What the F*** are the noble grapes?

What the fuck are noble grapes? Are there six noble grapes? Seven? Eighteen? What makes a grape noble? One thing we can be certain about is that the noble grapes are the most prevalent grapes grown in the world, and they have inspired winemakers in their global pursuit for great wine. Not only have they captured the imagination of winemakers but they have captured the hearts of wine drinkers around the world. You can find them anywhere, and they will give you a glimpse into what an adventure wine can be.

So what makes a grape noble?

We scoured the internet, asked around, and got some interesting perspectives on what constitutes a noble grape. The underlying factor that makes a grape noble is its widespread appeal and availability. You can call a grape noble because no matter where you go in the world people will know of it, they will love it, and they will drink it. A grape is noble because:

  • It has widespread appeal. People are aware and in love all over the world
  • It can be grown anywhere in the world, with significant success (ie still tastes good!)
  • It has staying power, making it less susceptible to trends, fashions and the evolution of taste. Your grandparents drank it, your parents drank it, now you drink it.

Cool, so what are the noble grapes?

This is where we find a big difference in opinion. A lot of people (like Vine Pair for example) only give the title of noble grape to six varieties. Others like Wine Folly expand that list to over 18. Both are right, and neither are wrong. We'd like to go so far as to say that there are a lot of noble grapes in the world, some more noble than others. Some are the dukes and duchesses of the wine world, others may be considered the Barons. 

The most noble red wines

Pinot Noir - Light, elegant, and oh so fruity. Pinot Noir has amassed a cult following from Burgundy, to California, to New Zealand, and everything in between. Some describe Pinot Noir as the perfect wine, and when it comes to light bodied red wines they could be right!

Merlot - So easy to drink, and such a refined wine in the right hands. Merlot always has us licking our lips. Demand slowed down after a certain movie lambasted the grape in the early 2000s but its just too damn good to forget. Not to mention, alongside its other noble cousin, it forms one of the most notable and replicated red wine blends in the world, the Bordeaux blend.

Cabernet Sauvignon - The other half of the Bordeaux blend, Cabernet Sauvignon is lauded and lusted the world over. We just cannot get enough of this massive, full bodied red wine. Cabernet is the king of the wine world, and as a single varietal it has produced killer wines from Chile, to South Africa, and achieved legendary status in California.

The most noble white wines

Chardonnay - How can you talk about wine without talking about Chardonnay? Love it or hate it, it seems that we cannot get enough of it as we drink more of this wine than any other in the United States. 

Sauvignon Blanc - Another white wine that has a knack for dominating wherever it goes, this Loire Valley child has become an international sensation. Super easy to drink, sometimes tasting of passion fruit, sometimes tasting like lemons and lime, Sauvignon Blanc is constantly pumping out feel good hits of the summer at David Guetta levels. Like his music, no matter where you go you just cannot avoid it so you might as well enjoy it.

Riesling - So many wine love affairs start with Riesling. Riesling has an uncanny ability to teach you about terroir, given how wildly different it can taste from around the world. Riesling has a wide appeal given that it can be made in dry, off dry, and sweet styles. 

Other noble red wines

Grenache - Not quite sure why so many people discount Grenache as a noble grape, especially given its tremendous popularity in Spain, South Africa, and the United States, and also being a central part to the red wines of the Rhone valley. Grenache is a fantastic red wine with a concoction of fruit, tobacco, and leather making it one incredibly sensual wine. 

Syrah - Another Rhone red wine that has found a massive cult following in Australia (where it takes on the name Shiraz) and is found everywhere from South America, to South Africa and the USA. Syrah is as full bodied and decadent as a wine can get, an explosion of fruit and game meat in your mouth. Its big, hearty, and bad ass. Yes thank you we will have another!

Other noble white wines

Pinot Grigio - Light, delicate, and oh so refreshing. Pinot Grigio (or Pinot Gris if you prefer) has almost become another standard in white wine. Easy to find, and sometimes stupidly cheap, but if you look beyond the bottom shelf superstore wines you will find some fantastic dry, zesty examples of this refreshing wine.

Gewurtztraminer - Perhaps the rarest of the noble grapes Gewurtztraminer is often a little more balanced than most. This aromatic white wine takes is full of flavors and aromas of lychee, honey, and sweetness. It fell out of favor when the cultural zeitgeist moved away from sweet wines, but you will still find great examples of this wine lurking around and we never want to see this grape go.

Viognier - No other white wine gives us the shivers more than Viognier. Every time we drink it we just go "Ooh la la!" Viognier is rich, oily, and creamy, with flavors of melon. Viogniers are rich and creamy wines that feel so damn good in the mouth. They can be found everywhere, and sometimes even in a dastardly red blend with Syrah that will blow your mind.