The Top Six Wine Varietals

Learning the basics of wine begins with becoming familiar with the big six varietals, which are the grapes that comprise the majority of the world's wines.

Related To:


grapes on the vine

Photo by: Bruce Shippee

Bruce Shippee

grapes on the vine

Chardonnay: This wine is the world's "it" white, which is usually rich and buttery but sometimes moderate in weight and intensity. It positively sings in the presence of richer fish preparations, roast or fried chicken, and dishes with butter or cream sauces.

Sauvignon Blanc: This white is popular for its bright and zesty personality. "Savvies" (as they say in New Zealand) are textbook perfect with equally light and tangy tastes, be it delicate fish such as halibut or sole, goat or feta cheeses, or citrus sauces.

Riesling: While this wine is loved by insiders, it is misunderstood by the rest of us who think that it is always sweet. Dry versions harmonize with seafood of all kinds, while those with some sweetness are famous for their affinity with spicy fare and fruit sauces.

Cabernet Sauvignon: Known as the emperor of grapes, this red is big in spirit, history and taste, coveted by connoisseurs and casual drinkers alike. Cabernet makes fast friends with heavier meats, such as steak and sausage, and hits all the right notes with Roquefort and other blue cheeses.

Merlot: This moderately rich red wine can be downright delicious. Hamburgers, stews and dry cheeses, like Parmigiano-Reggiano, hit its gastronomic sweet spot.

Pinot Noir: As the darling of the last decade, Pinot is light, silky and crisp enough to pair with a galaxy of foods — and please fans of both red and white wine. It is a bull’s-eye pairing with robust fish such as grilled salmon and swordfish, as well as with poultry, pork and all but the richest pasta.

Mark Oldman
is a wine expert, acclaimed author and lead judge of the hit series The Winemakers.

Next Up

Wine Varietals to Know

With our glossary in mind, let's dig deeper into the big six grape varietals.

Wine Tasting Terms to Know

Swirl your wine, breathe deeply, take a taste, and think about what comes to mind. Here is what to look for when tasting wine.

How to Gift the Perfect Wine to Absolutely Anyone

Pro tip: When in doubt, bring bubbles.

Wine to Get the Party Started

Having a party next week and don't know which wine to buy? Or how much? Follow these wine tips to make your party tops.

5 Tips to Understanding Bubbly

Resist saving bubbly just for birthdays and ball drops and instead enjoy it throughout dinner. Part and parcel of upping your BCQ (Bubbly Consumption Quotient) is mastering these simple points.

How to Buy Wine

With all of the anxiety and intimidation surrounding wine purchasing, it is a bloody shame that there is no user’s manual for visiting a wine shop. No matter: These strategies will help you get the most out of a wine merchant.

10 Thanksgiving Wine Tips And Pairings

Be the wine hero of Thanksgiving by bringing the perfect bottle — use our tips and wine pairing ideas.

How to Open Champagne

Don't be intimidated about opening up a bottle of champagne. Food Network has your no-fail how-to for opening champagne without breaking objects or hurting onlookers.

Cooking With Alcohol

Forget about getting tipsy – that’s not the point here. Cooking with a little liquor can be a healthy way to add flavor to recipes.
More from:

Celebrate with Wine

Latest Stories

Related Pages