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Grape varieties are grapevines of the genus Vitis originating in breeding and genetic selection. They belong to the family of Vitaceae. There are more than 8000 grape varieties worldwide, of which more than 2000 are approved for cultivation. Throughout the world only a few hundred varieties are cultivated for commercial purposes.

The grape variety is an important factor in determining the character of a wine. Climatic differences and soil cause wines of the same grape variety to have a different taste depending on the growing area and vintage. Several other factors have an influence of the quality and taste of a wine. These factors are:

  • Terroir (French word for soil, geography, growing area). Influence of soil and local climate. The same grape variety may lead to very different wines depending on the terroir,
  • vinification, which means the production of the wine, and
  • storage.

For the diversity of the aromas of a wine, the grape variety contributes the so-called primary aromas, secondary aromas are added during vinification, and tertiary aromas during ageing.

The following lists include the most important grape varieties. First comes an alphabetical list of the most important varieties worldwide, separated into white and red varieties. The most important growing countries are ordered after the size of their growing areas for this variety. Since statistical methods vary from country to country, it is possible that data has been collected in different years. A large growing area does not say anything about the quality of the wine. In some cases it even seems to suggest the opposite. Grape varieties that are mostly eaten as table grapes have not been included in this list.


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Alphabetical list of important white grape varieties worldwide

  • Aligoté or Aligoté verte - France, Switzerland
  • Airén or Valdepenera blanca - Spain
  • Chardonnay - France
  • Chenin Blanc, Steen or Pineau - South Africa, France
  • Furmint - Hungary
  • Gewürztraminer - Germany, USA
  • Pinot Gris - Germany, Italy
  • Grüner Veltliner or Green Veltliner - Austria, Hungary
  • Chasselas or Gutedel - Switzerland, Hungary
  • Müller-Thurgau - Germany, Austria
  • Muscat Blanc or Frontignan - France
  • Olasz Rizling, Riesling Italico or Welschriesling - Hungary, Romania, Balkan region
  • Palomino - Spain
  • Riesling - Germany, France
  • Rkatsiteli - GUS countries, China
  • Sauvignon Blanc - France, Chile
  • Sémillon - France, Chile
  • Silvaner, Sylvaner or Oesterreicher - Germany, France
  • Trebbiano - Italy, France
  • Pedro Ximenéz - Spain
  • Verdejo - Spain
  • Pinot Blanc - Italy, Germany

Alphabetical list of important red grape varieties worldwide

  • Beaujolais - France
  • Cabernet Franc - France
  • Cabernet Sauvignon - France, Italy
  • Carignan - France, Spain
  • Cinsault - France, Italy
  • Gamay - France, Switzerland
  • Grenache Noir - Spain, France, USA
  • Kadarka - Hungary
  • Malbec, Pressac or Auxerrois - Argentina, France
  • Merlot - France, Italy, Chile
  • Nebbiolo - Italy
  • Pinot Noir - France, Germany
  • Sangiovese - Italy, France
  • Syrah or Shiraz - France, South Africa
  • Tempranillo - Spain, France
  • Zinfandel - USA
  • Pinot Meunier or Miller's Burgundy - France, Germany


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Important grape varieties in Germany


In Germany about 50 grape varieties are grown commercially. The most important 25 varieties already take up 95 % of the growing area.

White grape varieties and their percentage on the total wine growing area in Germany

  • Riesling - 20,4
  • Müller-Thurgau - 14,1
  • Silvaner - 5,3
  • Kerner - 4,2
  • Pinot Gris - 4,1
  • Pinot Blanc - 3,3
  • Bacchus - 2,2
  • Scheurebe or Samling 88 - 1,8
  • Chasselas - 1,1
  • Chardonnay - 1,0
  • Savagnin Blanc or Traminer - 0,8
  • Faberrebe - 0,7
  • Ortega - 0,7
  • Huxelrebe - 0,7
  • Elbling - 0,6
  • Further white varieties - 2,2

Red grape varieties and their percentage on the total wine growing area in Germany

  • Pinot Noir - 11,4
  • Dornfelder - 8,1
  • Blauer Portugieser - 4,7
  • Trollinger or Schiava - 2,5
  • Pinot Meunier - 2,4
  • Regent - 2,1
  • BlaufrŠnkisch or Lemberger - 1,6
  • Saint Laurent - 0,7
  • Acolon - 0,4
  • Merlot - 0,4
  • Further red grape varieties - 2,5

In Germany white grape varieties are grown on about 63,2 % of the total growing area, red varieties on 36,8 %. All data about Germany was collected by the Federal Statistical Office in the summer of 2005.


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Autochthonous grape varieties

Autochthonous grape varieties are grapes that only exist in a certain region and are native to that area. Most of the time they are only grown in small areas of these region and therefore many of those autochthonous varieties are missing in the above listings. The term autochthonous (derived from old greek, literally "sprung from the earth" from autós = self and chthón = soil) means original or indigenous of a place or aboriginal. In the context of wine it means grape varieties that came to a region by themselves on the principals of ecology. They are seen as natives vines. The opposite are allochthonous varieties that had to be cultivated by humans. In biology and ecology autochthonous varieties that only occur in a certain region are called endemic.


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