The Most Popular Types of Wine Grapes

One of the most delicious and soulful joys in life, wine is also an unending maze of grapes and regions. Trying to pick out the perfect bottle of wine can be comparable to finding a needle in a haystack. Fret not my friends….here are the top 10 wine varietals of the world that you are sure to find in your local wine shop. 

1. Cabernet Sauvignon

The Most Popular Types of Wine Grapes - Cabernet Sauvignon

A natural cross between Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon is the most popular red wine in the world. It originated in Bordeaux, France and is often seen in blends everywhere it is grown. It grows best in warmer climate regions.

Taste- Baking spices, cedar, black currant, cherry
Style- Full-bodied red wine
Grapes Origin- Bordeaux, France
Top Production Areas- France, Chile, Australia, United States
Characteristics- Fruit forward, full body, high tannins, medium to high acidity, high alcohol
Recommended Food Pairing- Steak, beef dishes, firm aged cheeses, cured meats

2. Merlot

The Most Popular Types of Wine Grapes - Merlot

This wine is popular worldwide and is a top choice for blending purposes. It’s lighter in acidity and tannins than many of the grapes it is blended with, so it is able to make those wines more drinkable and add more fruit flavors. Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are often confused, but flavors of cocoa and plum can often set Merlot apart.

Taste- Plum, cherry, raspberry, cedar, cocoa
Style- Medium-bodied red wine
Grapes Origin- Bordeaux, France
Top Production Areas- France, United States, Spain, Italy
Characteristics- Fruit forward, medium body, high tannins, medium acidity, high alcohol
Recommended Food Pairing- Pork, soft cheeses, cured meat, steak and beef dishes

3. Airen

The Most Popular Types of Wine Grapes - Airen

The most planted grape of Spain and typically used for brandy. Airen is hardly ever seen as a single varietal wine because it is often used for blending with other grapes. Almost all of the plantings of Airen are seen in Spain, but it is an interesting varietal if you can ever find one.

Taste- Apple, pineapple, citrus, banana, flowers, grapefruit
Style- Full-bodied white wine
Grapes Origin- La Mancha, Spain
Top Production Areas- Spain
Characteristics- Medium to full body, off-dry, low acidity, medium alcohol
Recommended Food Pairing- Hard cheeses, shellfish, chicken, tofu

4. Tempranillo

The Most Popular Types of Wine Grapes - Tempranillo

Tempranillo is one of one of the most popular red grapes in Spain. Its unique flavors of dried or preserved fruits set it apart from other red grapes. It is also very high in tannins and is often blended with a small amount of less tannic wine in order to make the wine drinkable earlier.

Taste- Blackberry, raisins, strawberries, cherry
Style- Full-bodied red wine
Grapes Origin- Spain
Top Production Areas- Spain, Portugal
Characteristics- Low fruit flavors, full body, high tannins, high acidity, high alcohol
Recommended Food Pairings- Beef dishes, venison, lamb, cured meats

5. Chardonnay

The Most Popular Types of Wine Grapes - Chardonnay

Being one of the most popular grapes in the world, it is also one of the most diverse. Chardonnay grapes can be made into a variety of styles that include unoaked, oaked, and sparkling wines. While Airen is technically the most planted white grape, Chardonnay is the most commonly planted white grape that is used for the sole purpose of winemaking.

In Champagne, France, Chardonnay is used to make Champagne alongside Pinot Noir. They can be blended together or made into a Blanc de Blanc, made only from Chardonnay. 

Taste- Apple, pineapple, chalk, citrus. If oaked (butter, cedar, vanilla)
Style- Full-bodied white wine
Grapes Origin- Burgundy, France
Top Production Areas- France, United States, Australia
Characteristics- Fruit forward, full body, dry, medium acidity, medium to high alcohol
Recommended Food Pairing- Soft cheeses, finfish, shellfish, chicken, light salads

6. Syrah

The Most Popular Types of Wine Grapes - Syrah

Arguably the most important ingredient in the famous Rhone Blends, Syrah is a big, bold player in the wine world. While many wines are blended with at least small amounts of other wines (even if it is labeled as a single varietal), they are usually blended with the same type of grape. For examples, reds are blended with reds.

However, Syrah is often blended with Sauvignon Blanc or other white wines in order to soften the sometimes harsh flavors and tannins that are typical of Syrahs. 

Taste- Tobacco, black pepper, cocoa, plum, blueberry
Style- Full-bodied red wine
Grapes Origin- Rhone, France
Top Production Areas- France, Australia, Spain, United States
Characteristics- Fruit forward, full body, medium tannins, medium to high acidity, high alcohol
Recommended Food Pairings- Firm and aged cheeses, cured meats, venison, lamb

7. Garnacha Tinta

The Most Popular Types of Wine Grapes - Garnacha

Also known as Grenache, this grape has unique flavors of leather and licorice. It is lower in body, tannin, and acidity than many other red wines and should be drunk within a year or two of bottling. This grape is primarily grown in Old World countries, although the popularity in New World wine regions has been growing in the past decade.

Taste- Leather, grapefruit, plum, strawberry, licorice
Style- Medium-bodied red wine
Grapes Origin- Spain
Top Production Areas- France, Spain, Italy
Characteristics- Fruit forward, medium body, medium tannin, medium acidity, high alcohol
Recommended Food Pairings- Soft cheeses, cured meats, pork, lamb, beef dishes

8. Sauvignon Blanc

The Most Popular Types of Wine Grapes - Sauvignon Blanc

A popular “Porch Pounder”, summertime classic, Sauvignon Blanc originated in the Loire, France, but has since then been grown very successfully in New Zealand and the United States. This wine is often drunk alone or alongside seafood dishes. 

Taste- Peach, grapefruit, lemon, lime, melon
Style- Light-bodied white wine
Grapes Origin- Loire, France
Top Production Areas- France, New Zealand, Chile
Characteristics- Fruit forward, light body, dry, high acidity, medium alcohol
Recommended Food Pairings- Finfish, oysters, clams, shellfish

9. Trebbiano

The Most Popular Types of Wine Grapes - Trebbiano

While you may not see this grape on many wine labels, it is most often used in the production of brandy and balsamic vinegar. France and Italy are the main producers of this grape, but recently New World countries have started growing it primarily for blending purposes.Italy produces high quality 100% Trebbiano in the Abruzzo region.

Taste- Saline, apple, lemon, peach
Style- Light to full-bodied white wine, dessert wine
Grapes Origin- Cognac, Armagnac France
Top Production Areas- France, Italy
Characteristics- Off-dry to sweet, low tannins, high acidity, medium to low alcohol, medium body
Recommended Food Pairing- Cheeses, finfish, shellfish, chicken

10. Pinot Noir

The Most Popular Types of Wine Grapes - Pinot Noir

The most popular in the Pinot family, this light red is richer than its color lets on. Pinot Noir is known for its cranberry and earthy flavors. The grape has very thin skins compared to other red grapes, so it is naturally lighter in tannins. Because the tannins are low, the wine does not age as well as bolder reds, so it is recommended that you drink Pinot Noirs within five years of bottling.

Taste- Cranberry, mushroom, cherry, clove
Style- Light-bodied red wine
Grapes Origin- Burgundy, France
Top Production Areas- France, United States, Germany
Characteristics- Fruit forward, light body, low tannins, high acidity, medium alcohol
Recommended Food Pairing- Turkey, soft cheeses, chicken

If you are new to drinking wine and wish to expand your palate, make your way down this list first. You are sure to find all of these varietals in your wine shop with options from all over the globe. Cheers!

What do you think?

Cedar

Written by Cedar

Cedar is a Chicago-based wine writer/consultant whose love of all things edible brought her back to wine after a brief stint in the tech industry. Her particular focus is on making wine more accessible to consumers and developing interest in lesser known varietals. Cedar currently works in wine retail, as well as writing informational wine articles and consulting on brand development for small producers.

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