A Word from our stores

Top 10 European grapes you must try

September 11th 2020

This month we are exploring Europe with a fantastic range of wines to sample in-store every week. To find out what’s on each week, follow our Instagram or Facebook page.

But returning to our monthly exploration of European wines, we have created a top ten list of grape variates to that you must try.

No1: Riesling – Germany
Once viewed as the home of Hock and other cheap wines, Germany has always been a strong producer of wines and its most planted grape Riesling is an excellent example of this.
Its popularity has seen this grape travel far and wide with Riesling’s now being produced in countries such as Australia and The U.S.
With naturally high acidity, Rieslings can range from dry to very sweet wines. Typically scents such as stone fruits and citrus dominate, but aged varieties can sometimes have a slight petrol smell to them.

No2: Syrah – France
Syrah is known and used all over the globe today. Still, its roots remain very firmly in French viticulture, with particularly strong links to the Rhône region of France, seen by many as the homeland of Syrah.
Its aroma usually consists of darker fruits, sometimes even herbs. Still, this earthy red has plenty of giving, and even the difference between a Northern and Southern Rhône winery can produce exceptionally unexpected differences.

No3: Tempranillo – Spain
The archetypal grape used to produce the world-renowned Rioja blend. Full-bodied, robust and tannic, these wines are a fundamental step in exploring European wine. The paring possibilities of this grape know no bounds, cold cuts, red meat, game, braised chicken, cheese; you name it, there is a Tempranillo wine to match it.
Red ripe fruits, oak, spice, leather, tobacco dominates the nose of most Tempranillo’s. This is a must-try grape.

No4: Sangiovese – Italy
Synonymous with the Tuscan region of Italy, but also grown in other central and southern areas of Italy, Sangiovese is the main grape chosen for Chianti’s and Montepulciano’s.
Most Sangiovese’s are high acidity wines with a lot of tannins, but that adds to their character and makes them a fantastic wine to enjoy with rich pasta dishes, cheeses, even pizza.
Savoury in style, this grape has typical notes of cherries, spice and herbs on the nose.

No 5: Primitivo – Italy
So, we are back in Italy, are we? Well no, the beginnings of this variety actually hail from an obscure Croatian variety ‘Crljenak Kaštelanski’ and are also identical to the Californian Zinfandel who also shares this ancient ancestor.
No, although this grapes history is spread out, its character based on where its produced couldn’t be any more different. Made mainly in the Apulia region of Italy (the Heel), this is a more rustic Italian wine, with some intense tannins that do calm more with aged verities. These in2tense tannins make this a great wine to enjoy fattier meats such as lamb.
Cocoa, tobacco and spices are typically present.

No6: Gewurztraminer – Alsace
This is a mouthful in more than one way. Newcomers can often be found staring with squinted eyes as the label, but any who try will be immediately rewarded. A plush pink-skinned grape, Gewurztraminer much like Germany’s Riesling hasn’t always received the praise it should have. Still, over recent years, its fame has risen and rightly expanded its roots into countries around the world such as Austria, Australia, California and Washington.
Varying from dry to sweet varieties, it has so much to offer and explore, with flowery and exotic fruit aromas. This grape produces wines that can match an entire menu, with dry expression suiting savoury, spicy or creamy dishes and the sweeter varieties perfectly partnering desserts.

No7: Barbera – Italy
In the far north-western region of Italy, Barbera has for years been one of the most planted grapes, used quite often in blended wines and considered a grape to be used for everyday wines rather than for anything unusual. Still, in recent years, it gained much more respect for its varietal grape wines.
Barbera wines usually are quite dark with low tannins, but a higher level of acidity. With strawberries, blackberries and stone fruits present on the nose, this is an excellent wine for easy drinking or accompanying appetizers.

No8: Verdejo – Spain
With an elusive past, we aren’t quite sure where the white variety of Verdejo originated. Most agree it is likely to have travelled up from northern Africa where it became a staple of Spanish wine production.
But whatever this grapes origin story is, it’s one to be happy about as this grape produces some fantastic white wines.
Young Verdejo is a great wine to enjoy with grilled seafood, salads and cheeses. While aged varieties are excellent with dishes such as paella. Typically, relatively light, these wines are fresh and fruit-filled with balanced acidity.

No9: Garnacha tinta – Spain
Garnacha is known to be one of the oldest and most planted grapes in the world, with its roots in northern Spain, it is also well grown in France, Italy, and plenty of new world regions too.
Medium but fleshy in style, this grape is an exciting variety as its characteristics fluctuate so much depending on the soil its been grown in. Still, typical characteristics include dark stone fruits, cherries, raspberries and plums.

No10: Pinot Gris – Alsace
Best known as Pinot Grigio, this little white grape really has taken the world by storm. Its roots are believed to belong in Burgundy, but its presence in Alsace has resulted in some fantastic wines.
These dense whites have notes of flowers, honey, stone fruit, spice such as ginger and so much more to explore. Full-bodied expressions pair beautifully with poultry and pork. We recommend trying one of the Alsace varieties.