Celebrating indigenous grapes: a tour of local varietals around the world

In the vast world of wine, indigenous grape varieties hold a special place, offering a unique glimpse into the cultural and viticultural heritage of their regions. These local varietals, often overshadowed by international grapes like cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay, are the unsung heroes of the wine world, each telling a story of survival, tradition, and terroir. This blog post embarks on a global tour to celebrate some of the most intriguing and distinctive indigenous grapes, exploring the flavors and histories that make them so captivating.

Italy: nebbiolo

Starting in italy’s picturesque piedmont region, nebbiolo is the noble grape behind the renowned barolo and barbaresco wines. Known for its robust tannins, high acidity, and aromatic complexity, nebbiolo wines are celebrated for their ability to age gracefully, developing nuanced flavors over time. The grape’s name is derived from ‘nebbia,’ the italian word for fog, which blankets the piedmont hills in the autumn, coinciding with the harvest.

Portugal: touriga nacional

Portugal’s wine heritage is rich and diverse, with touriga nacional standing out as one of the country’s most prized indigenous varietals. This grape is the backbone of port wine and also produces exceptional dry red wines, known for their floral aromas, dark fruit flavors, and well-structured tannins. Touriga nacional’s deep roots in portuguese winemaking tradition underscore the country’s commitment to preserving its unique viticultural identity.

Greece: assyrtiko

Venturing to the volcanic island of santorini, assyrtiko is a testament to the resilience of indigenous grapes. This white grape variety thrives in the island’s harsh, arid conditions, producing wines with a distinctive minerality, crisp acidity, and citrus flavors. Assyrtiko’s ability to express its volcanic terroir has garnered international acclaim, shining a spotlight on greece’s ancient winemaking traditions.

South africa: pinotage

Pinotage is a grape that embodies the spirit of innovation, being a cross between pinot noir and cinsault (known locally as hermitage). Developed in south africa in 1925, pinotage offers a unique profile of smoky, bramble, and earthy flavors, alongside more fruit-forward notes in modern styles. As the signature grape of south africa, pinotage represents the country’s journey towards creating a distinct wine identity.

Austria: grüner veltliner

Austria’s flagship grape, grüner veltliner, is celebrated for its versatility and food-friendly nature. Producing wines that range from light and crisp to rich and full-bodied, grüner veltliner is characterized by its vibrant acidity, peppery spice, and green fruit flavors. This grape has played a crucial role in austria’s rise on the international wine stage, showcasing the country’s ability to produce world-class white wines.

Georgia: saperavi

Georgia, often regarded as the birthplace of wine, is home to saperavi, an ancient red grape variety that produces deeply colored, full-bodied wines. Saperavi is known for its high acidity and tannin content, offering flavors of dark fruits, spices, and hints of earthiness. This grape is a key component of georgia’s winemaking renaissance, highlighting the country’s rich history and unique qvevri (clay vessel) fermentation method.


The world’s indigenous grape varieties are treasures of the wine industry, offering insight into the history, culture, and environmental diversity of their regions. Celebrating these local varietals not only enriches our understanding of wine but also supports the preservation of viticultural heritage and biodiversity. As the interest in authentic and unique wine experiences grows, the allure of indigenous grapes continues to captivate wine enthusiasts and connoisseurs alike, inviting us all on a journey of discovery and appreciation.


Thomas Jung

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