How to Identify Types of Wine Grapes

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Introduction to Grape Varieties

Vitis vinifera, the common grape vine, is native to the Mediterranean region, Central Europe, and southwestern Asia. In modern wine history, there are more than 10,000 kinds of grapes and blends. Some of the most common include:

  • Cabernet Franc
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Carignane
  • Carmenere
  • Chardonnay
  • Gewurztraminer
  • Grenache
  • Malbec
  • Mataro
  • Merlot
  • Muscat Ottonel
  • Nebbiolo
  • Petit Verdot
  • Pinotage
  • Pinot Grigio / Gris
  • Pinot Noir
  • Riesling
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Semillon
  • Shiraz / Syrah
  • Tempranillo
  • Viognier
  • Zinfandel

While this is by no means an exhaustive list of wine grapes, these are some of the most popular grown by modern vineyards.

How to Identify Grapes

Whether you’re looking to identify local vines or you’re interested in viticulture (scientific study of grapes), you’ll want to take the following into account during the identification process. In order to correctly identify grape varieties, look at the leaves for:

  • Size
  • Color
  • Shape
  • What kind of “fingers” and “holes” does the leaf have?
  • Is it flat or waffley?
  • Is it smooth, dusty, or hairy on the back of the leaf?
  • What is pattern and distribution of the “nerves?”

Next, examine the grape bunches. Note that this may be difficult unless it is close to harvest time. Here are some of the more notable characteristics:

  • Color
  • Size of the bunch
  • Size of the berries
  • The shape of the bunch (Conical, cylindrical, made of two parts with a big main part and a small “ear” to the side)
  • Are the bunches tight or wide spread?
  • Where on the vine is it attached?
  • Thickness of the grape skin

Finally, a few other characteristics to take note of include:

  • How do the branches grow?
  • Are the vines rigid and self-supporting or so they tend to fall down on the ground?
  • The color of the wood and bark
  • Patterns of the wood and bark
  • Bud appearance

Types of Grapes at Ridge

For full guides on how to identify the grape varieties grown at Ridge Vineyards, click on the links below to download. Each document provides in formation on appearance, origin, and use, along with photos of the clusters and and leaves to help with the identification process. Find them below:

Additional Resources on Types of Wine Grapes

Looking for more information regarding our grapes and growing practices? If so, make sure to visit our additional resources below:


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