple, with incredibly dense tannins. Palate of cinnamon, earthiness and stewed plums.
Sangiovese: SARN-JO-VEH-SE Italian, specifically Toscana. Sour cherry, and occasionally cola. Tea leaf, cedar and a fine acid. Silky tannins.
Saperavi: SA-PE-RA-VEE. Georgian. This is a teinturier grape – which means the flesh is red in colour as well as the skin. Savoury, and occasionally gamey, with intense rich blueberry characters and dense tannins.
Tempranillo: TEM-PRA-NEE-OH. Spanish. A great blending wine. Macerated strawberries, plum, tobacco leaf, leather and herbs. Fine tannins, and fruit forward.
Teroldego: TEH-ROHL-DEH-GO. Italian, specifically Sudtirol. Spicy red fruits, with a distinct tannin and bright acidity.
Tinta Negra Mole: TIN-TAH NE-GRAH MOLL. Portuguese. Used to make Madeira, as well as a table wine. Dark fruits, and a soft, persistent palate. Good in blends.
Touriga: TOO-REE-GAH. Portuguese. Also TOURIGA NACIONAL. Used to make Ports as well as table wines. Concentrated dark fruits with high tannins. Spice, leather and violet.
Zinfandel: ZIN-FAN-DEL. Italian and Californian. See also PRIMITIVO. These two names refer to grapes with the same DNA, but generally a different provenance. Zinfandel is generally the Californian style, with spice, red fruits and fine tannins as defining characters. Smooth and food friendly.
This is far from being a complete list. There are plenty more varieties out there being grown and made by our extraordinary winemakers. We have so much choice, and it is worth taking a punt every now and again, and picking up something new…!