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It’s astounding to think there are more than 8,000 known grape varieties planted around the world. But of the 8,000, only about 1,000 are grown for winemaking. The others are used for table grapes or raisins.

With more than 1,000 wine grapes available, we can’t help but ponder why only a few familiar varietals make it onto our retail shelves. While chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon , merlot and pinot noir are considered household names, where are the other 996 choices?

If you tasted eastern Romanian wine not intended for the export market, you would easily understand why international wine drinkers’ demanding palates quickly weed out some grape varieties. But there are many undiscovered stars waiting to be found and savored.

If you’re interested in finding less familiar grape varieties, consider these delightful wines. Who knows, with more wine drinkers willing to explore we could possibly see the chardonnay shelf space threatened by a worldwide range of unique and distinctive wines.


  • 2008 Concha Y Toro Xplorador Carmenere, Chile (about $11 retail)
  • 2009 Pine Ridge Winery Viognier/Chenin Blanc, California (about $14 retail)
  • 2008 Layer Cake Malbec, Australia (about $22 retail)


  • 2005 Alexander Valley Alexander School Primitivo,California (about $52 retail)
  • 2007 Abadia San Campio Albarino, Spain (about $26 retail)
  • 2008 Bouchaine Pinot Meunier, California (about $50 retail)
  • 2008 Jacuzzi Wines Primitivo, California (about $25 retail)
  • 2008 Adelsheim Tocai Friulano , Oregon (about $30 retail)