Definition - What does Cultivar mean?

A cultivar is a grape variety which has been selectively cultivated. According to the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants, cultivars are in a separate category as they are propagated by cuttings and therefore, will have unstable reproductive properties. Many commonly known wine grape varieties are actually cultivars; i.e., Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, etc.

WineFrog explains Cultivar

Many people use the terms variety and cultivar interchangeably. However, a variety refers to grapes (or any plant) which is a natural occurrence, even a phenomenon which has positive attributes. A cultivar is a grapevine (or any plant) which has been selected for certain characteristics that are desirable to propagate. These include clones, hybrids or grafts.

Wine grapes which are cultivars are selected and bred for a list of characteristics:

  • Mildew resistance
  • Cold hardy
  • Resistant to phylloxera
  • Nematode resistant
  • Early ripening
  • Drought tolerance

Some cultivars are also propagated for other qualities such as their flavor, aroma or their ability to retain significant acidity when they reach maturity.

Here is an extended (not complete) list of Wine grape cultivars:

  • Pinot Noir
  • Muscat
  • Riesling
  • Shiraz
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Grenache
  • Gamay
  • Tempranillo
  • Pinot Gris
  • Chenin Blanc
  • Zinfandel
  • Viognier
  • Malbec
  • Nebbiolo
  • Sangiovese
  • Pinotage
  • Cinsaut
  • Petit Verdot
  • Carignan
  • Touriga Nacional
  • Pinot Meunier
  • Trebbiano
  • Palomino
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