White wine grapes
4 Sep 2008 by Jancis Robinson

Please note that italics refer to grape varieties that have their own entries in this guide to hundreds of the most significant grapes currently grown around the world to produce white wine.

Airén, the grape of the vast La Mancha region in central Spain and therefore the world's most planted wine grape, which produces crisp, fairly neutral wine, much of it being distilled into brandy. Albalonga, German crossing planted in Rheinhessen.

Albana, Emilia-Romagna vine related to Greco di Tufo making deep-coloured wines.

Albariño, the perfumed, elegant aristocrat of Rias Baixas in north west Spain. Has been confused with Savagnin in Australia.

Albillo, Spanish variety producing quite neutral but full-bodied wine, mainly in Ribeiro but also used to perfume Ribera del Duero reds.

Aligoté, Burgundy's second white grape makes tartish wine for early consumption, best from Bouzeron. Also grown in Bulgaria, Romania and Russia.

Altesse, another name for Savoie's Roussette.

Alva, see Roupeiro.

Alvarinho, Albariño in Portugal's Vinho Verde region, where it is also prized.

Amigne, Swiss Valais rarity making rich, heady wines.

Ansonica, Tuscan name for Inzolia.

Antão Vaz,
increasingly favoured variety in Portugal's Alentejo region.

Arbois, minor Loire variety making soft wines in Touraine.

Arinto, Portuguese grape making high-acid, sometimes lemony wine in Bucelas, Ribatejo, Vinho Verde amongst others.

Arneis, floral-scented Piedmont speciality rescued from extinction. Has been fashionable. Drink young.

Arrufiac, Arrufiat, grainy traditional Gascon ingredient in Pacherenc du Vic Bihl.

Arvine, Petite Arvine, Amigne's cousin.

Assyrtiko, from the Greek island of Santorini but valued increasingly widely on mainland Greece for its acidity, apple and lemon flavours, and ability to express terroir.

Auxerrois, slightly fuller, less acid version of Pinot Blanc widely planted in Alsace and blended with it (although the blend is almost invariably called Pinot Blanc on the label).Treasured in Luxembourg for its low acid.

Avesso makes full bodied, scented wine in Vinho Verde. May be Jaen.

Azal, Vinho Verde grape with usually high acids.

Bacchus, conveniently early-ripening German crossing that can bring grape sugars but little else to a blend. Some curranty varietals from Franken and England.

Baco Blanc, Baco 22A, French hybrid named after its creator in 1898. Good at being grafted but on the way out of Armagnac, once its stronghold. See also Baco Noir.

Baiyu, Chinese name for Rkatsiteli.

Baroque, full, nutty mainstay of Tursan in south west France.

Bergeron, local name for Roussanne in the Savoie appellation of Chignin.

Bical, Bairrada's crisp speciality, useful for sparkling wines.

Blanc Fumé, Sauvignon Blanc in Pouilly-sur-Loire.

Boal, great rich varietal of Madeira, anglicized to Bual.

Bombino Bianco, widely planted vine in Apuglia and also further north up Italy's Adriatic coast. Very prolific but Valentini's 'Trebbiano d'Abruzzo' demonstrates what can be achieved.

Borrado das Moscas, Bical in Dão (Portugal).

Bourboulenc, potentially fine Languedoc variety at its best in La Clape where it can smell attractively of iodine.

Bouvier, lesser central European table grape, a crossing of Chardonnay and Zöldsilváni planted in Austria, Hungary and, as Ranina, in Slovenia.

Carignan Blanc, white mutation of the widely planted Carignan found particularly in Roussillon in France.

Carricante, zesty eastern Sicilian.

Catarratto, Sicily's most important grape after Sangiovese and therefore one of the world's most planted. It can be full and lemony but much of it ends up as grape concentrate or at the bottom of the European wine lake.

Cayetana, prolific producer for brandy de Jerez in Spain's south west.

Cayuga White, hardy American hybrid with some Seyval Blanc genes.

Cerceal, Portuguese grape responsible for the driest, most elegant form of Madeira, Sercial. This late-ripening vine, also grown on the mainland, provides grapes that are eye-tinglingly high in acidity and wines that can last for decades.

Cereza, basic pink skinned Argentine.

Chardonel, American crossing of Chardonnay and Seyval Blanc.

, the most famous vine variety of all. So powerful is the C-word on a wine label that, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay has virtually no synonyms - although in Styria in southern Austria some winemakers persist with the tradition of calling it Morillon. In the 1980s something extremely important to the history of wine happened: 'Chardonnay' became a name more familiar to the world's wine buyers than any of the geographically-named wines this vine variety had for centuries produced, such as Chablis, Corton-Charlemagne, or Montrachet. When the emerging New World wine industries introduced varietal labelling - calling wines by the name of their principal grape variety - it was Chardonnay that made the most friends.

Wine drinkers find it flatteringly easy to enjoy, with its broad, exuberant charms, relatively high alcohol and low acidity, and lack of powerful scent. Vine growers find it easy to grow productively and profitably (it can yield well, ripen usefully early, although buds rather too early for frost-free comfort in cool climates). And winemakers revel in the range of different winemaking techniques to which Chardonnay readily submits: not just a wide range of dry white wines with more weight than most, but delicate sparkling wines and even a few extremely successful sweet white wines made with the benefit of 'noble rot'.

All over the world, producing Chardonnay has been seen as a rite of passage in new wine regions. Almost any wine producer with ambitions to belong to the great international club of wine grown-ups has to prove that he or she can make a Chardonnay, preferably a Chardonnay fermented and matured in new(ish) oak barrels the Burgundian way, with the best of them. The fact is that most of this sort of wine is far more a product made in the cellar than in the vineyard. Or, to put it another way, skilfully-made barrel-fermented Chardonnays tend to taste very much the same wherever they are made. Indeed when many people say they like the taste of Chardonnay, what they often mean is that they like the taste of oak, or at least the qualities of oak maturation.

So, although in terms of total area planted Chardonnay lags well behind such workhorse varieties as Spain's Airén and Italy's Trebbiano, it is more widely distributed than any other grape variety - probably even more widely than its red wine counterpart Cabernet Sauvignon, which needs more sunshine to ripen it than Chardonnay. Chardonnay mania, of which French coopers have been the major beneficiaries, was a phenomenon of the 1980s and 1990s but in the early 1970s it was hardly grown outside its Burgundian homeland and Champagne. It accounted for only a tiny proportion of all vines grown in California and Australia, for example, whereas by the early 1990s it had become the most planted white wine grape in both. At times demand for Chardonnay grapes from wine producers has been so much greater than supply (Australia in the mid 1990s springs to mind) that Chardonnay has been blended with one or two other varieties. Sémillon-Chardonnay ('SemChard') and Chardonnay-Colombard blends became the pragmatic solution to an industry's problem.

The Chardonnay vine is nothing if not adaptable. Commercially acceptable Chardonnay can be produced in really quite hot wine regions such as the hot interiors of California, South Africa and Australia where clever winemaking can give it tropical fruit flavours and even some suggestion of oakiness, often using oak chips. In cooler wine regions such as Chablis, Carneros and Tasmania, on the other hand, it can produce apple-crisp tingle juice which, in less ripe years, can have rapier-like acidity. The best examples can benefit from five or even more years in bottle to soften that acidity and develop rounder flavours to balance it - although less concentrated examples produced in cool years may simply taste even leaner as the bloom of youth fades. Excluding premier cru and grand cru burgundy, Chardonnay does not make wines for long ageing.

Cooler regions are particularly good sources of lively, relatively subtle Chardonnay fruit for makers of sparkling wine, who value acidity and an absence of obvious flavours. Chardonnay is, for example, the second most important grape variety grown in Champagne, and it was largely the dramatic expansion of the Champagne vineyard that propelled Chardonnay into first place among France's white grape varieties in the 1980s. Chardonnay can bring a floral or even steely character to a sparkling wine in its youth, which can age into toastiness after years in bottle. A Blanc de Blancs Champagne is made exclusively from Chardonnay grapes.

The wines of Chablis, one of France's coolest wine regions, have a very particular flavour. It reminds me of wet stones, with some suggestion of very green fruit, but without the strong aroma and lean build of a Sauvignon Blanc. Traditional, top quality examples designed for a long life can even taste slightly musty in middle age, as though those wet stones had sprouted some moss. And then after about eight years in bottle they can develop much more complicated, often deliciously honey-like, flavours.

In more temperate climates Chardonnay can yield some of the finest dry white wine in the world. The heartland of Burgundy, the Côte d'Or, is effectively the nerve centre of this style of wine: savoury, dense, the grape a transparent medium through which different vineyards (and winemakers) can communicate their own individual styles, often only after many years in bottle. Most of them are made with extensive use of small oak barrels, and many of them are simply too 'closed' (low in aroma and flavour) and dour to enjoy before their third birthday, depending on the vintage. Hazelnuts, liquorice, lemon, smoke, butter, spice are just a few of the many aromas that can be found in the heady perfume that can develop in these markedly full-bodied wines.

Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet, Meursault and Corton-Charlemagne are some of the most famous names. Typical Meursault tends to be butter-golden and a little heavier and earlier-maturing than a typical wine from 'The Montrachets' (as the villages would doubtless be called in Britain) which has more lean, pure, nuanced character capable of developing for up to a decade in bottle, while Corton-Charlemagne can be nutty, almost almond-flavoured. But 'typical' burgundy hardly exists. Wines here are made with exasperatingly varied levels of skill, so that one winemaker's basic Bourgogne Blanc, the most basic appellation, may be better than another's Montrachet, even though it costs a fraction of the price. The name of the producer is often more important than the name of the appellation.

The Mâconnais tends to produce a more New World style of Chardonnay: plump, open, user-friendly wines that can taste of melon, or apples warmed by the sun. Most of these wines, particularly Mâcon Blanc and St-Véran, are designed to be drunk within two or three years of the vintage, although the most ambitious producers in the region, notably in Pouilly-Fuissé, are increasingly making wines to rival those of the Côte d'Or, without Côte d'Or prices. Chardonnay grown between the Mâconnais and the Côte d'Or in the Côte Chalonnaise tends to taste somewhere between the two styles.

These are France's traditional Chardonnay vine strongholds but the variety's influence has been spreading within France as elsewhere. Wine producers in the Loire valley have embraced this fashionable grape so enthusiastically that the laws have to explicitly ban more than 20 per cent of the variety in blends for sparkling Saumur and the dry whites of Anjou and Touraine in order to preserve the Loire's own traditional character. Some Muscadet producers have also been experimenting with oaked Chardonnays. And several of France's more cosmopolitan producers in distinctly non-Chardonnay territory have quietly planted a row or two for their own interest.

Within the appellation system Chardonnay has invaded Limoux with the blessing of the authorities, to add finesse to the local sparkling Crémant de Limoux as well as producing rather fine, lemony barrel-fermented still wine. Increasing amounts of Chardonnay are also grown on the lower, flatter vineyards of the Languedoc to produce Vin de Pays, usually Vin de Pays d'Oc. As one would expect in an area known as France's New World, the quality of these wines varies according to the position of the vineyard(s) (for many of them are blends) and the quality and style of the winemaking. Price offers a fairly good guide. The cheapest Chardonnay d'Oc is simply a relatively full bodied dry white wine, while the very best, usually given full oak treatment in the winery, can offer some of the class of Burgundy.

Thanks to an extraordinary boom in plantings, Chardonnay has become synonymous with white wine in California and is responsible for a remarkably homogenous ocean of off-dry, golden, quite alcoholic, easy-to-drink liquid. While the most commercial examples are usually deliberately slightly sweetened to give them wide appeal, the key to serious quality in a California Chardonnay is climate. Wherever coastal fogs reliably slow down the ripening process, extending the growing season of this early ripening variety, and yields are kept in check, then California can produce some very fine wines indeed, with considerable Burgundian savour to them, but without the Old World surliness in youth. Carneros, and much of Sonoma and the Central Coast, have all produced some fine Chardonnay made very much in the mould of a good Meursault. The variety is also grown almost everywhere in the North America where it has even half a chance of thriving, including the cool wine regions of Canada and New York state (where Long Island has proved rather successful) as well as Washington and Oregon which may respectively be better suited to Riesling and Pinot Gris.

Australia's strong suit is the reliable quality and varied character of her middle-range Chardonnays. They have been hugely successful commercially with their obvious, simple fruitiness, perked up with (usually added) acid and, often, oak chips. The overall style has changed considerably from rich, oaky and alcoholic to something much leaner and, in the better cases, more appetising and refreshing. Mudgee has produced some fine Chardonnay from a rare clone of the variety that locals believe was imported in the nineteenth century, decades before Chardonnay mania hit Australia in the early 1980s. Cooler areas of Australia can produce more subtle Chardonnay, more reminiscent of Côte d'Or wine in structure if not flavour. Tasmania makes the leanest examples, some so lean they are snapped up by Australia's sparkling wine industry. The Adelaide Hills, Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, cooler parts of New South Wales and the southern vineyards of Western Australia have all proved themselves capable of making top quality Chardonnays whose higher acidity levels can preserve them for several years in bottle (whereas most commercial Australian Chardonnay should be drunk as young as possible and ideally before its second birthday).

Australian producers may envy the high acid levels that their counterparts in New Zealand can hardly avoid, while New Zealanders would probably be happier with more reliable ripeness. Despite New Zealand's reputation for Sauvignon Blanc, the country can also make fine Chardonnay. Winemaking standards have been varied but those prepared to restrain yields and oak influence can produce subtle, sometimes exciting wines. Gisborne Chardonnay has long had its followers but there have been dramatic examples from wineries all over the North and South Islands.Experimentation with the world's favourite grape variety in South Africa was severely hampered in the 1980s by the fact that the original official planting stock was seriously inferior, but quality is excitingly nervy, even if a definitive Cape style is yet to emerge.

The vineyards of South America have also been invaded by Chardonnay. The vine has shown a certain amount of promise in Chile, where the produce of cool Casablanca can blend well with riper Maipo fruit. Argentina has a smaller proportion of its extensive vineyards planted to Chardonnay, but almost exact reproductions of California Chardonnay have been produced under the Catena label and investors from a host of different countries have been establishing cooler, higher vineyards such as those at Tupungato.In the Old World Spain has relatively limited plantings of Chardonnay for the variety tends to ripen too fast there, and its affinity with the prevailing American oak has been less obvious (although Australians and Californians have provided some excellent examples). Portugal has some experimental plantings but its own array of indigenous vine varieties is reason enough to resist the international invader.

Italy made some of the earliest varietal Chardonnays and pretty vapid they were too, but it is now possible to find some ambitious wines made with great care. Chardonnay has long been grown in the north east of the country and can be found, often in simpler, unoaked varietal versions in Friuli, Trentino and Alto Adige, although much of the fruit is siphoned off for the spumante industry.After the break-up of the Soviet bloc British wine consumers were treated to an ocean of eastern European wines labelled Chardonnay, but relatively few have so far demonstrated much varietal character and the first wave of oak-aged examples were often oily and heavy. Keeping yields down to a level at which interesting flavours develop has been a serious problem, although the fiercely artisanal producers of Slovenia and parts of Croatia are a noble exception. Quality will doubtless rise in Bulgaria, Hungary, Moldova and Romania.

Austria and Switzerland have proved they belong to the international fine winemaking club by producing some very fine, concentrated barrel-fermented Chardonnays. The variety is also responsible for some very fine botrytized sweet wines in Austria's Burgenland, sometimes blended with Welschriesling for additional acidity and aroma.

Other excellent sweet wines made from nobly rotten Chardonnay grapes have come from the Mâconnais in France, Romania, New Zealand and Coonawarra in Australia, proving yet another of Chardonnay's attributes.

Chasan, increasingly common crossing of Chardonnay and Listan. Makes generally rather bland Languedoc varietals.

Chasselas, white table grape that is particularly widely planted in Switzerland where it is known as Fendant and is also an important ingredient in some of the light whites of Savoie. In Alsace it plays a subordinate role in cheaper blends and in Germany it is known as Gutedel. It has also been cultivated in its time throughout central Europe and even New Zealand.

Chenin Blanc, surely the most chameleon-like of vine varieties. Most wine drinkers encounter Chenin Blanc on the labels of very cheap, sometimes slightly sweetened, everyday varietals from California (usually Central Valley) or South Africa where it is the most planted vine. In these relatively hot wine-producing environments, Chenin Blanc's ability to hang on to its natural grape acidity is highly prized, and stops these inexpensive, usually rather bland wines tasting flabby.

In its homeland in the middle Loire, Chenin Blanc is also marked by its high acid, which is not necessarily a virtue in cooler years, but gives dry and medium dry (Sec and Demi Sec) white wines from here a much longer life than most. Damp straw, flowers, something vaguely honeyed and (occasionally still) the acrid sting of sulphur are the usual distinguishing features.

Chenin Blanc comes into its own, however, in exceptional Loire vintages when seriously high sugars develop in the grapes, particularly when they are concentrated by noble rot. A Vouvray or Montlouis labelled Moelleux or Liquoreux, Bonnezeaux, Quarts de Chaume and the best Coteaux du Layon and Coteaux de l'Aubance can be an absolute mar­vel of honey, lime and toast which can continue to improve in bottle for decades.

An increasing number of producers in South Africa, New Zealand and California are taking Chenin Blanc seriously for it can also make at­tractively assertive, full-bodied dry wines if the site is right and yields are restricted. It is widely distributed and its reliable acid level is valued as an ingredient in sparkling wines such as Blanquette de Limoux and those of South America, notably Argentina.

Chevrier, occasional name for Semillon.

widely distributed southern French variety producing full bodied whites that can hang on to their acidity quite impressively. It is a common ingredient in many southern French whites. Clairette du Languedoc has its own somewhat historic appellation. Clairette de Die, the curious sparkling wine in the far eastern Rhône Valley, depends heavily on muscat for flavour. Clairette is also widely planted in South Africa, where it is generally used for blending. It is also, confusingly, used as a synonym for other varieties, including Ugni Blanc and Bourboulenc.

Clare Riesling, traditional South Australian name for Crouchen.

Clevner, see Klevner. Códega, Douro name for Roupeiro.

Colombard or Columbar, widely planted Cognac vine producing neutral, relatively crisp wine, particularly in California where, as vast tracts of French Colombard in the Central Valley, it was for some time the state's single most planted wine grape. It can make fruity, crisp, inexpensive white wine to be drunk straight off the bottling line from California, South Africa, Côtes de Gascogne and the Charentes in France. The vine is on the wane in France's damp South West however because it suffers from mildew.

Completer, distinctively feral eastern Swiss speciality.

Cortese, speciality of south east Piedmont in general and Gavi in particular. Crisp and, with luck, fruity.

Criolla Grande is Argentina's most common vine (in both senses) and makes huge quantities of deep coloured white or light pink wine which is rarely exported except as a very minor constituent in a blend.

, vine which was difficult to grow in its native South West France but which has surfaced in Clare, South Australia and South Africa where it has been known respectively as Clare Riesling and Cape/Paarl/South African Riesling. Its wine can, like real Riesling, develop well in bottle and, within South Africa itself, it has sometimes been labelled simply Riesling.

Debina, sprightly grape used for the lightly sparkling white wines of Zitsa in Epirus, north west Greece.

Dimiat, Bulgaria's most planted native white vine making vaguely perfumed, everyday whites.

Dinka, very ordinary but widely planted in Hungary and over the border in Yugoslavia.

Doradillo, productive, undistinguished vine still grown in South Australia's Riverland.

Drupeggio, the white berried form of Canaiolo that adds interest to Orvieto.

Ehrenfelser, one of Germany's better Riesling-based crossings found mainly in Pfalz and Rheinhessen. Fussier about site than Kerner.

Elbling, historic German vine still planted in the Mosel Valley where it produces extremely tart, lean wine which is sometimes made into Sekt.

Emerald Riesling, bumptious and quite floral California crossing of Muscadelle x Riesling which is designed for hot climates such as in South Africa.

Encruzado, useful ingredient in Dão.

Erbaluce, north Piedmont speciality which can make sweet golden wines round Caluso.

Ermitage, see Hermitage. Esgana and Esgana Cão, mainland Portuguese names for Cerceal.

Ezerjo, Hungarian rarity associated with a sweet style from Mór.

Faber or Faberrebe, early-ripening Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) x Müller-Thurgau crossing which can reach high ripeness levels while retaining acid, but is better at blending than ageing.

Falanghina, Campanian speciality making sturdy wines.

Favorita, how Vermentino is known in Piedmont. Wines can age better than Arneis.

Fendant, Chasselas in the Valais (Switzerland).

Fernão Pires, widely planted Portuguese grape whose wines can smell rank to outsiders but which have good assertive build. Popular in Ribatejo and, as Maria Gomes, in Bairrada. Some is grown in South Africa.

Feteasca, Fetiaska,
Feteaska, scented Romanian speciality also found in Hungary as Leányka. Its wines tend to be full and peachy and rarely bone dry. Feteasca Alba, with Grasa, spawned the widely planted 1930s crossing Feteasca Regala, known in Hungary as Királeányka.

Fiano, ancient vine of Campania in Italy. Strong wines. Also grown in Sicily and Australia where it makes luscious dry whites.

Fie, middle Loire speciality which is related to Sau­vignon Blanc.

Flora, rare but quite elegant Gewürztraminer x Sémillon crossing bred in California.

Folle Blanche, once important brandy grape making tart wine in South West France.

Franken Riesling, Sylvaner.

Freisamer, Freiburger, German Silvaner x Pinot Gris crossing still grown in Baden and eastern Switzerland where it makes some full, sweet wines.

French Colombard, see Colombard.

Friulano, local Friuli name for Sauvignon Vert, one of the most planted light grapes there. Once known at Tocai Friulano, it can make lively, crisp, aromatic wines to be drunk young.

Frontignac, Frontignan, synonyms for Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains.

Früher Roter Veltliner, Früher Roter Veltliner, early ripening red-skinned Austrian variety making soft wines. Unrelated to Grüner Veltliner.

Fumé Blanc, developed as more glamorous name for Sauvignon Blanc by Robert Mondavi of California in the 1970s, it is now used all over the world, typically but by no means reliably to denote an oak-aged style of Sauvignon.

Furmint, famous in Hungary's sweet Tokaji. Grapes succumb well to noble rot producing fiery, heady sweet wine with good acid and ageing potential but now increasingly made into assertive dry white too.

Garganega, Veneto vine capable of making fine, lemon and almond-scented wines, notably but not exclusively from low-yielding vines in Soave, also Gambellara, Bianco di Custoza etc.

Garnacha Blanca, Spanish name for Grenache Blanc.

Gewürztraminer, important vine grown all over the world to produce deep-coloured (from its pink skins), full-bodied whites with the memorable and extremely distinctive smell of lychees and rose petals veering towards bacon fat in very ripe examples. For many wine drinkers this (or Sauvignon Blanc) is the first varietal they learn to identify. It invariably ripens to a very high alcohol level and can lose acidity dangerously. Malolactic fermentation is therefore almost invariably avoided.

Although there is probably much confusion, especially in newer wine regions, strictly speaking Gewürztraminer is the aromatic or musqué version of Traminer, and certainly the Italians distinguish between Traminer and Traminer Aromatico.

Alsace is Gewürztraminer's stronghold and here it can produce late harvest wines more reliably than any of the other three noble grape varieties (Riesling, Pinot Gris and Muscat). Winemakers of all nationalities like to play with it, however, and fine examples can be found in Washington, Oregon, New Zealand, and northern Italy. In Iberia it is grown to a limited extent in the High Penedés. If ripened too fast in a warm climate it can be oily or even bitter.

, the tangy grape of Valdeorras, north west Spain, making potentially fine, mineral-scented dry whites.

Goldburger, crossing of Welschriesling and Orangetraube grown in Burgenland (in Austria) without any great distinction.

Gordo, see Muscat of Alexandria.

Gouais Blanc, neutral medieval French vine which, with Pinot Noir, is a parent of such varieties as Chardonnay, Melon, Gamay and all the pinots.

Gouveio, local name for Spain's Godello grown in Portugal's Douro valley.

Grasas, Romanian speciality responsible for the once-famous sweet wines of Cotnari.

Grakevina, Croatian name for Welschriesling.

Grauburgunder, German name for Pinot Gris, when made into a dry and crisp wine, in contrast to full, rich Ruländer.

Gray Riesling, California producer of off-dry wine, probably Trousseau Gris.

Grecanico, increasingly planted Sicilian vine. Late-ripening and tangy.Grechetto makes characterful, tangy, full-bodied dry wines in Umbria (Italy).

Greco, like the above two varieties, presumed originally a Greek vine, makes the sturdy Greco di Tufo in Campania and the extraordinary Greco di Bianco in Calabria.

Grenache Blanc, light-berried Grenache, planted all over southern France and northern Spain, as Garnacha Blanca, producing full bodied, sometimes rather flabby wines which can oxidize easily, although careful winemaking can make attractively scented wines for early drinking.

Grillo, often astringent, earthy Sicilian variety.

Grolleau Gris, minor middle Loire variety used mainly for Vin de Pays du Jardin de la France.

Gros Manseng, the lesser sort of Manseng responsible generally for drier forms of Jurançon. See also Petit Manseng.

Gros Plant, very tart varietal encountered around Nantes south of Muscadet country.

Grüner Veltliner, Austria's fashionable grape speciality making crisp, peppery, often full-bodied wines with real spark and the capacity to age.

Gutedel, German synonym for Chasselas.

Gutenborner, Müller-Thurgau x Chasselas crossing more successful in England than Germany.

Hanepoot, South African name for Muscat of Alexandria, the Cape's most common Muscat.

Hárslevelü, Furmint's traditional blending partner in Tokaji, named after the lime leaf its wines can smell of.

Hermitage, occasional synonym for Marsanne.

Humagne, Valais rarity, even richer than Amigne and Arvine. Huxelrebe, German crossing also popular in England which can produce full bodied sweet wine if the yield is checked.

Inzolia, western Sicilian speciality with promising nuttiness.

Irsai Oliver, relatively recent crossing, a Hungarian table grape which can also produce rather fat, vaguely Muscat-like varietal wine.

Italian Riesling/Rizling, synonym for Welschriesling.

Jacquère, common Savoie vine.

Jaén, a rather ordinary central Spanish grape grown as Avesso in Portugal. (See red grapes too.)

Johannisberg, Swiss name forSylvaner.

Johannisberg Riesling, sometimes abbreviated simply to JR, occasional synonym for Riesling in California.

Juhfark, very rare Hungarian vine associated with Somló.

Keknyelu, Hungarian 'blue stalked' variety grown in the Badacsony region on Lake Balaton producing heady, smoky wine.

Kerner, bred as recently as 1969 and one of Germany's most successful crossings yielding wine of real Riesling-like substance and ageing potential yet ripening in a wider range of sites than Ehrenfelser. Can smell of blackcurrants.

Kevedinka, Kövidinka, see Dinka.

Királeányka, Hungarian name for the Feteasca Regala of Romania.

Klevner, occasional Alsace synonym for Pinot Blanc and local variants.

Laski Rizling, Slovenian name for Welschriesling.

Len de l'Elh, traditional vine of South West France which makes strongly flavour but sometimes slightly flabby wine in Gaillac, usually blended with Mauzac.

Lexia, see Muscat of Alexandria.

Listan, French name for the Palomino of Spain's sherry vineyards.

, fine Vinho Verde grape grown increasingly across the border in Spanish Galicia as Loureira. Often blended with Treixadura but it is sometimes sold as a varietal wine.

Macabeo, very common grape in northern Spain and, as Maccabéo or Maccabeu, in the Languedoc and Roussillon. It is known as Viura in Rioja, where it is very much the dominant variety for white wines. Its vaguely floral character develops at full ripeness but it is often picked earlier to retain acidity. As Macabeo it is an important ingredient in Cava.

Madeleine Angevine, table grape that produces some attractive wine in England.

Malagoussia, Malagousia, vine capable of making elegant, almost too aromatic Greek whites, saved from extinction and now at work at Domaine Carras in the north.

Malvasia, widely and sometimes loosely used name for a range of usually relatively ancient grape varieties, the most famous of which inspires the richest style of madeira. The word is derived from the Greek port Monemvasia, through which so many rich dessert wines passed en route for western and northern Europe in the Middle Ages. Malvasia di Candia (of Crete) is one common sub-variety. In modern Italy there are at least 10 distinctive forms of Malvasia, planted all over the country. Malvasia Toscana is commonly blended with much more Trebbiano in a wide range of Tuscan and Central Italian whites. Malvasia Puntinata is small-berried and superior. White Malvasia tends to be a deeply coloured, quite alcoholic wine which can oxidize easily but has an intensely nutty character, sometimes with notes of orange peel and dried fruits. Malvasia is also grown in Spain and is the richest of the Madeira grapes, its name having been Anglicized to Malmsey. It can be an interesting diversion (from the ubiquitous Chardonnay) in California.

Malvoisie, a name as confusing in France as Malvasia is in Italy. A wide range of often unrelated varieites are called Malvoisie although most are light berried and make full-bodied, aromatic white wines. Perhaps it is most commonly encountered, in the Loire, Savoie and Switzerland, as a synonym for Pinot Gris. The Languedoc's Bourboulenc and Maccabéo, Roussillon's Tourbat and Corsica's Vermentino have all been called Malvoisie in their time, however.

Manseng, see Gros Manseng and Petit Manseng.

Maria Gomes, see Fernao Pires.

Marmajuelo, one of the better varieties on the Canary Islands.

, fashionable vine thanks to its origins as most common variety in the white wines of the Rhône (its Roussanne is declining, mainly because it is more difficult to grow.) Its wines tend to full-bodied, veering to heavy with flavours reminiscent of glue and marzipan. Marsanne is a permitted ingredient in many of the Languedoc's whites and is increasingly sold as a varietal Vin de Pays. The Australian state of Victoria has some of the world's oldest Marsanne vineyards, which produce sturdy examples, and California is also catching on.

Mauzac, or Mauzac Blanc, is the chief grape of Gaillac Blanc (in which it is blended with Len de l'El) and sparkling Blanquette de Limoux (in which its is softened with Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay). It has a particularly distinctive smell reminiscent of dried apple peel. Its late budding and ripening meant that it traditionally fermented long and slowly, still bubbling in the spring. Hence its association with wines of varying levels of fizz and sweetness.

Melon, Melon de Bourgogne, the Muscadet grape, so successful in the region because it withstands cold well and is quite prolific. So popular is it in the Muscadet region that, unusually, plantings have been increasing. The wine it produces is neither very acid nor strongly flavoured, but rather a neutral base on which to embroider terroir and sur lie characteristics. Some of California's 'Pinot Blanc' may be Melon.

Merseguera, bland Spanish variety grown widely in Alicante, Jumilla and Valencia.

Meunier, common name for Pinot Meunier.

Misket, Bulgarian crossing of Dimiat with Riesling producing vaguely grapey wines.

Molette, relatively neutral Savoie grape improved by blending in Roussette.

Mondeuse Blanche, parent of Syrah, unrelated to the dark-skinned Mondeuse.

Morillon, rare synonym for Chardonnay, still used in Styria.

Morio-Muskat, German Silvaner x Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) crossing has not a single Muscat gene yet manages to taste almost obscenely Muscat-like with its heady, often flabby grapiness. Varietal Morio-Muskat can easily be overpowering, but the variety was once widely used by German bottlers to add a 'Germanic' note to an otherwise neutral blend, notably destined to be sold as Liebfraumilch.

Moscadello, Moscato speciality of Montalcino.Moscatel, Spanish Muscat, usually Muscat of Alexandria.

Moscato, Italian Muscat, usually Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains.

Moscophilero, deep pink-skinned grape variety which can make strongly perfumed white wine on Greece's high plateau of Mantinia in the Peloponnese.

, Dr Hermann Müller's 1882 crossing of Riesling with a table grape called Madeleine Royale played an important part in allowing the reputation of German wine to plummet. Taken up with enthusiasm by German growers after the Second World War, the vine has the practical advantages (in the cool German climate) of ripening extremely early, before the arrival of autumn rain in most years, and (unlike Riesling and Silvaner) yielding reliably on almost any site. The disadvantage is that the wine, especially if produced from high yields, has so little character and can be dangerously short of acid.

It is almost invariably the major ingredient in Liebfraumilch and Germany's other cheap QbA blends. The more recent crossings Ehrenfelser, Faber, Kerner and well-ripened Scheurebe can produce much racier wine but by the late 20th century Müller-Thurgau, Germany's most popular grape variety for much of the 1970s and 1980s, was definitively in decline in favour of Riesling and Spatburgunder. Strangely, the variety seems to have a much higher strike rate outside Germany (although in Austria, where it is widely planted, it rarely achieves anything like as much interest as the native Grüner Veltliner). Some of Wasington's Müller-Thurgau, as well as Slovenia and Luxembourg's Rivaner, and New Zealand and Switzerland's rather naughtily-labelled Riesling-Sylvaner, and even Rizlingszilvani in Hungary, can demonstrate aroma and crispness, and some of the better producers of Alto Adige and Friuli (most notably Pojer & Sandri) can make really rather exciting, even sought-after, wine from it. The variety is also grown quite widely in England.

Muscadelle, with Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc, the third grape of Sauternes, and other sweet whites in Bordeaux and, especially, Bergerac. The variety is in decline, but it is still widely grown in Entre-Deux-Mers and it can plump out the two more famous varieties with youthful fruitiness (a bit like Pinot Meunier in champagne blends). It can be good in Monbazillac. It has also been identified as the variety responsible for the rich, dark fortified wines of north eastern Victoria traditionally called Liqueur Tokay.

Muscat, great and ramified family of vine varieties unusually producing wines that actually smell and taste of grapes. Muscat vines tend to thrive in hot climates and to come in many colours of grape skin, from greenish yellow through pink to dark brown, but almost all of them produce wine that was white at least in its youth (although see the dark-skinned Black Muscat, or Muscat of Hamburg). They have historically made rich, heady dessert wines but are increasingly being made into dry(ish) table wines in the style of Muscat d'Alsace.

The finest, most ancient sort of Muscat vine is small-berried and usually light-skinned and is therefore called Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains. Its berries are round rather than the oval shape of the other, almost as widely planted Muscat, of Alexandria, so the variety is sometimes also known as Muscat à Petits Grains Ronds. This is the vine responsible for France's most distinguished vins doux naturels, Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise, Muscat de St-Jean-de-Minervois, Muscat de Frontignan, Muscat de Lunel, the more obscure Muscat de Mireval and supplies the best Muscat of Roussillon. Its wines often hint at orange flowers and spice. Other names for this widely planted variety include Muscat of Frontignan, Frontignac, Muscat Blanc, Muscat d'Alsace, Muskateller, Moscato Bianco, Moscato d'Asti, Moscato di Canelli, Moscatel de Grano Menudo, Moscatel de Frontignan, Muscatel Branco, White Muscat, Muscat Canelli and Muskadel (in South Africa). It is grown all over central and eastern Europe and is the variety responsible, for example, for the extraordinarily rich Muscats of the Crimean Massandra winery. In Russian it may be known as Tamyanka, in Romanian as Tamaiioasa. This is the Muscat responsible for all of Greece's rich tradition of Muscats and, as Moscato, for north west Italy's important spumante industry. An unusual dark-berried form known locally as Brown Muscat is responsible for north east Victoria's best dark, sticky Muscats, although Muscat of Alexandria is by far the more common form of Muscat in Australia. Any Muscat with the words Alexandria, Gordo, Romain, Hamburg or Ottonel in its name is not this superior variety.

Muscat of Alexandria makes much less distinguished wine (although Portugal's Moscatel of Setubal can be interesting) but it can reach very high ripeness levels in hot climates and can be usefully productive. It produces more vaguely grapey wine in which the sweetness often overpowers even its notes of geranium or, sometimes, tomcat. Marmalade rather than orange blossom is a useful shorthand. Californians use their Muscat of Alexandria for raisins, Chileans use theirs for the local spirit pisco, and it is also grown for raisins and occasionaly wine as 'Lexia' or 'Gordo' in Australia's irrigated wine regions. Carefully vinified, it can provide useful blending material, particularly for medium dry blends. It is known as Muscat Romain in Roussillon, where it is the dominant Muscat for Muscat of Rivesaltes, Hanepoot in South Africa and Zibibbo in southern Italy. Any Spanish wine called simply Moscatel is likely to be made from this variety called, variously, Moscatel de Espana, Moscatel Gordo (Blanco), and Moscatel de Málaga. There has been a resurgence in popularity for Moscatel grown around Málaga in the far south of Spain.

Muscat Ottonel is a Muscat bred in the 19th century for the cooler climates of central Europe but has much less grapey flavours and substance. It makes lightish, usually dry wines and is widely grown in Alsace but its finest incarnations may be the late harvested sweet wines as the Muskateller of Austria's Neusiedlersee, Tamaîioasa Ottonel of Romania and the Muskotaly of Hungary. The variety is sometimes known elsewhere as Hungarian Muscat.

Muskadel, South African synonym for Muscat Blanc.

Muskateller, Germany synonym for various Muscats.

Muskat-Silvaner, telling German synonym for Sauvignon Blanc.

Muskotaly, Muskotalyos, Muscat Ottonel grown in Hungary's Tokaj region, sometimes sold as a dry varietal.

Musqué, not the name of a grape variety but if a grape variety is described as musqué it usually denotes a particularly aromatic grapey version of it, as in Chardonnay Musqué.

Neuburger, popular Austrian crossing of Pinot Blanc and Sylvaner making full bodied whites.

Niagara, America native Vitis labrusca vine making 'foxy' wines in New York state.

Nosiola, Trentino's zippy indigenous speciality.

Nuragus, basic Sardinian.

Olaszrizling, Hungarian name for Welschriesling.

Ondenc, declining variety in Gaillac, which is also known in Australia.

Optima, German crossing designed to notch up high must weights by ripening very early indeed. For this reason it is popular in England.

Orémus, Hungarian crossing of Furmint and Bouvier occasionally sold as a dry varietal.

Ortega, another blowsy German crossing which can ripen spectacularly and is useful in cool years. Varietal examples exist but can lack acid, except in England.

Palomino, or Palomino Fino to distinguish it from the coarser Palomino Basto it has replaced, is the sherry grape, grown around Jerez in southern Spain. It can withstand drought well and produces a reliable crop of slightly low acid, low sugar grapes whose wine may oxidize easily - in short, perfect raw material for sherry. It has also been planted in north western Spain but without producing wines of great distinction. Outside Spain, as in France where it is of declining importance, it is often known as Listan, or Listan de Jerez. It is known as Perrum in Portugal's Alentejo. It is grown to a limited extent in California's Central Valley, in Chile, and in Australia and South America. Palomino was once widely planted in South Africa but most of the wine is used for distilling or basic blends. It was planted in Galicia once.

Pansa Blanca, north east Spain's Xarel-lo.

Pardillo, Pardina, undistinguished vine widely planted in western Spain.

Parellada, the finest white grape of Catalonia used, with Macabeo and Xarel-lo, for Cava and also treasured as a blending ingredient in many still dry whites of the Penedés region. Fine acidity.

Pecorino, neat, scented Italian.

Pederna, Arinto in Vinho Verde.

Pedro, Pedro Jiménez, Pedro Ximénez, known also as 'PX', is grown in Andalusia to produce dark, sweetening wines for sherry producers, sometimes after drying these thin-skinned grapes. An increasing number of very sweet varietal fortified wines of this nature are bottled, presumably to the dismay of dentists everywhere. It is grown all over southern Spain, particularly in the Montilla-Moriles region, where it is much more important than palomino. In Australia 'Pedro' has been known to produce delicious, long-lasting botrysized sweet wines in the irrigated vineyards of Griffith, New South Wales. Argentina grows substantial quantities of Pedro Gimenez, which may be a distinct variety.

Perle, aromatic German crossing grown in Franken.

Petit Courbu, South West French variety often blended with the Mansengs and/or Arrufiac.

Petit Manseng, smaller berried than Gros Manseng, is responsible for the shrivelled berries needed to make top quality Jurancon and Pacherenc du Vic Bilh Moelleux in South West France. Thanks to its thick skins, Petit Manseng yields relatively little juice and perhaps that is why the resulting wine can seem so packed with tangy, verdant flavours. Like Tannat, the variety was taken to Uruguay by Basques in the 19th century. It is acquiring a cult following among more varietally aware wine producers, from Languedoc to California.

Picolit, sweet white Friuli varietal revered by Italians and extremely expensive. At its best (not stretched with the blander Verduzzo) Picolit smells of apricots.

Picpoul, Piquepoul, many-hued traditional Languedoc variety making high-acid, full bodied, lemony wines of which best known is the Coteaux du Languedoc Picpoul de Pinet made around the village of Pinet.

Pigato, ancient Ligurian name for a strain of Vermentino.

Pineau de la Loire, synonym for Chenin Blanc.

Pinot Beurot, Burgundian name for Pinot Gris.

Pinot Blanc, white-berried mutation of Pinot Gris and therefore related to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Widely planted in Alsace, northern Italy (as Pinot Bianco), in Germany and Austria (as Weissburgunder). In Alsace it provides basic, good-value, broad-flavoured full bodied dry white - often good value for money. It may be blended with Auxerrois and is sometimes called Clevner or Klevner. In Italy it was confused with and worshipped as Chardonnay for years and is still made in that vaguely round-but-crisp style, as well as being used extensively for making sparkling wine. The Germans, who have very little Chardonnay planted, tend increasingly to make ambitious dry Weissburgunders using all the Chardonnay tricks of barrel fermentation and the like, sometimes with great success, particularly in Baden. In Austria's Burgenland, however, Weissburgunder can produce quite superb botrytized sweet wines, up to TBA levels. The variety is also grown widely, sometimes called Beli Pinot, throughout central Europe and is also increasingly treasured as an alternative to Chardonnay in California. In general Pinot Blanc offers the body of Chardonnay with rather less individuality and ageing potential, and more smoke and less fruit and nut characters. It is encountered on California labels but may in fact be Melon in some cases.

Pinot Chardonnay, rare synonym for Chardonnay which acknowledges its membership of the Pinot family.

Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris, popular member of the Pinot family, a pink-skinned version of Pinot Noir which can make deep-coloured, full-bodied, soft, gently aromatic white wines with lots of extract, although Italians, who grow far more of it, as Pinot Grigio, than Pinot Bianco, have a habit of picking it before it can develop these characteristics although top Friuli producers can fashion something special from it.

In Alsace it is, unlike Pinot Blanc, revered as a noble grape and can produce some commandingly rich wines from almost bone dry through Vendange Tardive to SGN levels of ripeness. The drier of these wines are some of the finest whites to drink with rich savoury food. It is known as Malvoisie in the Loire and Switzerland (where its innate smoky flavours survive).

The variety is more common in Germany than Alsace, however, where it is traditonally called Grauburgunder, although sweet versions have been called Ruländer. Most is grown in Baden and, to a lesser extent, Pfalz. In Hungary it is known as Szürkebarat and it is grown widely thoughout central Europe. Admired in Luxembourg, the variety has been adopted enthusiastically in Oregon and is increasingly widely grown in New Zealand, Australia and California.

Plavai, late ripening Moldovan vine planted all over central Europe.

Prosecco, the Veneto's sparkling varietal speciality making fizz of varying degrees of residual sugar, although some dry, still examples are known. The wine is made fizzy by the tank method.

PX, see Pedro Ximénez.

Ranina, see Bouvier.

Räuschling, ancient German variety still grown in eastern Switzerland. Quite high acid.

Rebula, western Slovenia's signature grape. See Ribolla.

Regner, Oechsle-boosting German crossing.

Reichensteiner, German crossing which usefully resists rot and ripens well. Popular in England.

Rheinriesling, Rhine Riesling, synonyms for Riesling.

Rhoditis, fragile, light pink-berried Greek variety often used to add acid to the softer Savatiano, particularly for retsina.

Ribolla (Gialla), light, floral, very crisp varietal made in Friuli and, as Rebula, across the border in Slovenia. It is almost certainly the Robola of Greece.

Rieslaner, German Silvaner x Riesling crossing which can make lovely wines with race and curranty fruit in Franken and occasionally Pfalz.

Riesling ('Reece-ling') must be the world's most misunderstood, and mispronounced, grape variety. Acknowledged king of German vineyards this variety happens to share a name with so many much more ordinary, unrelated grapes and wines (more commercial examples of Cape Riesling, Emerald Riesling, Riesling Italico, Laskirizling, Olaszrizling and Welschriesling for example) that its image became tarnished. And, it must be said, the Germans themselves have made some pretty awful Rieslings at the bottom end of the market that have done nothing for the reputation of their greatest asset.

Wine made from Riesling is quite unlike any other. It is light in alcohol, refreshingly high in fruity natural acidity (quite different from the harshness of added acid), has the ability to transmit the character of a place through its extract and unique aroma and, unlike Chardonnay, is capable of ageing for decades in bottle. Like top quality Chenin Blanc, but unlike Chardonnay, it performs best if fermented cool and bottled early without any malolactic fermentation or wood influence. Riesling is a star and, as you may discern, one of my great wine heroes.

Relative to most other internationally known varieties, Riesling ripens quite early, so when planted in a hot climate its juice can be overripe and flabby long before any interesting flavours have developed in the grapes. In a cool climate such as that of the Mosel valley in northern Germany on the other hand, it is regarded as late ripening relative to the host of precocious varities that were specially bred for these short summers. This means that, whereas Müller-Thurgau will ripen just about anywhere, Riesling stands a chance of ripening fully only on the most favoured sites, those tilted most firmly towards direct and reflected sunlight, which is where it is planted so that it stays on the vine well into autumn, developing all sorts of subtle and ageworthy characteristics. Riesling from the Mosel and its even cooler tributaries the Saar and Ruwer is one of the wine world's most distinctive, least imitable wine styles: light, crisp, racy, refreshing as a mountain stream and somehow tasting of the slate which, by reradiating warmth overnight, helps ripen so many Riesling vines. This is the wine to drink while writing or reading; it refreshes the palate and sharpens the brain (or at least that's what it feels like).

A third of all Germany's Riesling grows in the Mosel but the Pfalz region also grows a substantial quantity, making much richer but no less entrancing wine which can often taste exotically fruity (and can reach as much as 13 per cent alcohol if fermented out to dryness). Riesling is also the classic grape of the Rheingau where it perhaps best reflects, in a steely, lemony, sometimes mineral-scented way, the differences between even neighbouring vineyards. The best estates belong to the VDP group, dedicated to making great dry Rheingau Riesling - although in warm years the Rheingau can also be the source of many excellent BA and TBA sweet wines. Riesling is an extremely fine candidate for botrytized sweet wines, although this noble rot tends to blur geographical differences and result in thick, almost raisiny deep golden wines usually labelled either Beerenauslese (BA) or Trockenbeerenausles (TBA). Württemberg is also an important grower of earthy Riesling which rarely escapes the region. Cracking Rieslings are also made in the Nahe.Until recently German Riesling was often so tart that it needed some sweetness in the wine to balance the acidity but climate change has meant that grapes ripen much more successfully and some seriously fine dry (trocken) German Rieslings are made. Their perfume and raciness can make them particularly food-friendly - often more so than a heavier, oak aged white.

Riesling is also the noblest variety of Alsace, France's most Germanic region, where the best of its tingly-dry, steely wines such as Trimbach's Clos Ste-Hune can age for a decade or two in bottle. There is a slight talcum powder aroma about the least concentrated examples of Alsace Riesling but these are great wines to drink as aperitifs (as indeed is all but the sweetest Riesling made anywhere). The Wachau in Austria rivals Alsace and the Mosel for the purity of its Rieslings, except that these wonderfully characterful, bone dry, sculpted wines tend to have a bit more body. Much of central Europe, Slovenia and Czechoslovakia in particular, has suitable spots for ripening Riesling, whose local name usually incorporates some variant on the the word Rhine (in Croatia it is known as Rizling Rajinski, for example). True Riesling (as opposed to Italian Riesling) is widely dispersed in Friuli and Alto Adige where it is called Riesling Renano although few startling examples have so far emerged from the region. Riesling is also allegedly grown widely in the old Soviet Union, but much of this may in fact be Welschriesling.

Surprisingly, in view of its relatively warm climate, Australia grows an enormous amount of Riesling. Its perfect spots are in the cooler reaches of South Australia, notably but not exclusively Clare Valley and Eden Valley, and the wine is typically bone dry and age-worthy. The far south of Western Australia makes some interesting herbal-scented examples too. New Zealand's Rieslings are also developing and come in all degrees of sweetness. California had a long tradition of making rich, fairly fast-maturing late harvest Johannisberg Riesling or White Riesling but the variety is relatively rare there now. It has been adopted by Washington state however, and is quite clearly the most successful variety in the Finger Lakes region of New York state which can produce some extremely delicate Ries­lings, while Canada regularly produces stunning ice wines from this variety.

Riesling Italico is how the Italians often style Welschriesling, much to the Germans' fury, whereas Germany's Riesling is called Riesling Renano.

Rivaner, the Luxembourg name for Müller-Thurgau.

Rizling, term used at the Germans' insistence for Welschriesling to distinguish it from the Riesling that is Germany's pride and joy.

Rkatsiteli, Russia and Georgia's answer to Spain's Airén - although the wine can have more character. It is also grown in Bulgaria, Romania and China (where it is known as Baiyu). It keeps its acidity well and is very good at withstanding cold. It has also been grown in California and New York state.

Robola, the haunting, citrus-scented white grape variety grown on the Greek island of Cephanolia.

Rolle, ancient Provencal variety known especially in Bellet but also planted in Roussillon. The French say it is the same as Sardinia's Vermentino. Italians say it is Liguira's Rollo, which is not Vermentino.

Romorantin, speciality of Cheverny in the eastern Loire.

Roter Veltiner, minor Austrian pale skinner grape, unrelated to Grüner Veltiner.

Rotgipfler, with Zierfandler, responsible for Austria's full, spicy Gumpoldskirchen.

Roupeiro, basic variety of the Portuguese Alentejo. Also known as Códega in the Douro and sometimes as Alva in Alentejo.

Roussanne, red-berried ('russet') North Rhône variety which yields irregularly, and its wines can be quite astringent, so it is therefore less popular with growers than Marsanne. Its wine can be very fine, however, as witness varietals such as Ch Beaucastel's oak aged white Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It can age better than Marsanne and smells of mountain herbs. In fact it shines in Savoie as Bergeron (in Chignin) and is also grown in Italy. Improved clones are available and some growers have had success with it in southern France and California's Central Coast.

Roussette, fine Savoie speciality producing lively, crisp but scented wines. Roussette de Savoie has its own appellation in four communes, most notably Frangy. If followed by the name of a commune on the label the wine will be made exclusively of Roussette; if not, Chardonnay may constitute up to 50 per cent of the wine.

Ruffiac, alternative name for Arrufiac.

Ruländer, occasional German name for Pinot Gris, usually signalling a sweeter style. Also used in Romania.

Sacy, rather ordinary white grape grown in the greater Chablis area.

St-Emilion, Cognac name for Ugni Blanc.

Sämling 88, Austrian synonym for Scheurebe.

Sárfehér, vine traditionally grown on Hungary's Great Plain for sparkling wines and table grapes.

Sauvignon Blanc, often called simply Sauvignon (whereas Cabernet Sauvignon is often called just Cabernet), extremely popular variety making crisp, dry aromatic and extremely distinctive wines all over the world. The smell is sharp and piercing (unlike that of Chardonnay) and reminds different tasters variously of gooseberries, nettles, crushed blackcurrant leaves, and occasionally tomcats. With age, aromas reminiscent of canned asparagus can develop. The smell of Sauvignon (which is most of its character) is relatively simple, so it is not surprising that it was one of the first to be explained in terms of the dominant flavour compounds, called methoxypyrazines (a name to drop at a professional wine tasting). Sauvignon also smells and tastes remarkably similar wherever it is planted so, like Gewurztraminer, is a very good starting point for learning to recognize different varieties.

Sauvignon Blanc's French stronghold is the upper Loire, and the twin appellations of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé in particular. The best examples of these wines are drier, denser and slower-maturing than most New World Sauvignon Blanc, and the best genuinely express terroir with nuances dependent on the proportion of gravel and flint (silex) in the soil. Sauvignon is also grown widely downstream, notably to produce oceans of Sauvignon de Touraine which, from the best producers, can be good value - as can the Sancerre-like wines of less famous Menetou-Salon, Reuilly and Quincy.

Sauvignon is even more widely planted in Bordeaux and Bergerac, although it is less important than the fatter Sémillon with which it is commonly blended, as elsewhere in the world nowadays, to produce both dry (particularly in Pessac-Léognan, Graves and Entre-Deux-Mers) and (in Sauternes, Monbazillac and surrounds) sweet wines. Sauvignon traditionally supplies the aroma and acidity in greater Bordeaux's whites, and the more expensive dry wines are often aged in small oak barrels. Sauvignon and oak can be an oily mixture unless managed with a very deft hand.

Elsewhere in Europe, Sauvignon is a speciality of Rueda in Spain, Styria in Austria and Collio in north east Italy. Some German speakers call it Muskat-Silvaner (which mixture of attributes quite accurately describes how it tastes).

New Zealand has been so successful with its pungently herbaceous style of Sauvignon Blanc, heady with the tropical fruit smells of a cool, prolonged fermentation, that winemakers throughout the New World, and especially in Chile, South Africa and the Languedoc, are now emulating it. In some vintages fruit is deliberately picked underripe, ripe and overripe to bring different characteristics to the final blend. Marlborough at the northern tip of the South Island is New Zealand's, possibly now the world's, Sauvignon capital, while the Casablanca Valley has shown the potential to do the same job for Chile, although even newer, Pacific-cooled regions such as Leyda/San Antonio have also produced particularly fine Sauvignons.

South Africa makes some delicious Sauvignon Blanc, perhaps partly because the vine has had so long to accustom itself to local conditions. Much of Australia is too warm for the preservation of Sauvignon Blanc's characteristically 'green' (i.e. slightly underripe) aroma but some fine examples have emerged from the Adelaide Hills, Tasmania, and cooler spots in Victoria.

California produces a distinct, full-bodied, often oak-aged version of Sauvignon Blanc, sometimes called Fumé Blanc and the variety has also sparkled in Texas and Washington. Some Sauvignon Blanc can last for several years in bottle but very little actually improves, for vibrant young fruitiness with refreshment value rather than subtlety is Sauvignon's strong suit.

Sauvignon Gris, increasingly fashionable darker-berried mutation of Sauvignon Blanc producing a strong, smoky perfume.

Sauvignon Vert, variety distinct from Sauvignon Blanc also known as Sauvignonasse and Friulano. This once dominated Chile's plantings of 'Sauvignon'.

Savagnin, characteristic, small-berried vine of the Jura, responsible most notably for the sherry-like vin jaune (although it can theoretically make up some of the blend of any white Jura wine). Its apogee is Château-Chalon and Savagnin wine is famous for its aroma and ability to age. Planted in Australia in the early years of this century when mistaken for Albarino. Savagnin Rosé is Traminer.

Savatiano, widely planted Greek vine used to add bulk to retsina, although Assyrtiko and Rhoditis may be added for crispness.

, one of Germany's most successful crossings, a Silvaner x Riesling that was the work of Dr Georg Scheu. If the site and weather are such that the grapes ripen fully the wine can taste most appetisingly of blackcurrants or even rich grapefruit. Some Pfalz producers are prouder of their 'Scheu' than their Riesling. Acidity levels are very good, although the wines are unlikely to age as well as Riesling. Yields are not as high as most new crossings but the right site can yield BA and TBA wines as often as Nature obliges, and Spätlese trocken examples can also be very fine. Burgenland in Austria also produces some successful late picked examples from the variety, known here as Sämling 88.

Schönburger, pink-berried German crossing involving both Pinot Noir and Muscat Hamburg but producing mellow white wine, notably in England but also in Germany.

Schwarzriesling, or 'black Riesling', German synonym for Pinot Meunier. Scuppernong, best known variety in the American round-leaved family of vines to be found in the southern states.

, often spelt Semillon, is the great white grape of sweet white bordeaux, and widely undervalued. As well as making the world's greatest sweet wines, it is responsible for Bordeaux's greatest dry whites, and Australia's most distinctive table wine, Hunter Valley Semillon. Semillon is Bordeaux's most planted white grape variety, although the area devoted to its traditional blending partner there, Sauvignon Blanc, has been increasing. Semillon is the grape primarily responsible for Sauternes, arguably the world's longest-living white wine, and it is sanctioned in most of the dry or sweet white wine appellations, of South West France. It blends well with Sauvignon (traditionally four to one in Sauternes) because it lacks positive aroma (apart from the vaguely citrus, lanolin and beeswax of a young wine and the burnt toast of a mature Hunter) but makes up for Sauvignon's lack of body. If Semillon is picked before it reaches full ripeness it can almost taste like Sauvignon. Semillon's thin skins make it prone to rot which makes it an ideal producer of botrytized sweet wines, not just Bordeaux and Monbazillac, but also in New South Wales and California. The wine can respond well to wood ageing, as in the great dry whites of Graves and Pessac-Léognan in Bordeaux.

Semillon is planted in virtually all of the world's wine regions but for the moment little is made of it, however fine some of the wine made from South Africa's older Semillon vines. Australia perhaps has taken the most positive line on constructing ageworthy varietals out of it, notably in the Hunter Valley, but it has also been used to stretch the available quantities of the fashionable Chardonnay while new plantings come on stream, initiating a category known as SemChard. Odd varietal versions have shone in Hungary and New Zealand, and Washington state clearly has potential. Semillon is also widely planted in Chile, although little evidence has yet been exported under that name.

, anglicized name for the Cerceal of Madeira.

Seyval Blanc, French hybrid which withstands cold well and is grown in Canada, New York and England (where it is widely planted). It can be very crisp and fruity.

Siegerrebe, relatively low-yielding German crossing famous for its high ripeness levels but not for the quality of its wine.

Silvaner, German spelling of the variety known as Sylvaner in Alsace, and Austria. It is sometimes known as Grüner Silvaner in Germany. Probably of central European origin, Silvaner was Germany's most planted grape variety in the first half of the 20th century. (It took over that position from Elbling and passed on the crown to the thoroughly undeserving Müller-Thurgau.) It ripens earlier than Riesling but later than Müller-Thurgau and therefore needs rather better sites. The wines it produces are high in acidity and not particularly marked by flavour or longevity, but in the right spot, such as particular sites in Franken and Rheinhessen, it can produce extremely racy, excitingly sleek wines that can age well. Silvaner is cultivated all over central Europe where its local name generally incorporates the letters 'silvan' and can shine, as Johannisberg or Rhin, in Switzerland where it tastes much fatter than the ubiquitous Chasselas.

Smederevka, common vine named after the town of Smederevo south of Belgrade and planted extensively in Serbia and Vojvodina in what was Yugoslavia. Also found in southern Hungary.

Sultana, variety commonly used for dried fruit but, when the wine market is buoyant in Australia and California, some is diverted into everyday white blends, and the result is characterless wine from high yielding vines.

Sylvaner, Alsace and Austrian name for Silvaner. In Alsace Sylvaner can show the race and response to site that Riesling can but it takes a very good vineyard and winemaker to extract much flavour from it. Most of Alsace's Sylvaner (and there is a great deal of it) is planted on the lower, less interesting vineyards of the Bas-Rhin and much of it is blended with slightly gentler wine to be sold as Edelzwicker.

Szürkebarát, Hungarian name for Pinot Gris.

Talia, Thalia. Portuguese names for Trebbiano/Ugni Blanc.

Tamaiioasa, Romanian for various Muscats.

Tamyanka, a Russian name for Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains.

Terret Gris, widely planted and ancient Languedoc variety which can make a full-bodied yet crisp varietal. Terret Blanc is less common and less distinguished. They are both allowed in to the white wines of Minervois, Corbières and, to a decreasing extent, Coteaux du Languedoc.

Thompson Seedless, Sultana in California.

Tokay d'Alsace, traditional synonym for Pinot Gris, outlawed by the Hungarians.

Torbato, smoky-flavoured Sardinian variety also known, as Tourbat (and occasionally Malvoisie du Roussillon) in Roussillon.

Torrontés, a Galician variety that is a speciality of Ribeiro, but the name is much more commonly encountered in Argentina, where it produces full-bodied, crisp wines with a distinctive and confident aroma not unlike Muscat. In Argentina it is an accidental crossing of Muscat of Alexandria and Mission. Torrontés Riojano is the most common Argentine subvariety, named after the northern province of La Rioja where, in Salta in particular, it is by far the most planted single vine variety. Torrontés Sanjuanino and the rarer, less aromatic Torrontés Mendocino are also grown.Chile has its own Torontel.

Trajadura, Portuguese name for the aromatic Galician variety Treixadura.

Traminer, Savagnin rosé, less aromatic progenitor of Gewürztraminer, which is a musqué version of a pink-berried Traminer. It is named after the town of Tramin, or Terlano, in the Alto Adige where a distinction is still made between Traminer and Traminer Aromatico (or musqué). Vines called variants of Traminer are planted throughout central Europe: Tramini in Hungary; Traminac in Slovenia; Drumin, Pinat Cervena, Princ or Liwora in what was Czechoslovakia; occasionally just Rusa in Romania and Mala Dinka in Bulgaria. It is also grown in Russia, Moldova and Ukraine where it is sometimes used to perfume Soviet sparkling wine. Some of these vines may be the more aromatic Gewürztraminer but less than perfect winemaking has tended to obscure the aroma. Australians have tended to use the term Traminer as shorthand for the rather more cumbersome Gewürztraminer.

Trebbiano, France's Ugni Blanc in its homeland, planted almost everywhere within Italy except for the far north where it would not ripen reliably. Despite the fact its wine is remarkably thin, tart and characterless, it is responsible for a vast proportion of all DOC white wine production. The many different local strains of Trebbiano include Trebbiano Toscano (the most common, a possible ingredient in Chianti and chief inspiration for Galestro, the basic crisp mouthwash of the Tuscan hills), Trebbiano Romagnolo (making mainly vapid Trebbiano di Romagna), Trebbiano d'Abruzzo (of which Valentini is apparent master, despite the fact that he actually uses Bombino Bianco), yellow-berried Trebbiano Giallo and Trebbiano di Soave. The variety is also planted, as Talia, in Portugal, and (where it is often called Ugni Blanc) in Bulgaria, Russia, Greece and extensively in South America. Odd bottlings of wine made from old Trebbiano vines in California have shown extraordinary character and extract.

Tresallier, a rather undistinguished speciality of the Allier département, where St-Pourçain is produced.Ugni Blanc, one of France's most planted white grape varieties, widely grown as Ugni Blanc in South America and, as Trebbiano, ubiquitous in Italy too. As St-Emilion it is the chief ingredient in Cognac and plays an important role in Armagnac too. The wine it produces is thin, light and tart. Hardly what the market wants nowadays. It is surprisingly common north of Bordeaux.

Verdejo, characterful speciality of Rueda in Spain, often blended with Sauvignon Blanc.

Verdelho, Portuguese grape which inspires Madeira's second driest style but is most commonly found as a vibrant, lemony, full-bodied table wine from Western Australia. Grapes are small, hard and acid. This is probably the Douro's Gouveio and possibly Italy's Verdello.

Verdicchio, the grape of Italy's Marche, made famous by Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi in an amphora-shaped bottle - although Verdicchio di Matelica can be a more concentrated, ageworthy wine. Many are simply crisp and vaguely citric.Verduzzo, north east Italian speciality which can make very appetizing honeyed sweet wines, some of which qualify for the Ramandolo DOC. Dry wines can be astringently reminiscent of dried apple skins.

Vermentino, aromatic speciality of Sardinia and, to a lesser extent, Liguria, probably the same as Rolle. It can make some of Sardinia's liveliest whites, with a slight prickle of gas.Vernaccia, Tuscany's most characterful white wine grape, making deeply coloured, often nutty wines, particularly around the hilltop village of San Gimignano.

Vespaiola, Veneto vine which can make tangy, golden sweet wines. Named after the wasps attracted to its sugar-rich grapes.Vilana, relatively delicate speciality of Crete.

Villard Blanc, prolific French hybrid widely planted in France in the mid-twentieth century.

Viognier, fashionable variety whose home is Condrieu in the Northern Rhône but which has been planted all over southern France, in California, in Australia and wherever a cosmopolitan wine producer lurks. The vine can yield poorly in cooler climates. Its full-bodied wines have a very distinctive scent of dried apricots and, almost, musk which develops only quite late in the ripening process. The wine is usually best drunk young. Because of the strength of its aroma, it can withstand blending well.Viura, Riojan name for Macabeo.

Weissburgunder, Weisserburgunder, Weisser Burgunder, German names for Pinot Blanc.

Weisser Riesling, alternative name for Riesling. Welschriesling, Wälschriesling, Welschrizling, just some of the many aliases under which The Other Riesling travels. This has nothing to do with the great German Riesling, and its image was sullied for many years by poorly handled, sweetened-up liquids bearing names like Laski, Olasz and Pecs, but this central European vine can produce some good to very good wine - particularly in Austria's Burgenland, where it regularly makes superb sweet botrytized wines. It is planted widely in Friuli (Italy), Slovenia, Hungary, Romania, Albania and China. The vine ripens late to produce high-acid, gently aromatic wines.

White Riesling, occasional name for Riesling, especially in California, where there have been Emerald, Gray and Hungarian Rieslings.

Xarel-lo, Catalonia's most characterful grape, producing wines which can smell of boiled cabbage to the uninitiated. Used widely in Cava. Known as Pansa Blanca in Alella.

Xynisteri, speciality of Cyprus.

Zalema, vine responsible for the heavier wines of Condado de Huelva in southern Spain.

Zibibbo, Muscat of Alexandria in Sicily.

Zierfandler, nobler, fuller ingredient, with Rotgipfler, in Austria's Gumpoldskirchen. As Cirfandli, it is also grown in Hungary.

Zilavka, characterfully nutty variety grown mainly in Hercegovina, notably around Mostar in what was Yugoslavia.