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Varietal Guide


 

A

Aghiorghitiko (red)
(Ah-zheor-GEE-tee-koh)
Aghiorghitiko, which is Greek for St George, is a real charmer, oozing with fruit and soft tannins, with a dark purple, 'black', colour. It produces wines with a wide range of styles, from light, fruity, full-flavoured rosés to medium-bodied, juicy reds and seriously fine, cask-fermented examples. Only wines made from this variety can be called Nemea, the largest of the Greek appellations. Soils vary from oxide-rich red soils to sandy clay and marl. A notion of Cru is bound to develop in lower-yield, hillside sites such as Koutsi, while other quality sites include Ancient Nemea, Gymno, Ahladia and the cooler-climate, high Nemea valley of Asprokambos. A quantum leap forward in quality has spurred substantial investment from outsiders.

Aglianico (red)
(Ag-LEE-ahn-ick-oh)
Robust, quality southern Italian red grape variety found mainly on the volcanic slopes of Campania and Basilicata in Italy's south.

Airén (white)
(Ahy-RAIN)
Neutral, drought-resistant Spanish variety grown mainly around the La Mancha region with the dubious distinction of being the world's most widely planted vine variety.

Albana (white)
(Ahl-BAH-nah)
In Albana di Romagna, a fairly ordinary white appellation which owed its DOCG upgrade not so much to quality as to the power and influence of those responsible for its administration. On occasions, it rises above the norm.

Albari�o/Alvarinho (white)
(Ahl-ba-REE-n'yo) / (Ahl-vah-REE-n'yo)
High quality variety grown in Galicia's Rias Baixas region, where it produces aromatic, full-bodied, peachy and grapefruity whites which go beautifully with the local Atlantic shellfish, and known as Alvarinho in neighbouring Portugal's Vinho Verde.

Aleatico (red)
(Ah-lay-AH-tee-co)
Italian red variety with Muscat-like fragrance grown in Italy's south, on Elba and Corsica, and the central Asian republics of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

Alicante Bouschet (red)
(Ah-lee-KAHNT Boo-SHAY)
Like carignan, one of the Midi's productive varieties planted mainly for its deep colour and known as Garnacha Tintorera (Grenache to dye for) in Spain.

Aligoté (white)
(Ah-lee-go-tay)
Aligoté plays the Robin role to Chardonnay's Batman in Burgundy, where it produces crisp, sharp, if neutral dry whites, with a lemony tang of acidity. You can understand why aligoté is traditionally used to add a bit of verve and bite to the local cr�me de cassis to make Kir, or Champagne for Kir Royale. In the C�te Chalonnais in southern Burgundy, ally goaty, as the English like to call it, is the exclusive white grape variety in the Bouzeron appellation. It crops up in eastern Europe and is often used for sparkling wine in the former USSR wine producing countries.

Aramon (red)
(Ah-rah-mawn)
One of the triumvirate of workhorse Midi varieties planted in the last century for mass production plonk, now on its way out.

Arneis (white)
(Ahr-NAYZ)
Aromatic, nutty grape variety native to north-west Italy's Piedmonte, where it produces the delicately fruity, herby dry whites of Roero.

Assyrtiko (white)
(Ahs-SEER-TEE-koh)
Arguably Greece's finest white cultivar, Assyrtiko is more of a wine-lover's grape than a crowd pleaser, and is prized for its high acidity and staying power. It performs an admirable double act, producing fine bone-dry wines as well as amber-hued dessert wines. Although its origins lie on the volcanic island of Santorini, since the late 1970s it has adapted itself well to the diverse soils and microclimates of mainland Greece, where its unmistakable severity is softened. In northern Greece, near Thessaloniki, a leading estate blends it with the semi-aromatic, Viognier-like Malagousia. It is also grown successfully on the island of Evia, and is a vital blending component in Attica estate wines, where it is vinified alongside the Roditis and Savatiano varieties. Santorini Vinsantos are made by sun-drying Assyrtiko with 10% of the rarer, more aromatic Aidani grapes for up to 10 days. These raisined grapes, after a slow fermentation and extended cask ageing (5-20 years), produce amber-hued dessert wines.


 

B

Bacchus (white)
(Back-uss)
Aromatic, Sauvignon-like dry white, a crossing of Silvaner plus Riesling with M�ller-Thurgau popular in Germany, also used in England.

Baga (red)
(BAH-ga)
This is the main red variety in the Bairrada region of Portugal (hence also known as Tinta Bairrada), where it produces reds with a distinctively honeyed, beeswaxy character.

Barbera (red)
(Bar-BARE-ah)
As widely planted in Italy as Sangiovese, but at its best in the hills around Alba and Asti in Italy's north-west, barbera is a variety whose style varies considerably according to yield. When it's low-yielding and matured in small oak casks, it can be concentrated, rich and deliciously cherryish and capable of ageing well. In high yields it's more of a soft, everyday glugging red whose high acidity makes it ideal for relatively rich dishes. Outside Italy, Barbera is widely planted in California, where, with few exceptions, it has missed out on Sangiovese's Cal-Ital-led surge in popularity, and in Argentina where it can be juicy and cherryish and a very good partner for pasta, risotto and pizza.

Blaufr�nkisch (red)
(Blaow-FRAHN-keesh)
Juicy, high quality Austrian variety capable of making deliciously succulent reds and can be good when aged in oak and in blends with Cabernet Sauvignon. Known elsewhere as Limberger, Kékfrankos, Nagyburgundi, Frankovka, Vojvodina and Franconia.

Boal (red)
(BOH-ahl)
One of the four main varieties that are used to make Madeira. It is also used a a style level of Madeira that is medium-sweet.

Bombino (white)
(Bom-BEEN-o)
This is an important southern Italian white variety which at low yields can produce dry whites with character such as Valentini's Trebbiano d'Abruzzo.

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