Having recently turned eighteen, my eldest son is now, A Level studies permitting, able to help out my wife and I in the shop. Needless to say, he expects to be paid for his efforts. So, we’ve agreed a two tier wage structure. He’ll start on a basic wage and then, when he’s passed the Wine Spirit & Education Trust’s (WSET) advanced exam, he’ll get an increase.

The advanced course starts in April and for the last few weeks I’ve been bringing my son up to speed with all the knowledge he’ll need before he embarks on the course. For me, it’s been a bit of a trip down memory lane as, to reduce his workload, I’ve dug out all of my old notes from when I was studying for the WSET exams, over 15 years ago.

Of course, the wine world has changed quite a bit in the last 15 years and, that being the case, I was slightly surprised when my son and I came across the most recently produced (2010) statistics for the world’s 10 most planted grape varieties and discovered that, despite their huge popularity in the UK, Pinot Grigio and Malbec hadn’t made the cut.

Anyway, like my son, lots of wine drinkers are keen to further their vinous knowledge. So, below, in descending order, I’ve listed the top ten grape varieties.

Don’t worry, if you’re of the opinion that wine is solely for drinking and not learning about, skip to the end where you’ll find a couple of choice examples of the world’s most popular red and white grape varieties – Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.

  • Cabernet Sauvignon – the world’s best-travelled red wine variety makes concentrated tannic wines that benefit from a period of ageing.
  • Merlot – an early ripening grape variety from Bordeaux that is fleshy and fulsome with flavours of sweet plum.
  • Airen – Spain’s most widely planted white grape variety is used in the production of white Rioja and brandy.
  • Tempranillo – Spain’s most famous grape, responsible for the majority of its most famous reds.
  • Chardonnay – despite suffering something of a backlash in the UK after its all-conquering days in the 1980’s, Chardonnay remains hugely popular worldwide. It’s versatile, widely planted and equally capable of extreme mediocrity and regal splendour.
  • Syrah/Shiraz – generally fashionable alternative to Cabernet Sauvignon that can be produced in a wide variety of styles.
  • Grenache/Garnacha – very widely planted, long-lived vine making strong, sweetish reds and some successful rosés.
  • Sauvignon Blanc – parent of Cabernet Sauvignon that produces much appreciated aromatic, zesty, crisp whites with grassy, citrus notes.
    Trebbiano Toscano – uninspiring Tuscan white grape variety also known as Ugni Blanc.
    Pinot Noir – silky and sensual red grape variety that often disappoints but, at its best, is utterly sublime.


The Pugilist Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 £ 9.50 From south Australia, The Pugilist is aged for 10 months in French oak and has a nose that shows an array of perfumed characters such as violets, oregano & thyme, along with glacé cherry aromas. Sweet ripe cherry fruit dominates the front palate which then develops into a more savoury wine, showing earthiness, toasted spices and lovely dried herb characters. Pair with roast beef or grilled sirloin.

Mȧcon Solutré, Domaine Denuziller 2014 £ 12.25 Chardonnay’s spiritual home is the central French wine region of Burgundy and Mâconnais, in the south of the region, is the area where the canny drinker will find great wines at sensible prices. None more so, than the Mȧcon Solutre, Domaine Denuziller 2014 which is richly textured with stone fruits and citrus flavours and pairs perfectly with simply grilled fish dishes.