How many wine varieties of wine are there?

There are SO many varieties of wine. Some red, some white, some orange, pink and even blue (artificially).

So how many varieties of wine are there? The answer surprised me.

There are over 10,000 varieties of wine grapes in the world, in fact. Most people can identify about 15 different wines off-the-top of their head.

Wine comes from the Vitaceae family of flowering plants (‘dicotyledonous’), with 14 genera and ca 910 known species, including the grapevine and Virginia creeper. Although only around 1,300 of these are used in winemaking.

Many of these delicious varieties have been developed by using grafting methods, whereby winemakers splice the top of one vine onto the roots of another to produce new hybrids.  We’ll explain more…

How new varieties of wine are born?

Just like the animal kingdom, local animals take habitat in specific countries and territories. They also vary in their ability to grow and prosper in different conditions, and winemakers may chose to alter the taste of the variety during the fermentation process with a number of scientific methods, and during the blending process.
Grafting Method

Certain types of grapes are popular to grow in certain countries and regions. While some grape varieties are native to the region (e.g) modern winemakers experiment with planting new varieties in their soils all the time. The Big 5 are planted a lot! And Pinot Noir is particular is fussy to grow – which is why winemakers are often judged on their ability to harvest it.

If you are completely new to wine. Try and learn the big 5!

  • Merlot,
  • Cabernet Sauvignon,
  • Pinot Noir,
  • Sauvignon Blanc, and 
  • Chardonnay

These are 5 good varieties to get started with. The five above range from heavy to light, and fruity to earthy. If you’re just starting out – make sure to taste theses 5 different varieties and flavour profiles.

HACK: When you’re ready for the challenge – try the blind tasting option. This is guaranteed to help you train your brain on the primary flavours and profiles of wine; and learn quickly as you continue to discover new varieties. Especially helpful as you get through a couple glasses.

Much like tequila – some varieties are born from a particular distinct and keeps the name. Sometimes there are location specific laws that associate with growing them (champagne and DOCG wines from Italy), as well as trademarks with grower’s guarantee. For a wine to be labeled as a specific varietal, such as chardonnay, it must be made with at least 75% of that same grape variety .

HACK: When first learning about wine the first place to start is with varieties – matching which grapes are from each region, and this journey of discovery will evolve forever.

So, when do you use ‘variety’ and when to use ‘varietal’?

Variety = Describe the grape

Varietal = Describe the wine

But before we get to deep into varieties… We should first understand the different categories.

Wine categories

Red wine

  • Red wines are made from blue or purple-colored grapes and tend to carry considerably more tannins. This can say thanks to the way red wines are made with extended contact between the grape juice and grape skins. Some delicious classic red wines are; Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese and Merlot.

White Wine

  • White wines tend to focus on acidity and the fresh flavors of white fruit nuances. They may be crafted in either dry or sweet variations and range from fruity to floral, spicy to sweet, or rich and creamy on the nose and palate.

Rosé Wine

  • Typically made from red wine grapes with just a short exposure of the grape skins to the pressed grape juice, rosé wines are made in wine regions all over the globe and offer a refreshing, decidedly dry style alternative from red wine.

Sparkling wine

  • Made from red and white wine grapes. Or often both at the same time grapes, sparking are popular for parties that scream CELEBRATE and well known for their carbonated and fizzy personality. They can be clear like a white or rose wine and there are sparkling red options too too.
  • The bubbles come from a second fermentation that captures the carbon dioxide bubbles under sustained pressure.
  • Champagnes and sparkling can range from ultra dry to fairly sweet. And super bubbly to slightly bubbly. With a full spectrum of flavors and aromas that span the scale from floral to fruit-filled and fresh-baked bread to creamy buttery tones.
  • They can be vintage and non vintage and include a range of different grower and varietal types.

Fortified Wine

  • Fortified wines are made from still red or white wine that has additional alcohol added to it. This process leads generally to total alcohol by volumes around 17-20%.
  • They can be made in either a dry or a sweet style. The middle-ground of medium-sweet or medium-dry is covered in virtually all of the fortified wine categories and they will vary from one producer to the next.
  • Popular types of fortified wines include; Port, Sherry, Marsala, Vermouth and Madeira.

Dessert Wine

  • There is one other type of wine to consider, though it will typically fall into one of the top five categories, and it is the dessert (or sticky) wine. Made from red or white wine grapes, and based on higher levels of residual sugar thanks to botrytis, frozen grapes, or fortification, dessert wines are a delicious delight but don’t necessarily claim their own category when it comes down to the basics of distinguishing between wine types.
  • Some examples include: late harvest, noble rot, Straw Mat and ice wine.

Now that you’ve got your head around the different types of categories of wine. lets talk about varieties.

If you’re like me and consider yourself fairly open minded about wine. You’re familiar with the big five — Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay — and are getting comfortable with more obscure grape varieties: the occasional Albarino, Petite Sirah, or Viognier. But just when you thought you had the situation under control, your waiter suggests a Lagrein, your local liquor store is pushing Xynomavro, and your friends now swear by Pineau d’Aunis. What to do?

Check out the “Periodic Table – but for wine varieties. “

Image result for delong's wine grape varietal table
De Longs Vintage Chart

The popular wine reference, De long’s Wine Grape Varietal Table has been improved and expanded. Just as with the first edition, the world of wine grapes is organized in a clear, concise and easy to use reference similar to a periodic table. The table contains 184 red and white grape varieties organized by body (vertically) and acidity (horizontally).

We wanted to make sure we included all varieties that are ‘classic’ varieties and also some others we just couldn’t leave out.

Keep discovering more about different wine varieties in the ‘Red Wine’, ‘White Wine’, ‘Champagne’ and ‘Dessert Wine’ Secions’.