Wine by Grape
Grapes are wine; wine is grapes. It's really that simple. Without grapes there wouldn't be any wine. But how much of a wine's character does a grape contribute? How key is it to the flavour, style and quality of a wine? Well, the easiest way I can think of to explain the overriding importance of the grape in the wine is to consider that the grape is to a bottle of wine what DNA is to the human body and character. True, a wineaker can shape a wine in much the same way as we are shaped by - among other things - our surroundings and our family as we grow up. He can use oak, stainless steel and any number of methods to subtly alter the grapes' character, to mature it, to turn it into the model wine, but at the heart of it will always be the distinctive and singular DNA of the grape. Only when things have gone horribly wrong will that DNA be eradicated - and that's probably a wine you don't want to drink too much of.
And, if there is one area that will help you most in working out which wines you love and which wines you loathe, it will be understanding grapes. Grasp the essential differences between the dozen or so major white and red wine grape varieties and you can more or less shop with confidence, whether it's in your local supermarket or the most upper-class of wine merchants. Here I've gone into detail about the main star attractions of the grape world, and given a brief rundown of their fellow supporting actors. I haven't even covered the tip of the iceberg in terms of the hundreds if not thousands of clones and variations that exist. For instance, it is to my great regret that I have no room to talk about the highly amusing Portuguese variety known as Bastardo - oh how I've longed for the opportunity to offer a glass of that across the table to someone I'm not overly keen on. But space is limited, and you'll find everything you need here to really kick-start your passion for the grape world, including a handy hint on how to pronounce them all - even the most difficult tongue-twisters among them.