Despite the current craze for off-the-beaten-path wines and rare indigenous varieties, sometimes it’s nice to just stick with the classics. Classic grape varieties are timeless; they’re comfortable, easy to find, and provide a point of reference when learning about less popular varieties. According to the International Business Times, the 10 most popular grape varieties (in order) are as follows: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Airen, Tempranillo, Chardonnay, Syrah, Garnacha, Sauvignon Blanc, Trebbiano, and Pinot Noir.
As a matter of fact, these grape varieties occupy a whopping 41 percent of the market! So what’s the story behind these renowned grapes? Believe it or not, all 10 varieties come from only three countries, with nine of them coming from only two! It goes like this:
As you might have guessed, six out of 10 of these grapes come from everyone’s favorite wine-soaked country, France. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot dominate the list, occupying 12 percent of the market alone. These two red varietals, along with our No. 8 grape, Sauvignon Blanc, come from the renowned region of Bordeaux. Most wines from Bordeaux are blends; Left Bank blends are generally Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant, while Merlot reigns on the Right Bank. Most whites from Bordeaux are blends, as well; Sauvignon Blanc is generally coupled with Semillon. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir both come from Burgundy, where they make world-class varietal wines, meaning only one grape is used in the bottle. And our last French find from the top 10 list? Number six, Syrah, comes from the Rhone Valley, where it makes powerful, robust varietal wines in the north, and works alongside Grenache, as well as other varieties, in blends in the south.
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Three varieties on the list come from Spain, another huge wine-producing region. Despite being No. 3 on the list, Airen is extremely unknown outside of the country. This white wine grape is responsible for tons of Spain’s table wine, as well as for the production of brandy. Just below Airen is the red powerhouse Tempranillo. The grape’s popularity is on the rise, with plantings popping up throughout Spain, California, Texas, Australia, and other New World growing regions. However, Tempranillo’s most renowned examples still come from Rioja, located in the northern part of the country. Just a few spots down, at No. 7, sits Garnacha Tinta, otherwise known as Grenache. The grape is planted all over the world, though its most renowned regions still remain Priorat and the Rhone Valley.
And the last lonely grape? Our No. 9 white wine grape, Trebbiano Toscano, is the only grape on the list that hails from Italy and is the country’s most widely planted white grape. Trebbiano comes in many shapes and forms; that’s to say, an abundance of clones exists throughout the country. Believe it or not, Trebbiano is also the most widely planted white grape variety in France, where it goes by the name Ugni Blanc; the grape’s naturally high acidity makes it the most popular varietal for Cognac and Armagnac production.