Graham King

Solvitas perambulum

Wine grapes


The reason new world wines use the grapes they do, is because those are the grapes from the big French wines. But which grapes from which wines ? To find out, you could go to the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine and read the text of each appelation. There are over 300. Or there’s the Wikipedia list of French wine Appelations. Or there’s the handy guide below on which grapes are in which French wines. Happy sipping !

Key areas are in bold, with some of the more well known AOC as bullet points. If a specific AOC’s rules are different to the usual for the area, I list that by the AOC.

Red Bordeaux: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot. (Malbec and Carmenere permitted but seldom used)

  • Saint Emilion: Merlot and Cabernet Franc, with small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • Pomerol: Merlot, often together with Cabernet Franc.
  • Medoc: Cabernet Sauvignon, with small amounts of Merlot.
  • Graves: Cabernet Sauvignon, with small amounts of Merlot and Cabernet Franc.

White Bordeaux: Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Muscadelle.

  • Entre-Deux-Mers
  • Sauternes (Chateau D’Yquem), Montbazillac: Desert wine. The grapes have been affected by Botrytis cinerea, also known as noble rot.

Champagne: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier (five other grapes that were historically important are allowed, but very unusual).

Red Burgundy: Pinot Noir

  • Cote de Nuits (Gevrey-Chambertin, Morey-Saint-Denis, Chambolle-Musigny, Vougeot, Flagey-Échezeaux, and Vosne-Romanée)

White Burgundy: Chardonnay

  • Chablis
  • Pouilly-Fuissé

Beaujolais: Gamay

Loire Valley: Sauvigon Blanc

  • Sancerre
  • Pouilly-Fumé
  • Muscadet: Melon de Bourgogne. The grape is often also called Muscadet, because of its strong associations with this appelation.
  • Vouvray: Chenin Blanc (occasionally a small amount of Arbois)

Red Northern Rhone Valley: Syrah (Shiraz).

  • Cornas
  • Saint-Joseph: Syrah and up to 10% Marsanne and Roussanne.
  • Hermitage and Crozes-Hermitage: Syrah and up to 15% Marsanne and Roussanne.
  • Côte-Rôtie: Syrah and up to 20% Viognier.

White Northern Rhone Valley: Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne.

Southern Rhone Valley: Lots of varieties, although Grenache often dominates.

  • Chateuneuf-du-Pape: Many grape varieties allowed although Grenache Noir is the most common. Others are Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsaut, Terret Noir, Muscardin and Vaccarèse. Whites are produced from Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Roussanne, Picpoul, Picardan and Bourboulenc.


  • Cahors: Cot, with up to 30% Merlot and Tannat.

Languedoc-Roussillon: Very large area, lot of varieties.

  • Fitou and Minervois: Mainly Carignan Noir, Grenache Noir, Mourvèdre and Syrah.
  • Gaillac primeur: Gamay. (Note that regular Gaillac is mainly Duras Noir, Fer Noir and Syrah.)

Alsace: Lots of varieties. Alsace wines are usually varietals (single grape) and have the grape variety on the label.