What Makes a Grape Noble?

There are so many different grapes used in so many wines that choosing a bottle to buy can be overwhelming. So what should you look for? For a great bottle of wine, you’ll need to find a grape variety you like and then decide on a region or winemaker. The grape variety of wine is usually listed on the label, while the region or winemaker is often left for you to discover.

A grape variety is a grapevine of a particular species or hybrid that is capable of producing grapes, which are used for making wine. The term variety should not be confused with cultivar, which is a plant (or group of plants) specifically grown for an individual characteristic, such as resistance to pests and diseases, or an attractive form. The cultivation of particular grape varieties is sometimes associated with a place, such as Champagne, which has no less than 35 named varieties; or Piedmont, where at least a dozen different grapes have some level of historical prominence.

There are several different wine grapes around the world. However, the exact number is unknown. Most estimates put the number at over 10,000 varieties, but you don’t need to know them all. Fortunately, you don’t need to know all the varieties to be a wine expert!

Although there are thousands of grape varieties, a select few have become legendary and have been coined “noble grapes.” The number of noble grapes ranges from three to eighteen, depending on the expert. While some experts agree upon three red and three white noble grapes, other lists include up to eighteen grapes total.

These noble grapes are also known as ‘International Varieties’ as they have widespread appeal and are widely planted in most of the major wine-growing regions.

The Noble grape varieties are the most celebrated and widely planted grape varieties in the world. They include some of the most distinguished vineyard areas of the world. They have been planted on every continent and are a representation of high quality and distinction in the world of wines.

Noble grapes have three common characteristics:

  • they enjoy international acclaim,
  • they consistently produce high-quality wines and
  • they thrive in practically all wine regions.

The original red noble grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Pinot Noir. Understanding them is important as they will be present in many of the world’s principal wine regions and appellations.

There’s no law that dictates that the noble grapes have to be everyone’s personal favorite. These are simply the best-known and most frequently enjoyed red grape varieties. Feel free to try some unusual, local grapes — they might surprise you!