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Grape variety

vitigno (I)
casta (PO)
grape variety (GB)
cépage, type de vigne (F)
variedad de uva (ES)

As with most crops, there are also different varieties of grapevine, which in viticulture are known as vine varieties (cultivars). The morphological description can be found under the keyword vine. The science of describing grape varieties is called ampelography (grape variety science). The botanical taxonomy (hierarchical systematics based on kinship) is described under vine systematics. Over thousands of years, thousands of new grape varieties have been created by spontaneous (natural) crossing and sowing, random mutations and, above all, from the 19th century onwards, also by targeted new breeding. They are always primarily the result of fertilised seeds or targeted seed sowing, i.e. they are the products of generative (sexual) reproduction.

Rebsorte - Weintrauben in allen Farben (blau, gelb, rot, weiß)

After core sowing, a new seedling with individual characteristics can grow out of each embryo. If this seedling is selected, reared and found worthy of cultivation by humans, further vines are branched off from it by vegetative propagation so that a new variety with specific phenotypic and genotypic characteristics is established. Thus, a vine variety always starts with a seedling resulting from the fertilisation of an egg cell and germinated from the vine nucleus. This seedling was then grown into a vine and selected as a new vine variety and propagated vegetatively because of its positive characteristics. In the case of new varieties, this is usually derived from two different parent varieties, but seedlings from self-insemination (self-pollination) undergo the same process in principle, so that plants resulting from self-insemination also give rise to new vine varieties. This is due to the heterozygotic, i.e. split-yellow characteristic of the vine (inability of varietal offspring of the same variety).

Origin of the variety of grape varieties

Somatic chimeras and clone mutants can develop over time from vine copies that are vegetatively branched off from the seedling vine or the so-called mother vine and are initially completely identical. This is due to spontaneous mutations in the cell lines of L1 (epidermis) and L2 (inner cell layers), so that the mutated vines undergo a slow process of individualization that gradually makes them distinguishable from each other. The older a grape variety is, and the more copies (vines) of it have been branched off and then multiplied again by vegetative propagation over centuries or millennia, the more likely it is that numerous mutations have also affected the morphology of the plants

If these differences are further multiplied by vegetative propagation, local and regional groups of clone mutants are formed which differ from the original initial type (seedling) to a greater or lesser extent (variety variants or varieties) and which in turn establish independent lines of development over time as a result of the continuous propagation process. In the case of conspicuous characteristics, such mutation-related variety clones were often treated as independent varieties. For example, the grape varieties Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Frühburgunder (Pinot Précoce), which are mutated clones of Pinot Noir (Pinot Noir) in the colour of the berries or at maturity. This is a loss of colour

The number of existing grape varieties is based on rough estimates with plus/minus 30%. The VIVC (Vitis International Variety Catalogue) has more than 18,000 registered grape varieties, including cultivars, hybrid varieties, wild varieties and historical varieties. However, there are probably many unrecognised synonyms (pseudonyms) or even grape varieties that no longer exist. Realistic estimates assume between 8,000 and 10,000 varieties of the European species Vitis vinifera (see also vine systematics). The reason for the inaccuracy of the estimate is that it is difficult to count accurately, because many grape varieties are grown under different names in the countries, and to date no one has succeeded in comparing the national stocks of varieties, which comprise thousands of varieties, with each other in an international comparison

There is a great deal of uncertainty, particularly with regard to varieties from the Eastern Bloc (former Yugoslavia, former USSR etc.), Turkey or from Japan, India and China. However, varieties from Portugal, Spain, Italy, Malta and Greece have also been described insufficiently in some cases, so that only a direct comparison of the living plants or genotypes could provide information. With the help of the method of genetic fingerprinting, which has now been internationally standardised for the vine, the comparison of varieties can be carried out relatively easily at the desk. This is done by molecular genetic analyses and comparisons of genetic patterns. Important scientists or ampelographers in the field of DNA analysis include Dr. Jean-Michel Boursiquot (France), Javier Ibáñez (Spain), Dr. Erika Maul (Germany), Dr. Carole P. Meredith (USA), Dr. Ferdinand Regner (Austria), Anna Schneider (Italy) and Dr. José F. Vouillamoz (Switzerland)

Already Etruscans, Romans and Greeks, and certainly also the earlier advanced civilizations such as Egyptians, Babylonians, Hittites and Phoenicians have already carried out targeted seedling selection (Auslese). However, nobody knows whether they have deliberately transferred pollen from one variety to another, i.e. whether they have deliberately crossed between two varieties. About 150 Latin grape variety names have been handed down from the Romans. However, the Roman poet Virgil (70-19 B.C.) wrote about the grape varieties that they were "countless like the grains of sand in the desert" (see also under ancient grape varieties and ancient wines). The Catholic monastic orders of the Benedictines, Carthusians and Cistercians, who from the 6th century onwards gave decisive impulses in many countries in the cultivation of grape varieties and the further development of viticulture, have earned great merits

Most European cultivars are the result of a relatively small group of leading varieties and their spontaneous crosses. The most important is probably Gouais Blanc (White Heunisch), of which there are over 100 varieties such as Riesling (Germany), Chardonnay (France), Blaufränkisch and Silvaner (Austria), and Furmint (Hungary). Also Traminer (Savagnin Blanc) with Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Roter Veltliner, as well as Pinot (often with Gouais Blanc) have left many traces. Others with many descendants are Cabernet Franc, Cayetana Blanca, Chasselas, Rèze, Garganega, Listán Prieto, Luglienga Bianca, Muscat Blanc, Nebbiolo, Teroldego and Tribidrag. Unfortunately it is not possible to present the pedigrees in the form of a vine pedigree

The Domaine de Vassal research centre near Montpellier in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France cultivates the largest living assortment of vines in the world, with several thousand examples. These include 2,300 European grape varieties of the European species Vitis vinifera, 800 interspecific crosses or hybrids, 230 rootstocks and 28 wild vine species. The collection also includes varieties no longer used in practice. Today, some 2,500 quality wine grape varieties are permitted under the respective legal provisions of the countries, but many of them only play a local role. Only a few hundred are of actual worldwide importance. The French Pierre Galet (1921-2019), who described some 10,000 varieties in his numerous publications, and Paul Truel (1924-2014), who clarified the identity of many varieties, are considered to be important ampelographs of modern times.

Vine Belt

Today, vines are planted in about 100 of the 200 countries around the world. The best climatic conditions are found in the two so-called vine belts (40th to 50th north and 30th to 40th south latitude) at an altitude of 100 to 400 metres above sea level, although there are also vineyards outside these areas. Besides the rock, soil type, climate, location and vinification method, the grape variety has a decisive influence on the character and quality of a wine. Every country, wine-growing region, wine-growing area and even often smallest sub-areas have their typical grape varieties, which also shape the typical characteristics of the wine produced from them. Due to the worldwide spread of phylloxera introduced from America, European grape varieties must be grafted almost everywhere in the world to prevent phylloxera damage to the roots.

Rebengürtel - Weltkarte mit Weinbaugebieten

The 150 most common grape varieties

In 2012, the total global area under vines amounted to 7.487 million hectares, or 74,870 km², which is about 90% of the size of Austria (83,856 km²). Europe accounts for more than half of this, with about 4.1 million hectares. The great wines mainly come from a limited number of grape varieties (10 to 15), the Cépages nobles. According to EU regulations, quality wines must be made from approved quality wine grape varieties. The following ranking list contains the 150 most common grape varieties worldwide according to their area under cultivation. The authoritative source is the work "Which Winegrape Varieties are Grown Where? A Global Empirical Picture" by the Australian Professor of Economics Kym Anderson.

A comparison of the years 1990 or, in some cases, 2000 with 2010 shows the large changes in quantity for many varieties over these 20 or 10 years, i.e. over a relatively short period. Some varieties were increasingly cultivated due to changing wine fashions and rising quality requirements, others were grubbed up or greatly reduced due to poor quality, susceptibility to disease and legal requirements such as the EU's ban on hybrids. The Spanish Airén, which has been the undisputed leader of the ranking for many decades, has shrunk by almost half and has been overtaken by the two quality varieties Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which doubled their stocks in the same period.

Rebsorten - Top 6

The Sultana variety, which was still in 4th place in 1990 with 271,828 hectares, mostly used as a table grape, occupied position 138 in 2010 with only 3,407 hectares for wine production (but there are around 250,000 hectares for table grape production). Other big drop-outs were Concord, Garnacha Tinta, Rkatsiteli and Trebbiano Toscano. In addition to the two new frontrunners already mentioned, the big movers up were Chardonnay, Mazuelo, Monastrell, Muscat Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Tempranillo and Welschriesling. These 150 leading varieties account for about half of the world's total area under vines (the penultimate column shows 1990 or, if not known, 2000):

Grape variety (synonyms)







Cabernet Sauvignon (Lafite, Bidure) r France 288.174 1 127.678 8
Merlot (Crabutet, Médoc Noir) r France 267.169 2 154.752 4
Airén (Aidén, Blancón, Burra Blanca) w Spain 252.364 3 476.396 1
Tempranillo (Cencibel, Tinta del País) r Spain 232.561 4 47.429 24
Chardonnay (Morillon) w France 198.793 5 69.282 13
Syrah (Petite Syrah, Shiraz) r France 185.568 6 35.086 35
Garnacha Tinta (Grenache Noir) r Spain 181.485 7 282.997 2
Sauvignon Blanc (Fumé Blanc) w France 111.285 8 44.677 25
Trebbiano Toscano (Ugni Blanc) w Italy 109.772 9 207.742 5
Pinot Noir (Pinot Noir, Pinot Noir.) r France 98.395 10 41.539 30
Mazuelo (Bovale Grande, Carignan) r Spain 80.178 11 202.869 6
Bobal (Moravio) r Spain 80.120 12 106.149 10
Sangiovese(Brunello, Prugnolo Gentile) r Italy 77.709 13 98.946 11
Monastrell (Mataró, Mourvèdre) r Spain 69.748 14 108.213 9
Welsh Riesling (Graševina, R. Italico) w Croatia 61.200 15 19.384 48
Rkatsiteli (Rkatziteli) w Georgia 58.641 16 280.569 3
Cabernet Franc (Breton, Vidure) r France 53.042 17 39.619 32
Riesling (Rhine Riesling) w Germany 49.997 18 52.164 21
Pinot Gris (Pinot gris, Pinot gris) w France 43.563 19 18.879 44
Macabeo (Viura) w Spain 41.046 20 43.504 26
Cot (Côt, Malbec, Pressac) r France 40.663 21 16.997 52
Cayetana Blanca (Jáen Blanco, Pardina) w Spain 39.741 22 65.276 16
Alicante Henri Bouschet (A. Bouschet) r France 38.371 23 19.587 47
Aligoté (Alligotay) w France 36.120 24 54.430 20
Cinsaut (Cinsault) w France 36.040 25 63.171 18
Chenin Blanc (Pinot de la Loire, Steen) w France 35.214 26 59.974 19
Montepulciano (Cordisco, Morellone) r Italy 34.947 27 32.982 37
Catarratto Bianco (Comune, Lucido) w Italy 34.863 28 80.128 12
Tribidrag / Zinfandel (Primitivo) r Croatia 32.745 29 41.683 29
Isabella (Constantia, Frutilla) w USA 32.494 30 21.003 42
Colombard (French Colombard) w France 32.459 31 36.138 34
Gamay (Gamay Noir) r France 31.927 32 35.005 36
Muscat Blanc / Muscat Plate w France 31.183 33 17.806 50
Cereza (C. Elipsoidal, C. Italica) r Argentina 29.189 34 42.937 27
Muscat d'Alexandria (Zibibibbo) w Greece/Italy 26.336 35 64.224 17
Barbera (B. Amaro, B. d'Asti, B. Dolce) r Italy 24.178 36 67.987 15
Müller-Thurgau (Rivaner) w Germany 22.753 37 36.381 33
Palomino (Palomino Fino, Listán Blanco) w Spain 22.645 38 50.545 22
Sémillon (Merwah, Semilão, Wyndruif) w France 22.156 39 31.687 38
Douce Noire (Bonarda, Charbono) r France 18.976 40 17.653 45
Grüner Veltliner (Veltliner) w Austria 18.849 41 20.760 43
Glera (Prosecco, Teran Bijeli) w Italy 18.437 42 7.498 84
Blaufränkisch (Lemberger, Limberger) r Austria 17.888 43 12.879 62
FeteascăAlbă (Dievcie Hrozno) w Romania 17.469 44 18.373 49
Criolla Grande (Criolla Sanjuanina) r Argentina 17.080 45 68.513 14
Nero d'Avola (Calabrese) r Italy 16.596 46 11.318 66
Verdejo (Albillo de Nava, V. Blanco) w Spain 16.578 47 4.453 117
Doukkali (Bezzoul el Aouda) r Morocco 16.557 48 16.557 49
Trebbiano Romagnolo (T. della Fiamma) w Italy 15.893 49 19.492 43
Garganega (Grecanico Dorato) w Italy 15.402 50 16.549 50
Prokupac (Prokupats, Prokupec) r Serbia 15.180 51 15.180 53
Pinot Blanc (White Burgundy) w France 14.724 52 16.990 47
Gewürztraminer / Traminer (Savagnin) w France 14.355 53 16.511 53
Pinot Meunier (Black Riesling) r France 13.570 54 10.832 70
Chasselas (Fendant Blanc, Gutedel) w Switzerland? 13.214 55 13.318 58
FeteascăRegală (Pesecká Leánka) w Romania 13.136 56 2.578 178
Melon de Bourgogne (Melon) w France 12.365 57 13.253 59
Pedro Giménez (Pedro Jiménez) w Argentina 12.250 58 15.101 54
Concord (Bull's Seedling) r USA 12.238 59 30.513 39
Touriga Franca (Touriga Francesa) r Portugal 11.586 60 6.674 94
Negroamaro (Nigroamaro, Purcinara) r Italy 11.460 61 40.064 31
Viognier (Viognier Vert, Vionnier) w France 11.400 62 3.160 155
Carmenère (Grande Vidure) r France 11.360 63 5.711 108
Castelão (João Santarém, Periquita) r Portugal 11.086 64 14.424 56
Trebbiano Giallo (Trebbiano di Spagna) w Italy 10.664 65 3.984 130
Mencía (Jaen du Dão) r Spain 10.658 66 17.321 51
Touriga Nacional (Bical Tinto) r Portugal 10.435 67 4.263 122
Muscat Ottonel (Muscat Ottonel) w France 10.234 68 12.259 64
Aglianico (Aglianico del Vulture) r Italy 9.963 69 9.624 75
Savatiano (Aspro, Doumpraina Lefki) w Greece 9.920 70 20.396 44
Malvasia Bianca di Candia (M. Candia) w Italy 9.891 71 42.654 28
Zweigelt (Blue Zweigelt) r Austria 9.847 72 7.230 89
Pamid (Roșioáră) r Bulgaria 9.827 73 22.718 42
Fernão Pires (Maria Gomes, Molinha) w Portugal 9.511 74 14.545 55
Trincadeira Preta (Tinta Amarela) r Portugal 9.270 75 7.265 88
Pedro Ximénez (Perrum) w Spain 9.243 76 47.915 23
Parellada (Montona) w Spain 8.847 77 11.188 67
Vermentino (Favorita, Pigato) w Spain? 8.617 78 5.835 107
Roditis (Alepou Roditis) r Greece 8.495 79 7.244 ?
Xarello (Pansal, Xarel-Lo) w Spain 8.393 80 10.288 74
Bordô (Grana d'Oro) r USA 8.287 81 3.379 174
Muscat d'Hamburg r England? 8.137 82 7.066 93
Saperavi (Saperawi) r Georgia 8.126 83 6.707 96
Torrontés Riojano (Torrontél Riojano) w Argentina 8.115 84 8.187 81
Dornfelder (Weinsberg S 341) r Germany 8.101 85 3.766 134
Tsolikouri (Zolikouri) w Georgia 7.903 86 6.161 102
Síria (Códega, Doña Blanca, Roupeiro) w Portugal 7.898 87 2.791 169
Tinto Velasco (T. de la Pámpana Blanca) r Portugal/Spain 7.829 88 7.898 83
Corvina Veronese (Corvina Comune) r Italy 7.496 89 4.781 114
Garnacha Blanca (Grenache Blanc) w Spain 7.398 90 28.409 40
Silvaner (Sylvaner) w Austria 7.389 91 11.044 ?
Moscatel Rosada (Moscatel Rosado) w Argentina 7.329 92 10.656 73
Petit Verdot (Verdot) r France 7.202 93 1.481 235
Blue Portuguese (Portuguese) r Austria 6.798 94 ? ?
Marufo (Moravia Dulce, Mourisco) r Portugal 6.579 95 6.339 101
Bianca (Bianka, Egri Csillagok 40) w Hungary 6.462 96 2.180 200
Pinotage (Perold's Hermitage x Pinot) r South Africa 6.404 97 6.574 98
Dolcetto (Nibièu, Nibiò, Ormeasco) r Italy 6.333 98 7.191 90
Grillo (Ariddu, Riddu, Rossese Bianco) w Italy 6.295 99 1.803 214
Tinta Barroca (Barocco, Tinta Barocca) r Portugal 6.172 100 6.052 103
Chelva (Forastera Blanca) w Spain 6.168 101 10.877 69
Inzolia (Ansonica) w Italy 6.133 102 9.259 76
Nebbiolo (Chiavenna, Spanna) r Italy 5.992 103 5.047 112
Tannat (Harriague) r France 5.940 104 5.557 109
Ruby Cabernet (Cabernet Ruby) r USA 5.730 105 7.419 86
Croatina (Bonarda) r Italy 5.700 106 3.116 157
Alvarinho (Albariño) w Portugal/Spain 5.523 107 5.113 111
Furmint (Moslavac Bijeli, Šipon, Som) w Hungary 5.276 108 3.481 141
Trebbiano d'Abruzzo (T. di Teramo) w Italy 5.091 109 8.435 78
Lambrusco Salamino (L. di Santa Croce) w Italy 5.003 110 4.147 126
Gros Manseng (Manseng Gros Blanc) w France 4.995 111 2.160 201
Rufete (Castellana, Tinta Pinheira) r Portugal 4.833 112 3.397 142
Ancellotta (lancellotta) r Italy 4.774 113 4.931 119
Niagara (White Concord ) w USA 4.670 114 15.343 52
Prieto Picudo (Prieto Picudo Tinto) r Spain 4.587 115 3.256 149
Listán Prieto (Criolla Chica, Misión, País) r Spain 4.564 116 15.532 51
Rubired (Rubyred) r USA 4.556 117 4.153 125
Sauvignonasse (Friulano, Tai, Tuchì) w France 4.449 118 5.494 110
Arinto (Arinto de Bucelas, Pedernã) w Portugal 4.446 119 3.966 131
Pardillo (Pardilla) w Spain 4.364 120 7.272 87
Gaglioppo (Gaglioppo di Cirò) r Italy 4.214 121 3.592 138
Misket Cherven (Misket Sungurlarski) w Bulgaria 4.159 122 ? ?
Baga (Tinta Bairrada) r Portugal 4.108 123 6.730 95
Zalema (Torrontés de Montilla) w Spain 4.097 124 5.969 105
Loureiro (Loureiro Blanco) w Portugal 4.054 125 4.932 118
Kerner (White Herald) w Germany 3.994 126 7.111 91
Merseguera (Esquitxagos) w Spain 3.946 127 7.460 85
Caladoc (Kaladok) r France 3.675 128 1.427 240
St. Laurent (Saint Laurent) r Austria 3.665 129 2.370 184
Tsitska (Tsitsiko, Zizka) w Georgia 3.642 130 2.839 164
Cserszegi Füszeres (C. Füszeries) w Hungary 3.609 131 2.185 199
Mavro (Kypreiko Mavro) r Cyprus 3.575 132 10.969 68
Durif (Petite Sirah) r France 3.557 133 1.197 269
Verdicchio Bianco (Boschera) w Italy 3.532 134 5.043 113
Teneron (Valenciana Blanca) w Spain 3.488 135 3.488 140
Trousseau Noir (Trousseau, Bastardo) r France 3.431 136 2.120 203
Malvasia Fina (Boal, Torrontés) w Portugal 3.416 137 7.102 92
Sultana (Sultanina, Sultaniye) w Mediterranean region 3.407 138 271.828 4
Negra minor (minor) r Spain 3.193 139 3.557 139
Vinhão (Sousão, Sousón, Tinta País) r Portugal 3.160 140 5.937 106
BăbeascăNeagră (Rara Neagră) r Romania/Ukraine 3.122 141 3.722 136
Graciano (Bovale, Tinta Miúda) r Spain 3.112 142 1.910 211
Carignan Blanc (Cariñena Blanca) w France 3.061 143 1.035 287
Aspiran Bouschet (A. Bouchet) r France 3.042 144 308 432
Falanghina (Falanghina Bianca) w Italy 3.037 145 1.658 221
Beba (Boal de Praça) w Spain 3.036 146 4.762 115
Cortese (Corteis) r Italy 2.953 147 3.113 158
Agiorgitiko (Mavroudi Nemeas) r Greece 2.905 148 2.320 189
Clairette (Blanquette, Clairet) w France 2.820 149 4.003 129
Aramon Noir (Ugni Noir) r France 2.561 150 9.084 77

Varietal aromas

Each variety has specific characteristics which are referred to as typical of the variety (see also under Flavouring). However, it depends on the method of winemaking whether these potential properties actually appear in the wine. In the case of intensive barrique ageing, these can be completely masked.

typische Rebsortenaromen

Grape variety description in the wine lexicon

Two databases of the Institute for Grapevine Breeding Geilweilerhof in Siebeldingen (Pfalz-Germany) contain comprehensive information on well over 10,000 grape varieties (see also under VIVC). In the wine lexicon about 1,700 grape varieties are described. A list of about 1,000 of them can be found under New Breeding. The grape varieties can also be searched for/found via about 5,000 synonyms (aliases). The descriptions include:

  • Origin (country) - if known
  • Synonyms (many names for one grape variety) & homonyms (one name for many grape varieties)
  • Name meaning and historical background (anecdotes, famous wines)
  • Pictures of grape and leaf of about 1,000 grape varieties
  • Breeding year and breeder for new varieties
  • Parentage/parenthood and relatives according to the latest DNA analyses
  • morphologically similar vine varieties (risk of confusion)
  • Parenthood for other varieties(mother or father variety)
  • Characteristics(maturity, resistance or susceptibility to certain diseases)
  • typical aroma substances or sensory properties regarding sweetness, acidity etc.
  • Potential with regard to the shelf life and development potential of the wines produced from them
  • Countries/areas under cultivation with the areas under vines in hectares

Sources and further information

The standard work "Wine Grapes - A complete guide to 1,368 vine varieties" was used as an important source regarding vine varieties with the kind permission of the Swiss biologist Dr. José Vouillamoz. A list of keywords relevant to vine varieties is included under vine. All work and measures in the vineyard can be found under vineyard care. Complete lists of the numerous cellar techniques, as well as a list of the wine, sparkling wine and distillate types regulated by wine law can be found under vinification. Comprehensive information on wine law can be found under wine law.

Grape varieties Colours: Pixabay
World map: The Winegrower 1 - Viticulture, Ulmer Verlag 2019, 4th edition
Grape varieties Varieties: Ursula Brühl, Doris Schneider, Julius Kühn-Institut (JKI)
Flavour jars: armin faber info@faberpartner.de

The world's largest Lexikon of wine terms.

23.145 Keywords · 48.178 Synonyms · 5.311 Translations · 28.459 Pronunciations · 156.084 Cross-references
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