What is a wine cultivar?

Answered by Rodney Landry

A cultivar, also known as a cultivated variety, is a grapevine that has been intentionally selected and cultivated by humans for its desirable characteristics. Unlike a natural variety, which occurs in nature without human intervention, a cultivar is the result of deliberate human intervention through processes such as hybridization, grafting, or cloning.

When it comes to wine production, cultivars play a crucial role as they determine the characteristics and qualities of the grapes used. Each cultivar has its own distinct set of traits, including flavor profile, acidity, sugar content, tannin levels, and aromatic compounds. These traits ultimately influence the style and taste of the resulting wine.

As a sommelier and brewer, I have had the opportunity to work with various wine cultivars and witness firsthand the impact they have on the final product. For example, the Chardonnay cultivar is known for its rich, buttery flavors and versatility in winemaking. Its high acidity and potential for oak aging make it suitable for producing both crisp, unoaked wines and complex, barrel-fermented ones.

Another well-known cultivar is Cabernet Sauvignon, which is celebrated for its bold, full-bodied wines with intense flavors of dark fruits and robust tannins. This cultivar thrives in regions with warmer climates and is often blended with other grape varieties to add complexity and balance to the wine.

In addition to these popular cultivars, there are countless others that contribute to the diversity of wines available. Riesling, known for its aromatic qualities and ability to express terroir, is a cultivar that produces a wide range of styles from bone-dry to lusciously sweet. Pinot Noir is highly regarded for its elegance, delicate flavors, and ability to reflect the unique characteristics of the vineyard where it is grown.

The cultivation and selection of grape cultivars involve careful consideration of factors such as climate, soil conditions, disease resistance, and desired flavor profiles. Grape growers and winemakers often conduct extensive research and experimentation to identify cultivars that thrive in their specific regions and meet their production goals.

It is worth noting that the concept of cultivars extends beyond just grapevines. Other plants used in winemaking, such as for , also have cultivated varieties that are chosen for their specific qualities. These cultivars contribute to the diverse range of flavors and aromas found in different styles.

A wine cultivar refers to a grapevine that has been intentionally selected and cultivated by humans for desirable characteristics. These cultivated varieties play a significant role in shaping the flavors, aromas, and overall style of wines. The careful selection and cultivation of cultivars allow winemakers to create a wide range of wines with distinct personalities and qualities.