There are many different grape varieties used to make wine. Although called ‘varieties’ these are really ‘cultivars’ as they have been developed by human effort, rather than naturally occurring varieties in the botanical sense. Each variety has its own growing and taste characteristics, they can either be mixed with another grape to create a blend or used on their own. In total there are thousands of varieties of the vitis vinifera vine used to grow grapes for wine, although the most popular wines use fewer than 20 of these.
Many factors influence a grape’s quality. Certain growing conditions suit certain grape varieties, so the terroir (climate, soil type and topography) should be matched to the vine. Some vines don’t produce grapes at their best in a cold climate, while others require more water and find drier climates less suitable. Different grape varieties also benefit from being picked at different times in their growing cycle, and some last longer in the cellar while others should be drunk quickly.