Wine Grapes

wine grape traits

  • Color. Grapes are categorized either as white wine grapes or red wine grapes based on the color of their skins when ripe. Except for a few red grape varieties that have red pulp, all grapes have the same white-colored pulp and clear juice.
  • Size. Grapes come in all sizes-some large, some small.
  • Skin. Grape skins can be thick or thin.
  • Acidity, Fragerance. Some grapes have higher acid levels, and some are fragerant.
  • Cluster Density. Some vines produce grapes in dense clusters. In warm. moist climates mildew can grow between the grapes in dense clusters, which can make the wine taste moldy.
noble wine grapes (five from France, one from Germany)
  1. Cabernet Sauvignon,
  2. Merlot,
  3. Pinot Noir,
  4. Chardonnay,
  5. Sauvignon Blanc, and
  6. Riesling.

Today, grape growing and production of fine wines have expanded well beyond the use of these geographic areas.

growing wine grapes

Every grape variety has its own timetable for ripening. Grapes with a long ripening period should be planted where the summers are long. Varieties that ripen early are planted in cooler climates to avoid overripe grapes.

planting wine grape vines

Grapevines begin as cuttings from other plants rather than from seeds. The cuttings are usually grafted to rootstocks that have been specially cultivated for their sturdiness.

Every grape variety has its favorite type of soil.

  • Limestone. Chardonnay and Pinot Nair.
  • Gravel. Cabernet.
  • Slate. Riesling.

Good drainage is the common denominator.

Vines are supported off the ground by trellises and are carefully pruned back. This directs the plant's energy towards producing the best fruit possible.

harvesting wine grapes

The ripeness of the grapes determines when they are harvested. Ripeness is determined by color and sugar level.

Brix Scale. Sugar content is measured by the Brix scale. Using a hydrometer, a Brix reading is taken for the grapes. Most table wines have a Brix reading of between 19° and 25° Brix. The measurement translates directly into what level of alcohol will be produced from the grapes during fermentation.

White Wine Grapes

The wines made from the following white wine grapes are commonly found throughout the world.  We’ll discuss them in order from lightest body to fullest body.


Riesling grapes produce high quality white wines. Because they are the predominate grape from the cooler climates of Germany and the Alsace region in France, they are lighter-bodied wines with relatively high acidity. Riesling wines are delicate but complex.  They are characterized by a flower-scented aroma and fruity flavor, reminiscent of apples, grapefruits and peaches. Rieslings are made in a variety of styles, ranging from dry to very sweet.  If you are having trouble choosing a white wine, Rieslings are usually a good choice because they are easily paired with almost any food from appetizers to desserts, pork, poultry or fish. Rieslings also work well with spicy or zesty foods.

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc grapes are widely cultivated in the Loire Valley and Bordeaux regions of France, and also in California. The medium-bodied wines from these grapes have noticeable acidity and a grassy, tropical fruit aroma and flavor. Sauvignon Blancs are versatile wines that can complement everything from appetizers, Caesar salads and vegetable dishes to fish and poultry.


These grapes produce a variety of Chardonnay wines with varying characteristics. Chardonnay wines are full-bodied, with generally low acidity. Their flavors can be described as buttery, nutty, spicy and smoky, with a hint of tropical fruit. Chardonnays pair well with poultry dishes, pork, seafood or dishes with a heavy cream base.

Red Wine Grapes

The following wines are made from the most popular red wine grapes. We will discuss them in order from lightest body to fullest body.

Pinot Noir

This red grape is one of the most difficult grapes to grow, but is worth the effort.   It is used to produce French red Burgundies as well as Pinot Noirs from California, Oregon and Washington. Pinot Noir wines have a light body, high acidity levels, and a delicate texture.  Their aroma is reminiscent of black cherry, raspberry, and currants.  Although Pinot Noir wines pair well with most foods, they are particularly good with: grilled salmon, plain roast beef, or dishes that feature mushrooms.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Used for many California red wines and wine from the Bordeaux region. Cabernet Sauvignon grapes produce medium to full-bodied wine, that are complex with medium acidity. Heavy in tannins these wines have a velvety texture that coats your mouth. Tannins produce a wine that pairs well with steak and other rich, fatty foods.


Merlot is a red-wine grape widely grown in many regions, including the Bordeaux  region and California. Merlot wines are similar in flavor to Cabernet Sauvignon, but are softer. Because of their similarities, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot wines are often blended.


Syrah grapes produce full-bodied wines with medium acidity. Young Syrah’s are deep-colored and tannic. These wines have a long life and take on characteristics of black fruit and black pepper as they mature. Syrah wines are good complements for meat covered pizzas, grilled meats or vegetables, wild game, rich red meats, or beef stew. Syrah is called Shiraz in Australia and is that country's most popular red grape.