Chardonnay Deep Dive

Chardonnay felt like the perfect grape to start our series of “deep dives”, as wine professionals tend to get quite frustrated with people who say they don’t like Chardonnay. It is truly the most chameleon of grapes, able to take on a variety of flavour profiles reflecting where and how it is made, allowing the winemaker to fully express themselves, and we’ve chosen three to explore.

There are particular aspects to look out for when tasting Chardonnay that are indicators of where it is from and how it is made.  Cool climate Chardonnay will taste more delicate, potentially chalky and with crisp apple or citrus flavours. As you verge into warmer climates a more tropical feel comes to its flavour with melon, fig and mango.

Then you have the techniques that a winemaker has at their disposal that can really change the style beyond that point. “Malolactic fermentation”, commonly used in cool climate styles, will turn tart malic into creamy lactic acid.

Using barrel fermentation can encourage a toasty or smoky note in the wine. Maturing in oak barrels adds more flavour such as vanilla, ginger, clove and cinnamon. And if they decide to use none of those techniques you get an unoaked Chardonnay that has a pure fruit driven style.

I would encourage you to look out for these clues to try to work out what the winemaker has done to the Chardonnay you are trying with us. To follow are our notes on each wine we tasted, each intended to showcase the potentially different styles and climatic influences on this grape.

Chardonnay Taste Test

We began with a simple test for Andy. Five Post-It notes were written, but only three matched the wines. His task was to match the descriptions to the wines. This is something you can try at home – even if you only have one bottle of wine, just write at least three notes and test somebody.

Tasting Post-Its
The Wines

Andy says: “It was quite easy to pick out the wine on the right due to its colour, but that’s cheating. My notes were ‘honey, tropical’ and it was the only real match. Separating the other two was a little trickier, but I just managed to pick up on the smoke in number 1.”

On to the wines…

Week 39 – Arneis

Ascheri Langhe Arneis

Emma says: “Shuffle over Gavi, this little grape is the northern Italian white that really deserves the spotlight. It has that bone dry crisp and refreshing style that fans of Pinot Grigio love but so much more in flavour. 

As I wrote in my page on this grape it’s also a favourite with locals. And I love the fact its name means “little rascal”

This version from Ascheri is a perfect example. Slightly honeysuckle floral on the nose, but it really comes alive on the palate, pear compote and cream flavours but that fresh acidity to balance that makes the mouth water. I don’t think you’d find many other examples better than this. 

For more ideas on other grapes to try or food matches check out the Arneis page I’ve written. But my perfect food match for this wine would be a lovely chicken breast casserole in a creamy sauce, the peachy flavours of the wine would combine nicely and the fresh acidity could cut through the sauce.”

Andy says: “Disclaimer: I tasted this after eating some home made garlic bread, so not ideal palate preparation.

I quite liked this wine, it was clean and crisp, but to be honest I don’t have much more to say, it’s just a bit ‘white wine-y’. It’s definitely fruity, but I’m not really getting any of the ‘classic’ apple and peachy notes that I’m supposed to. Garlic, yes, apple, no. Would I drink it again? Yeah, it’s not offensive in any way, just a bit middle of the road.”

Week 3 – Syrah/Shiraz

Tasting Notes

Ebenezer & Seppeltsfield ShirazEmma says: “I’m concerned that now I’ve promised Andy this wine will taste like one of his favourite crisp varieties “Frazzles”, that he will be disappointed if this doesn’t turn out to be a bacon wine.

My hope is that this wine really shows that beautiful bold fruit of the new world Shiraz but with that sophistication that comes from Barossa; that bit more complexity and dimension.

And wow, this Chateau Tanunda wine has certainly a lot of power. The aromas are really diverse, the fruit bursts from the glass, lots of raspberry & blueberry, very ripe but not too jammy. It might not have a bacon aroma, but it has this wild savoury character typical of Shiraz, smoky with an oriental spice twist. There is also a distinct molasses or brown sugar note which I always find in these wines; something that makes them very enticing. Plus there is a definite hint of eucalyptus, a classic note of Australian reds, apparently because the grape skins do absorb these characters from the abundant local eucalyptus trees.

Then to taste it is as succulent and rich as expected. I do love the way Shiraz feels rich and velvety in texture when it comes from a warm climate like Barossa. And paying that little bit extra (£15) for this wine has paid off. It has a real array of flavours from the dense red fruits to the sweet menthol, licquorice spice, then a hint of vanilla sweetness and brown sugar to finish. To put it simply this wine is GOOD. I’m glad I don’t have the bottle with me or I’d finish it.

Something I didn’t get from this wine is black pepper. That is a character of Shiraz that so many people tell me about but I always seem to miss. It used to frustrate me a lot when I was blind tasting for my wine exams, but then I read it is just one of those sensory characters that some people are more sensitive to than others.  You might want to test which camp you fall into with your Shiraz.

 And one more thing to watch out for from the Shiraz/Syrah you are tasting. This is a grape that is prone to reduction (see my Terminology section) so you might find when you open the bottle is can be dumb or flat, maybe with an eggy aroma. If that is the case swirl it in the glass or decant it. Give it time and the oxygen can reverse that problem and you’ll start to notice it becomes fruiter and generally wakes up.

For food matching, it is true that Frazzles may be your ultimate pre dinner match for this wine. But if you are feeling more sensible and want to have a decent dinner with it I’d advise food with equally bold flavours, maybe spiced or barbecued meats. Or for those on Veganuary you can go for padron peppers, roasted vegetable lasagna or tortilla.”

Andy says: “Australian Shiraz this week, and I’ve been looking forward to this ever since Emma said that it might taste like Frazzles, the king of bacon flavoured corn based snacks. She admitted privately that she meant French Shiraz and not Shiraz in general, so we’re off to a bad start.

I was hoping for something more from this full bodied red. There was mild tannin (that ‘grip’ you get on the tongue’), a whisper of smoke, and quite a short finish. It was lacking the punch in the mouth burst of flavour that I was hoping for. You know, that one that knocks you back a little and makes you go ‘wow, ok’. Actually, on second thoughts the finish isn’t that short, but does fade sooner than you’d like.

A day or so after opening and the wine opens up, and I get more fruit and mild hint of a jammy character, but still lacking a bit of intensity for me. Maybe that’s the idea… maybe, omg, I’m learning.

Still probably my favourite of the three so far.”

Buying Guidelines

If you’ve read the grape guide pages, then you’ll know Shiraz/Syrah is the grape I have come to view as “sexy” through the influence of a Mexican winery owner. Yes, indeed.

When I thought of which particular Shiraz/Syrah we should taste I thought I’d have to go straight to the style I would put most firmly in that “sexy” camp. I might be wrong, but I find the Barossa (Australian) style Shiraz the one that has those wickedly enticing flavours, and that’s what we’ll be trying this week. It is all raspberry ripple, brown sugar and velvet in its texture. Plus, the alcohol is a bit of a devil because it can often reach 14% or more. [Warning – you might not feel so sexy the next day after that bottle]

Finding this wine should be relatively simple because most retailers, large or small, should stock an Australian Shiraz. So this week head to the Australian section and find a Shiraz from the Barossa, McLaren Vale or Hunter Valley regions. This should represent best bang for buck.

Whilst we really want you to taste the same thing as us, if you’ve drunk a lot of Aussie Shiraz before and find this a boring option, then try some styles a little further afield. There are some great Syrahs from New Zealand (Hawkes Bay), South Africa (Paarl), Chile (Limari or Elqui Valley), California or even Canada (Okanagan). Get stuck in.

Finally, if you are not a fan of ripe fruity new world wines then you can go old world and give us some thoughts on the classics. The region most known for pure Syrah is the Rhone Valley. Northern villages of that region like Cote Rotie, St Joseph or Cornas produce amazing wines of great intensity and they have more complexity in additional infusions of wild herbs, black olives and more earthy savoury notes.

Oh and look out for bacon flavours or aromas. For some reason good Syrah always smells to me like a packet of Frazzles. I’d like to know if anyone else gets that…

Week 2 – Viognier

Tasting Notes

Emma says: “OK, I admit it. This whole 52 grape thing has got me overexcited. This week I realised it was the perfect excuse to go back to buying wines I’ve never tasted from an eclectic mix of stores. Just like I used to do before wine become my job.”

So yes, I bought two Viogniers. The reason, well like I said in the buying guide, it can be dramatically different in style and I wanted to learn which would be Andy’s favourite. The first is Domaine les Yeuses Viognier 2016 Pays’Doc; so South of France – I stuck to that promise. Then I got lured into buying a Sonoma (California) Viognier from Cline cellars; a well known winery from that part of the world but not a wine I’ve tasted from them before.

Actually I’m not expecting Andy or many other of our fellow tasters to naturally like this grape.  It fits a certain flavour profile that I think appeals to only some people. If you like your whites to have character and find those dry Italian whites boring, it could be for you. On the other hand some people find it too overtly floral, rich and fruity.

So what did I make of them. As I suspected, Domaine Les Yeuses Viognier 2016 was definitely my favourite. The unoaked French styles have more zip, freshness and a good grapefruit pith bite. You do get that lovely violet perfume but it is mild not overdone. Plus there is a sort of mineral saline back bone that gives it a bit of complexity. This is a rich wine but not overtly so.

Then you move onto the Cline Viognier. And wow, it is a different ball game entirely. First the fruit is very ripe, tinned peaches and orange blossom aromas, then ripe apricots, creamy and textured on the palate. You also get a mild menthol note and a violet cream richness. So it has complexity. But it is a little too supercharged to me. Just a personal preference thing. But when I drink wines this like I only ever really want one glass. Plus the alcohol is 14% – ouch that is big for a white wine.

As for food matching, I think the French Viognier would be more versatile. It would go well with things that have a touch of spice like chicken paprika dishes, paella or rich cheese like halloumi or feta. Then the Cline Viognier has that bit more power so it can stand up to dishes with Tex Mex flavours or Moroccan tagines.

Now over to you, have we got any converts?  And don’t forget to check out the Viognier page to read more about this grape.

Andy says: “So once again this week we are tasting two different versions of the ‘same wine’. This is not normal, and was not the idea for the site – you really don’t have to try more than one. I’m putting it down to youthful exuberance on Emma’s part. Hopefully it will wear off soon and we’ll just be having the one and I won’t have to think so much.”

On to the wines. According to Emma’s excellent notes, I should be getting grapefruit, apricot and violet. Let’s take those one by one.

In the same way a parsnip tricks you into thinking it’s a lovely roast potato, a grapefruit is basically an evil orange. You’re expecting some sweet juicy goodness, but instead you bite into a sour bitter ball of hell. I don’t like parsnips, and I don’t like grapefruit. Unfortunately I’m picking up grapefruit flavour profiles here, fortunately there is no hint of parsnip.

Apricot – the jam you nan has, right? She doesn’t have marmite or nutella, just apricot jam, and some out of date all bran. I don’t like apricots (childhood issues) and to be honest I couldn’t even think what they might taste like (unlike grapefruit, I do know that taste, because Tequila n’ Ting) – so no, I don’t get the apricot bit. Grapefruit yes, apricot no. One out of two so far.

Violet? Violet is a colour, not a taste. But! AHA! Parma Violets! Those awful, awful tiny purple sweets! Yes, ok, I can smell that. When Emma first started trying to educate me about wine a few years ago, I remember her pouring me a Viognier and me saying “this smells like Parma Violets”, and her being amazed that I’d said that, as violet was a typical Viognier note. Violet and Viognier both start with V, which is a nice way to remember. You can look forwards to more top tips like that through the year.

The Domaine Les Yeuses was quite sour, and I found that it made my mouth water quite a lot, especially from the cheeks. It wasn’t an unpleasant wine, but I wouldn’t say I was loving it. Maybe a hot summer’s day would be more suitable.

The Cline I found to be a little sweeter, and of the two was my preference. But, it was also quite soapy and had a whiff of those cherry lip sweets that probably don’t exist anymore. I didn’t really like them, either

In summary, I think I’ve found that I’m not a massive Viognier fan. All the things it’s supposed to taste like are things I basically don’t like.

Buying Guidelines

Picking a benchmark Viognier isn’t easy as it’s available in so many different styles. Oaked or unoaked? New World or classic European? Warm or cool climate? Each of these styles will be very different.

When this is the case, we’ll try to describe how to buy a wine we think best represents the pure taste of the base material – the grape.

Condrieu is the famous Viognier region, but it’s small and the wines from there tend to be pricey. You’re also unlikely to find Condrieu in the supermarket, so unlike last week when we said to find a Rioja (a region that predominantly uses Tempranillo), this week we simply want you head to the French whites section of the wine aisle and look for any Viognier.

It is likely to come from the South of France – the Languedoc or Rhone to be specific. In general, most of the wines from that area will have little or no oak, but if the back label says “unoaked”, even better!

If you do spot a Condrieu, feel free to buy it. It will give you a taste of the intensity this grape can really achieve.

If for some reason your shop lacks French Viognier then do try an Australian or other new world style. It will taste a lot riper and richer than the style we’ll try, but we’ll welcome your thoughts on those too.

Week 1 – Tempranillo

Tasting Notes

Emma says: “Week one and the pressure is on. Have I selected the right wines that will show Andy exactly what Tempranillo and Rioja is capable of? This is a complication I hadn’t quite factored into the challenge.

Here are the wines I chose: Perez Burton Rioja and Romeral Crianza Rioja.

I tried to select two close in price and not too pricey, just a touch over £10. One was from a producer I know is modern –  the “Perez Burton Rioja” by winemaker Telmo Rodriguez. He originates from Rioja, and studied winemaking in Bordeaux before returning to Spain, bringing new ideas and techniques. His wine did exactly what I hoped, it has a lively strawberry fruit aroma, then more bramble berry richness to taste, plus that lick of oak flavour giving chocolate sweetness; but all in all it is the fruit that is the star of this wine. And it has this purity in taste, plus a rich but fine texture that is the hallmark of modern styles.

And the second wine, Romeral Crianza Rioja was different from the Perez as I had hoped. The aroma was definitely more cedar noted, and spicy. The fruit wasn’t quite as showy, it was mixing in with those more savoury spicy characters that are a feature of traditional styles. I have to admit there is a year more age in this wine which does account for why the Perez Burton is more fruity, as the fruit does start to be overtaken by these other characters as it ages. I also think if we’d chosen a Reserva or Gran Reserva of the Romeral wines we’d have seen a bigger difference. When you taste those styles the fruit goes to strawberry compote and the spices get softer, more cinnamon and cocoa powder.

So what creates this difference between traditional and modern styles? Well there are lots of factors, but for me the simplest way to explain it is that modernistas try to make the wine so that the fruit flavours remain bright even as the wine ages. Sometimes traditional styles have been criticised for getting dried out and tired as they age, but to be honest I’m actually a real fan of the traditional style because I love the complexity of how all the savoury and spice notes start to overlay the fruit after time. However in this experiment I was more on the side of the Perez Burton.”

Andy says: “So week one and two Riojas / Tempranillos to taste, a modern and a classic. I didn’t know which was which and attempted to work it out following the guidelines above. I ballsed it up.

I know very little (nothing?) about wine, but I have had quite a few bottles of Rioja in my time. It’s usually smokey, smooth and creamy. Of our two, the Perez Burton was closest to what I recall as being Rioja, so I guessed it was the traditional one. It wasn’t. It was the fruitier of the two, and if I put my arty farty wine cap on, I’d say I could taste blackcurrant jam. The label informs me to taste cocoa, sorry label, but I can’t.

The Romeral by comparison, was a little ‘thinner’ and less tasty than the Perez. Again with the arty farty wine cap on, I’d say it had a little more volatile acidity (‘VA’ as the experts say. I’m probably wrong, but the way I detect VA is to get acetone-y, nail varnish remover-y notes on the nose).

A little disappointed in both (where’s the smoke?!), but of the two I’d choose the Perez.”

Buying Guidelines

Tempranillo is the main grape in Rioja. We chose this for week one as we assumed most of you would be familiar with it, and so it can be a good introduction to writing down your thoughts as the taste might be already well known.

Just in case you hadn’t clicked, the idea is that each week, within reason, we all taste the ‘same’ wine. The safest and easiest way to find a wine to match ours this week is to head to the Spanish section of the wine aisle. Find the Riojas and look for a bottle that says Tempranillo on the front or back label, as that way you can be sure it is made predominantly with that grape in the blend. If it doesn’t say Tempranillo on either label, then we can’t be sure that that is the predominant grape.

We want to taste a real “classic” Tempranillo which is aged in oak, so look for a Rioja called “Crianza” or “Reserva”. Those are terms used to mean the wine has spent some time ageing in oak.

Wineries tend to split into two style camps; traditional or modern, and we can’t be sure of the style of producer you will select. The traditional styles have gentler, sweet fruit, more cinnamon, sweet spice and savoury characters, whilst the modern style is more structured, more vibrant, blackcurrant fruit and peppery, clove-y spice. When tasting, see if you can spot which style you have.

We’ll pick up two bottles and comment on both styles. It would be impossible to guide everyone how to do the same. This way we thought that we can cover the bases so nobody should be left out.

For people who want to go slightly off the beaten track, you can pick another Tempranillo from Spain – the Ribera del Duero region makes wines from often 100% Tempranillo and can be a lovely option if you want to explore styles a little and join in that way.

Not long now

We have been delighted, excited and slightly unnerved to see so many of you sign up to 52 Grapes. It is great to see how many people want to share our adventure into the grape beyond. We now have over 100 followers with members scattered as far as New York, Toronto, Paris and Beirut. Thank you for signing up!

We’re still tweaking the website, so apologies if something moves or things look different each time you pop over for a visit.

It’s only a few days now until January rolls around. We’ll put up the Week 1 page for Tempranillo very soon. If you try it before we do, just post your comments at the bottom of the page.

Happy New Year and see you all soon for the first proper post!

Grape schedule

This is the order of tasting that we followed during our 52 grape challenge in 2018. If you are taking on this challenge you can chose to taste in any order you like, the buying guide will help you taste something similar to the wines we wrote about.

Week W/C Grape Tasting Notes Buying guide
1 01-Jan-2018 Tempranillo Tasting Notes Head to the Spanish Red section of the wine shop. Then try to locate a Rioja Crianza or Reserva. If you check the back label try to see that Tempranillo is the top grape listed in the blend. Alternatively a Ribera del Duero Spanish red should be almost 100% of that grape.
2 08-Jan-2018 Viognier Tasting Notes We’re going to taste a Viognier from the South of France. So ideally look for one from that region too. Or another relatively cool climate one from Chile or New Zealand; rather than Australia or California.
3 15-Jan-2018 Shiraz Tasting Notes This week it’s a Barossa Shiraz, the classic Australian version. So try to find a similar Oz version, ideally from that region or McLaren Vale.
4 22-Jan-2018 Riesling Tasting Notes We’re going to try a dry new world Riesling. Ideally find an Australian from Clare or Eden Valley. If not, South Africa or USA Washington Estate would be good alternatives.
5 29-Jan-2018 Primitivo (Zinfandel) Tasting Notes Head to the North American section and find a Californian Zinfandel. Note this is a red wine, don’t get the pink “White Zin”, as you’ll regret it.
6 05-Feb-2018 Grenache (Garnacha) Tasting Notes We’re off to Spain this week, to try an old vine Garnacha, which is what they call Grenache. Head to the Spanish reds and look for one from the Calatayud or Carinena regions.
7 12-Feb-2018 Pinot Gris Tasting Notes Go to the French section of the white wine aisle and keep an eye out for Pinot Gris. I know that we are mostly buying from major supermarkets and this is a lesser found style. If you can’t get that, Oregon Pinot Gris is a good second best. Lastly, head to the New Zealand section.
8 19-Feb-2018 Nero D’Avola Tasting Notes Nero D’Avola is a Sicilian grape, so it’s time to head to the Italian shelf in the wine aisle. Any will do, but the Vittoria region of Sicily is where the best versions come from. Bargain bucket Nero D’Avolas can be lovely, but if you trade up a little to £10 or more then you will get a chance to taste the sophistication this grape can achieve.
9 26-Feb-2018 Picpoul Blanc Tasting Notes This week we’re asking you to seek out the trendy new white of the moment. It comes from the South of France so head to the French white section and look for a tall thin bottle which is particular for this wine. It should stand out and have Picpoul de Pinet clearly labelled on the front.
10 05-Mar-2018 Corvina Tasting Notes Corvina is an Italian red grape but it tends to be labelled by the region of Valpolicella where it comes from; or by a specific style of wine it makes called Amarone. We are going to be trying an Amarone since this is a special style of wine that involves the grapes being left to raisin after being picked. It is so unique it seemed only right to try that. Most large retailers stock Amarone, so head for the Italian red section and look for a wine labelled with that name.
11 12-Mar-2018 Chenin Blanc Tasting Notes Chenin Blanc originates from the Loire in France, but we are opting to taste the new world region most famed for its production – South Africa. We will be looking for a unoaked or lightly oaked South African Chenin which will help us to try the grape in its most unadulturated style. To find that go to the South African white section and check the back label to see if oak is mentioned, typically the label will state if it is used in the winemaking. Ken Forrester is a great producer, widely distributed, and a good option if you spot one.
12 19-Mar-2018 Touriga Nacional Tasting Notes Touriga is the most famous red grape of Portugal. It tends to be used in reds from the Douro region, which also makes port wines. The easiest way to find a wine made with this grape is to look for a red from Portugal made in the Douro valley. Or to look for the Portuguese red section in a retailer and check the back label for the grapes used in the blend. It is unusual to find a 100% Touriga so it’s very likely you’ll have to scour the labels and find a blend. Watirose, M&S and Aldi stock Douro reds. If all else fails a bottle of port would make an interesting option to try this week.
13 26-Mar-2018 Fiano Tasting Notes This pretty little white comes from the Southern Campania region in Italy. It can also be found in Australia, but we are going to try the original. Head to the Italian white section and you can find this wine in lots of the major retailers.
14 02-Apr-2018 Nebbiolo Tasting Notes Nebbiolo is the grape that goes into making the classic Italian wine, Barolo. Nebbiolo is the grape and Barolo is the the region. This week all you need to do is to find a decent Barolo from the Italian red section of a wine shop. This is never a cheap wine but if can be explosive in its flavour and a truly unique experience. Don’t miss this week!
15 09-Apr-2018 Melon de Bourgogne Tasting Notes This week’s grape is more commonly known as Muscadet, which is a region in the Loire area of France. It has fallen out of fashion but is a lovely dry white. We are going to try a specific style called “Muscadet Sur Lie”. We’ll explain what that means later, but for now find the French white section and look for those words on the front label. It should be widely available.
16 16-Apr-2018 Malbec Tasting Notes The grape chose itself this week, as this Tuesday is world Malbec day. This is a grape with a special place in Emma’s heart because she visits Argentina each year to buy wines. So she is going to pick one of her favourite new producers that makes wines in her favourite region called the “Uco Valley”. It’s a special area with some of the best climate conditions. Stroll to the South America/Argentina red section and try to identify a wine with the words Uco Valley and you’ll be tasting something similar to us.
17 23-Apr-2018 Garganega Tasting Notes Back to the old world and we’re rediscovering another forgotten but great white grape. More commonly known as Soave, the region in the Veneto, Italy. It has been overshadowed by Pinot Grigio but to wine lovers is the superior grape with more flavour. Try to find a Soave Classico which means the grapes will come from the better hillside slopes. We will be doing the same.
18 30-Apr-2018 Sauvignon Blanc Tasting Notes Friday is Sauvignon Blanc day so we’re going with the theme and will be trying a classic New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. We expect you’ve had your fair share of “Savvy Bs”, and encourage you to trade up a little and try a premium version. We can then all discuss if it is worth paying that little bit more for a Kiwi Sauvignon. Look out for one from the classic Marlborough region, and potentially an Awatere Valley sub region where the coolest climate styles come from.
19 07-May-2018 Gewurztraminer Tasting Notes Gewurztraminer is a classic grape variety of the region Alsace in France. Happily Alsace normally puts this grape variety boldly on the front label so it should be easy to identify. So we will be trying a version from there. Good alternatives regions if you find this hard to find would be Germany, New Zealand or Chile.
20 14-May-2018 Barbera Tasting Notes Barbera is an Italian grape from the North East of Italy in Piedmont where the famous Barolo reds are also made. So head to the Italian red section and look for a wine with this grape name on the label. Typically it comes from two famous villages; Alba or Asti. Either one will work to taste along with us.
21 21-May-2018 Chardonnay Tasting Notes We will be heading straight to the the classic region of Burgundy. Our sub region of choice will be Puligny Montrachet. So head to the French white section and look for any of these, your choice may be dependent on how much you want to spend: Bourgogne Blanc, Macon Villages, Chablis, Pouily Fuisse, Rully, Chassagne Montrachet, Meursault or Puligny Montrachet.
22 28-May-2018 Carignan Tasting Notes Carignan comes from the south of France in the Rhone or Languedoc. It is typically used in blending but you can find some in their pure form. So we’ll be looking for an Old Vine Carignan from the south of France. Typically these are labelled with that name on the front label.
23 04-Jun-2018 Gruner Veltliner Tasting Notes Gruner is a white grape originating from Austria. We’ll be looking for one from there and preferably one from a classic sub region like Wachau or Kamptal.
24 11-Jun-2018 Pinot Noir Tasting Notes We will be trying a classic Red Burgundy made from 100% Pinot Noir this week. To follow suit head to the French red section.  The wines from this area labelled with the village name rather than grape. Look out for the generic name Bourgogne Rouge or famed villages/regions such as Cotes de Nuits or Beaune, Nuits St Georges, Volnay or Gevrey Chambertin.
25 18-Jun-2018 Assyrtiko Tasting Notes Assyrtiko is perhaps the most famous grape of Greece. A white grape that is said to have the elegance of Chablis. Try to find one from its birthplace, the island of Santorini but any Greek white stating Assyrtiko on the front or back label will do.
26 25-Jun-2018 Nerello Mascalese Tasting Notes Nerello Mascalese is the main grape that features in the Etna red wines from Sicily. It is rarely featured alone so if you find a wine labelled Etna Rosso or a Sicilian Red with that grape featured on the back label that will work just as well.
27 02-Jul-2018 Semillon Tasting Notes Semillon is a grape that was often blended with Sauvignon to make Bordeaux whites. It then found fame as a single grape in Australia, specifically Hunter Valley where is makes elegant low alcohol whites that age well. So try to find an Australian version to get a pure taste of the grape.
28 09-Jul-2018 Carmenere Tasting Notes Carmenere is to Chile what Malbec is to Argentina. It originated in Bordeaux, France but seems to have found a better home in Chile where it fully ripens. It is best to try an example that is a little above entry price because cheaper versions can be a bit light and green. The valley in Chile where it tends to show at its best is Colchuagua; so we will be searching out that style.
29 16-Jul-2018 Torrontes Tasting Notes Torrontes is a white grape that is uniquely found in Argentina. The best versions come from the Northern area of Salta or Catamarca. But if you can’t find one of those then any Argentinian Torrontes will work well.
30 23-Jul-2018 Cortese Tasting Notes Cortese is in fact that grape that makes the wine called Gavi; the wine name coming from the village in Piedmont, Italy rather than the grape. To try the very best version of Cortese look for wines labelled “Gavi di Gavi” which is a smaller sub region where the best vineyard sites are situated.
31 30-Jul-2018 Albariño Tasting Notes Albarino is the white grape coming from the cooler coastal spot of Galicia in Spain; and also known as Alvarino in Portugal. We will be seeking out a version from its classic sub region in that area called Rias Biaxas.
32 06-Aug-2018 Mourvedre Tasting Notes Mourvedre (aka Monastrell in Spain) is a grape variety most commonly used as a small part of a blend. We will be seeking out a Bandol from the South of France where this grape is used as the dominant grape in their styles. Any Monastrell from Spain would equally work well.
33 13-Aug-2018 Falanghina Tasting Notes Falanghina is a white grape coming from Campania in the South of Italy. It isn’t really produced anywhere else. So just head to the Italian white section of your local store and see if you can find it.
34 20-Aug-2018 Cinsault Tasting Notes Cinsault is a red grape from France, it was often used in blends to bulk out a wine because it is high yielding. We are going to seek out a 100% Cinsault from old vines, typical countries that do this are France, South Africa or Chile. These are quite rare so we’d recommend buying any one you can find.
35 27-Aug-2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Tasting Notes Cabernet Sauvignon is the world famous red grape that makes wines with great structure and ageability. We are going to seek one out from the classic region of Bordeaux. Look for a “left bank” Bordeaux wine which can be identified by names like Medoc, Margaux, St Julien or Pauillac, these have the most Cabernet in the blend.
36 03-Sep-2018 Verdejo Tasting Notes Verdejo is a lesser known white grape from Spain. We will be seeking out one from the region Reuda where this grape has become increasingly popular in recent years.
37 10-Sep-2018 Grillo Tasting Notes Grillo is a Sicilian grape that is becoming increasingly popular. It has the richness & fragrance of Chardonnay with a slightly spicy character. So check out the Italian section of the local shop and look for Grillo on the label.
38 17-Sep-2018 Negroamaro Tasting Notes Negroamaro is a black grape from the south of Italy, especially the region Puglia and Salento. We will be looking for a 100% grape blend from these areas. Some large supermarkets do stock this grape but you may need to look in specialist stores.
39 24-Sep-2018 Arneis Tasting Notes Arneis is a grape coming from the Piedmont area of North West Italy. It can be difficult to find so you may need to search it out on a specialist shop. The grape name is normally called out on the front label to help you identify it.
40 01-Oct-2018 Marsanne Tasting Notes Marsanne is a grape that heralds from the Rhone region of France. In the Northern Rhone it takes centre stage party blended with Roussanne; look out for St Joseph or Hermitage whites for this style, be warned they are pricey. For this reason we will seek out a producer in Australia known for this this grape “Tahbilk” they make a 100% Marsanne that will give us the best chance to really taste its character.
41 08-Oct-2018 Pinotage Tasting Notes Pinotage is the red grape that has come to define South Africa. Its parents are a crossing between Pinot Noir and Cinsault but it really tastes nothing like either of those grapes. The search this week should be quite easy since most big shops stock a Pinotage if they have South African wines.
42 15-Oct-2018 Furmint Tasting Notes Furmint is a Hungarian white grape that is most typically used as one of the grapes to make their famous sweet wine Tokaji. It may be difficult to find a dry Furmint so if you have trouble then any Tokaji would be a nice experience as the first sweet wine for our year of grape adventures.
43 22-Oct-2018 Tannat Tasting Notes Tannat is a kindred spirits of Malbec given it heralds from France (in Madiran region) but has travelled to South American and found its true home in Uruguay. If you can find a version from France or Urguauy it will be good enough. However we are going to try a Urugyuan version to taste it in its newest form.
44 29-Oct-2018 Vermentino Tasting Notes Vermentino is a lovely vibrant grape with a herbal floral aroma and often a rich fruit driven palate. It is most commonly found in the South France, Languedoc or coastal Tuscany. But its best homeland maybe Sardinia where the cool coastal breezes add a fresh lift to the wine. We will be seeking out one from there.
45 05-Nov-2018 Merlot Tasting Notes Poor Merlot got a bad reputation after the iconic wine film “Sideways” put it down. It is a soft fleshy grape which means it can make simple wines without massive structure. But you can’t forget that some of the most expensive wines in the world in Bordeaux (St Emlion/Pomerol) are made mostly from this grape. So this week we are heading right to its heartland of Bordeaux to seek out one of those and see if we can put it to the test.
46 12-Nov-2018 Bacchus Tasting Notes Bacchus is fast becoming the grape that England is famed for when it comes to still wines. It is a hardy grape when it comes to putting up with the English less than warm climate. Expect a grape that is often called “Sauvignon on steroids” it is so powerful. Any English Bacchus you can find will do.
47 19-Nov-2018 Gamay Tasting Notes Gamay is the grape that makes the more famous wine Beaujolais which comes from the Burgundy region of France. We are trying it on Beaujolais Nouveau week. That is the first week that the latest vintage of wine is legally allowed to be sold. The wine only finished fermenting a few weeks before. Gamay perfectly suits that because it is fruity and upfront making it a pleasure to drink young. We will be seeking out a “Nouveau” but may try one of the posher villages like Fleurie or Morgon that are also made from this grape and have a bit more age.
48 26-Nov-2018 Godello Tasting Notes Godello is a lesser known Spanish white grape coming from North West Spain. It is also known as Gouveio in Portugal. If you are a fan of delicately fruity but soft tasting whites this could be one searching out. It is often a grape that appeals to lovers of unoaked Chardonnay. You may need to look in a specialist wine shop to track this one down.
49 03-Dec-2018 Cabernet Franc Tasting Notes Cabernet Franc is a grape that is either used as a minor part in blends like in Bordeaux or as a grape alone. On its own it is most known in the Loire region, with wines like Saumur or Chinon. But it is also starting to travel well and there are now many countries in the world testing out Cabernet France with some great results such as Argentina or California. We will be staying true to its original homeland and looking for a Chinon.
50 10-Dec-2018 Pinot Blanc Tasting Notes Pinot Blanc or Pinot Bianco are the same grape made in France or Italy. A grape that is often confused with Pinot Grigio and does share some flavour characters in its crisp orchard fruit profile. However it can deliver wines with a bit more interest and charm, expect more peachy fruit and a touch more ripeness in flavour. We will be seeking one out from Alsace as a region that tends to produce some of the most characterful styles.
51 17-Dec-2018 Xinomavro Tasting Notes Xinomavro is the king of Greek red grapes. It is a giant of a grape variety in the fact it has thick skins and double pips. That means it has a lot of tannin and structure making it a bold red. Many people compare it to Nebbiolo for its bright fruit aroma along with distinct smoky characters, plus its ability to age well. The best region is Naoussa in the North of Greece but if you can find any Xinomavro that will do.
52 24-Dec-2018 Sangiovese Tasting Notes Sangiovese is the grape behind Tuscan wines, especially Chianti. It has a light colour and flavour but a distinct tea leaf textured tannin which gives it a unique character. The best Sangiovese tends to be in the Chianti Classico hillside areas. We will be looking for one form a great producer to end our 52 weeks on a high note.

What is 52 Grapes?


52 Grapes is intended as an open forum for people to discover and learn about grapes and wine. It started as a tasting challenge in 2018 with a weekly tasting of different grapes across the year. The grape pages are still live so that others can take on this challenge and taste at their own pace. This year we will be supplementing those pages with a few more tastings that contrast the same grape made in different regions or styles.


In 2016, Andy set himself a challenge to try 366 (it was a leap year) different beers. He managed 420. In 2017 the challenge was to have a different cocktail every week. So, having covered beer and spirits, the remaining challenge was obviously grape.

Luckily for Andy, his ever so patient girlfriend Emma is one of only approximately 390 masters of wine in the world. The grape pages are all written by her.

In 2018 Andy and Emma took the shared challenge to taste through the 52 grapes and left a page each week to share their thoughts on each one they tasted. Other members of the site left their comments alongside these pages.

How to get involved?

You can taste your way the 52 grapes at your pace and in any order you chose.

In the “Schedule and Tasting Notes” section you fill find a schedule that guides you on what to buy for each grape. Then a page for each grape we reviewed where you can leave your comments after you taste and read what other members have thought.

When you are tasting each wine you can use the grape pages in “Grapes & Terminology” section that will give you all the information you need about the grape plus food matches and other useful information.

We will keep an eye out for any new comments and will be available for any tips and advice you may ask for.