The 18 Noble Grapes Wine Challenge

May 17, 2013 Blog » Wine News & Entertainment » The 18 Noble Grapes Wine Challenge

A Spectrum of Wine in Just 18 Noble Grapes

Want to experience the entire range of wine?

It’s time to ditch the same ol’ wine you’ve been drinking and expand your palate. No more of that bottom-shelf TJ’s select or that bottle of Apothic Red. Why? Well, because not only will you get to try all 18 noble grapes, but by doing so you’ll be on the fast track to becoming a wine expert. Make a list of the grapes below and challenge yourself to try every one of them.

What Are The Noble Grapes? There are 18 red and white noble grapes (listed below) that define the complete range of wine flavors –from clear, zesty white to deep dark red wine.

The Noble Grapes Challenge

Here is the list of the 18 major grapes that are readily available and define a unique flavor of wine. Once you master this list, you will intuitively understand the major flavor profiles of most red and white wines in the world. This list is missing a few sections such as Dessert wine, Rosé Wine and Sparkling wine.


The wine scene in 1949 credit

Why are some wines noble and others aren’t?

Noble grapes are also known as International Varieties which are grape varieties that are widely planted in most of the major wine producing regions and have widespread appeal. History has a lot to do with the prevalence of French wine grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir.

  • As grapes like Zinfandel and Malbec become more common, they earn the right to become International Varieties.

18 Noble Grapes

9 Red Noble Grapes

The wines below are organized from lightest to darkest.

  • 1. Pinot Noir

    The lightest red grape, trying Pinot Noir will help you to understand acidity and aromatics in red wine. Pinot Noir Guide

    Similar Varieties

    Gamay, Schiava, Nerello Mascalese, St. Laurent

  • 2. Grenache

    The candied red wine grape, Grenache shows how red wines can be light and fruit forward at the same time. Grenache Wine Guide

    Similar Varieties

    Zinfandel, Primitivo, Carignan

  • 3. Merlot

    Merlot is can be lighter or bolder depending on how it’s made. Usually it’s fruit forward with smooth tannins. Guide to Merlot

    Similar Varieties

    Corvina, Negroamaro, Cinsault

  • 4. Sangiovese

    Sangiovese is aromatic like Pinot Noir, but has bigger tannins and is cherry fruit driven. Sangiovese Wine Guide

    Similar Varieties

    Touriga Franca, Counoise, Nebbiolo

  • 5. Nebbiolo

    A savory high tannin/acid wine that is also very light in color –very few wines are like Nebbiolo.

    Similar Varieties


  • 6. Tempranillo

    Tempranillo is earthy with rustic tobacco notes and high tannin. Tempranillo Guide

    Similar Varieties


  • 7. Cabernet Sauvignon

    One of the most balanced full-bodied wines of the world. Cabernet is savory with a very long finish. More About Cabernet Sauvignon

    Similar Varieties

    Cabernet Franc, Lagrein, Montepulciano

  • 8. Syrah

    Syrah offers big, bold, dark fruit flavors up front with a subtle finish and lighter tannin. Flavors from olive to blackberry and tobacco. Guide to Syrah

    Similar Varieties

    Barbera, Dolcetto, Mencía

  • 9. Malbec

    Candied similar to Grenache but instead of strawberry and cherry flavors it’s more in the blueberry/blackberry realm.

    Similar Varieties

    Monastrell, Nero d’Avola, Touriga Nacional

  • Different Types of Wine Infographic Close Up

    Find New Wines

    Get the poster that organizes wine by flavor.
    Types of Wine

9 White Noble Grapes

The wines below are organized from lightest to richest.

  • 1. Pinot Grigio

    Light and zesty high acid white wines.

    Similar Varieties

    Garganega, Assyrtiko, Albariño, Pinot Blanc, Grenache Blanc

  • 2. Riesling

    Dry to sweet white wines that smell like lime, honey and apricots with high acidity. Taster’s Guide to Riesling

    Similar Varieties

    Furmint, Silvaner, Loureiro

  • 3. Sauvignon Blanc

    Green and herbacious. Sauvignon Blanc

    Similar Varieties

    Vermentino, Friulano, Grüner Veltliner, Verdicchio, Colombard

  • 4. Chenin Blanc

    Zesty white wines that smell like flowers and lemon.

    Similar Varieties

    Albariño, white Vinho Verde (a regional blend)

  • 5. Moscato

    Sweet wines that taste like peaches and orange blossom. Guide to Muscat

    Similar Varieties

    Müller Thurgau, Torrontés

  • 6. Gewurztraminer

    Off-dry to sweet white wines that taste of ginger and honey.

    Similar Varieties

    Malvasia, Torrontés,

  • 7. Sémillon

    Dry medium bodied wines with lemon notes.

    Similar Varieties

    Fiano, Grillo, Encruzado, Trebbiano (aka Ugni Blanc), Falanghina

  • 8. Viognier

    Medium bodied white wines that smell like flowers.

    Similar Varieties


  • 9. Chardonnay

    Full bodied dry white wines. Chardonnay Wine Guide

    Similar Varieties


  • wine-color-chart-excerpt

    Understand Color

    Get the poster that organizes wine by color.
    Color of Wine

Do you like this post?

By Madeline Puckette
I'm a certified sommelier and creator of the NYT Bestseller, Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine. Find me out there in the wine world @WineFolly