White wine grapes dazzling in the sunlightWhite wine grapes dazzling in the sunlight

A profile on Sauvignon blanc, Chardonnay, Sangiovese & Cabernet

There are at least 10,000 grape varieties in the world, of which almost 1,400 are pressed to produce commercial wine. Around 1,000 of these are registered in Italy alone. Sauvignon blanc, Chardonnay, Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon are undisputedly the stars of the show. Find out more about Italy’s most important grape varieties.

Sauvignon blanc
Sauvignon blanc is a very aromatic grape variety with lots of fruit and high acidity. Notes of green apple, gooseberry, elderberry and asparagus dominate here. Passion fruit and grapefruit also sometimes join the party. Sauvignon blanc is distinctly recognisable on the nose – try it out with a blind tasting! Sauvignon blanc grapes ripen early and as such lend themselves well to cultivation in colder climes. The grapes retain their acidity at lower temperatures, preserving their refreshing character. Many well-known Sauvignon blancs come from the Loire valley and New Zealand, although the grape is in demand all over the world. It’s experiencing a real boom: in 2015, the grape was grown on 126,000 hectares throughout the world’s winegrowing regions – and the trend is rising. The plant’s strong growth demands a high degree of maintenance activity in the vineyard. Vines are therefore often planted on nutrient-poor soils to keep the foliage canopy small and dense. When it comes to vinifying Sauvignon blanc, most winemakers use stainless steel tanks. When aged in wooden barrels, the result is a very interesting white wine of unparalleled character. This grape can also be blended with other varieties, such as Sémillon. Either way, we recommend drinking Sauvignon blanc wines young. This way, they stay pleasantly crisp.

The all-rounder of white wines, found in almost all wine regions. The vines are very uncomplicated: warm or cold, dry or damp, they get by in many different climates. In colder regions, however, Chardonnay is at risk of spring frost, due to its rather early spouting. A wide variety of great Chardonnays can be found in Burgundy. The grape itself is not particularly aromatic; the aromas mostly develop during vinification. As such, it requires skill and experience to describe a Chardonnay. Depending on the winegrowing region, different aromas will be present in the wine. If it comes from a colder region, notes of green fruit and citrus will be predominant. In warmer winegrowing regions, aromas of apricot, peach, melon and bright floral notes can be detected. Where it is warmer still, or even hot, notes of tropical fruits such as bananas and pineapple dominate. But common among all regions of origin are notes of delicate hazelnut and yeast. Chardonnay is a well-received guest when it comes to producing Champagne. The grape is often used in assemblages and adds a silky richness to these fine sparkling wines. For Blanc de blancs Champagne, Chardonnay grapes are used without exception.

Sangiovese is to Italy what Chasselas is to Switzerland. It is one of the very oldest red grape varieties and the most important one in Tuscany. It is the star grape for the well-known Chianti classico, as well as Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino. In the vineyard, it ripens slowly at a late stage and is susceptible to rotting due to its thin skin. Due to its high degree of tannins and acidity, it is often blended with other varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. With its typical notes of blackberry, herbs, cherry and dried roots, Sangiovese is increasingly being grown in California and Australia – we’re looking forward to the result! The climates of these areas are perfectly suited to this red grape.

Cabernet Sauvignon
The globetrotter of grape varieties. Today, Cabernet Sauvignon is grown around the world – hardly any variety is more widespread. A result of the crossing between Cabernet franc and Sauvignon blanc, this variety is comfortable in the most diverse climates and is undemanding in terms of soil properties. The grape does exceptionally well on pebble stone; this terroir yields very elegant wines. Cabernet Sauvignon is the Bordeaux variety par excellence, and the grape produces some of the longest-lived wines in the world. It practically demands maturity: in its youth, this grape tends to be rough and abrasive. But in time, its harsh tannins become soft and silky. Wines made with Cabernet Sauvignon, both single-variety bottlings and assemblages, pair wonderfully with meat, making them a safe investment for your wine cellar during barbecue season.

Our wine recommendations

  1. - +
    Italy, Tuscany
    100 % Sauvignon blanc

    75 cl
    Gemella bianco – Toscana igt, Tenuta Vallocaia
  2. - +
    Italy, Piedmont
    100 % Barbera

    75 cl
    Costamiòle – Nizza Riserva docg, Prunotto
  3. - +
    Italy, Sicily
    100 % Cabernet Sauvignon

    75 cl
    Vigna San Francesco Cabernet Sauvignon – Sicilia doc Tenuta Regaleali, Tasca

Even more wine expertise

Myths from the world of wine

Putting a spoon in an open bottle of Champagne? We have a better idea …

The ideal serving temperature

How cold should my wine be? Our wine experts reveal the answer.

Diam corks

Innovative Diam corks make «corked wine» a thing of the past.