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The 18 Noble Grapes Wine Challenge

- Updated

Want to experience the entire range of wine? Try the noble grapes.

It’s time to ditch the same ol’ wine you’ve been drinking and expand your palate.

Why? Well, 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.


A Spectrum of Wine in Just 18 Noble Grapes

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.

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.

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

Noble White 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. Gewürztraminer

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
Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Trebbiano Toscano (aka Ugni Blanc)

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.

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AboutMadeline Puckette

James Beard Award-winning author and Wine Communicator of the Year. I co-founded Wine Folly to help people learn about wine. @WineFolly

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