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There are well over 1000 grape varieties used in winemaking across the world (1368 according to the most recent research), and to complicate things further, many have multiple identities in different countries. The cultivation of the domesticated grape began 6,000–8,000 years ago, with archaeological evidence of winemaking having been found in Georgia from that period, and as production has grown and diversified, so too have the varieties of grapes used.
Out of the many varieties, there are only a limited number that have found worldwide fame. When dining out or buying wine for home do you stick with an old faithful? A New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, a Californian Chardonnay or perhaps a Burgundian Pinot Noir? After discovering a wine you really love your vinous journey might seem complete; a favourite becomes your own personal definition of a great glass of wine and you are reluctant to consider other alternatives.
However, you can expand your horizons further by exploring new and exciting versions of your favourite variety from different regions. Growth conditions and many other factors might contribute to a unique twist on your favourite variety that will give a whole new perspective to your preferred glass of wine.
Simply find your favourite variety below for a host of different ideas and suggestions of wines that you may not have tried.
Depending on the climate, Sauvignon Blanc can either be made into wines that are restrained, elegant and mineral, such as in the Loire, or tropical, floral and grassy from regions in the archetypal New Zealand expressions.
If you’re a fan, do try the fantastic Puklavec & Friends Sauvignon from Slovenia. To see the grape in its different regional characters, we stock Waitrose Sauvignon Blancs from both Chile and Touraine in the Loire, so you can experiment to your heart’s content.
Riesling can be found mainly in Germany and Alsace in the Old World, and in the New World it’s most widely seen in Australia, and also increasingly in New Zealand. Identifiable by its profile of honeyed fruit flavours and florality combined with a moreish balancing freshness.
Examples to try include the glorious, off-dry, pure and elegant Leitz Rüdesheimer Rosengarten Riesling Kabinett from the Rheingau in Germany.
Pinot Noir is an early-ripening variety, so it likes relatively cool climates and limestone soils. Try the Labouré-Roi, Côte de Beaune-Villages for a classic Burgundy, or the juicy, pure Pinot called The Edge, from New Zealand.
Pinots from Germany and Alsace are amazing too (think of those cooler climates) so try the Enselberg Pinot Noir for a beautifully delicate and fresh, intricate wine that shows the best of what Pinot Noir can achieve in the right hands.
Much maligned and often misunderstood, Chardonnay is a variety that manages to create many different styles with equal success. It can show a lean, mineral and bright style all the way to lush, creamy, tropical expressions in warmer climates, such as the
from South Africa.
Chardonnay can generate high yields in warm climates, however growers are now often choosing to plant in cooler locations to retain freshness; such as the Kumeu River Chardonnay from New Zealand.
It's rumoured that Merlot is half brother to Cabernet Sauvignon and related to Cabernet Franc, which may explain its affinity with these varieties. While it’s most famous for these Bordeaux blends, it also produces many excellent, soft and approachable wines by itself.
Other areas well-known for Merlot include Italy (Terre Viva Organic Merlot) and in the New World, South Africa (Morgenhof Estate Merlot), Australia, California and New Zealand (Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Vineyard Merlot).
Pinot Grigio is a hugely popular Italian variety, grown mostly in Veneto in the north. While its incursions into the New World are still small scale, it does very well in various Eastern European countries such as Hungary. Pinot Grigio grapes can have a slight pinkish tinge, which may be turned into a blush coloured rosé.
Great examples of the diversity and quality of this variety include Waitrose Hungarian Pinot Grigio, St Michael-Eppan Pinot Grigio and the Cave de Beblenheim Pinot Gris.
At some point in the mists of time (most likely the 18th century), Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc were brought together to create Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s a remarkable variety that needs warmth and a long growing season to coax it to full ripeness.
Look out for Californian examples such as First Press Cabernet Sauvignon or the deliciously full bodied bold Australian Vasse Felix Cabernet and one of our favourites, the Tsantali Organic Cabernet Sauvignon from Halkidiki in Greece.
"If you’re not sure about branching out to new regions, why not pick up a trusted favourite but try comparing it with a bottle of the same variety from somewhere new? With ever-increasing globalism, winemakers from every corner of the world can take advantage of others’ experiences, of new research and of improvements in technology, meaning that the varieties we know and love are now being made successfully in many corners of the world. The styles can be traditional or modern, with Old World elegance or New World character."
Wine Specialist, Waitrose Cellar
If you are feeling adventurous you can explore six versions of your favourite variety with each of our
single variety pre-mixed cases. Each case is carefully compiled by Xenia Irwin, Master of Wine and Wine Buyer for Waitrose Cellar. They offer you a selection of the most expressive wines from your favourite variety, with bottles from both well known and developing regions.
If would like help exploring your favourite variety get in touch with the Waitrose Cellar Wine Specialists on 03456 100 304 or you can email your questions to email@example.com