A Journey in Wine: The Wines of Spain

You might’ve tried Rioja or Cava, or even sipped on a glass of Sherry once, but what more do you know about vino de España? Let’s explore the fascinating world of the wines of Spain.

Even though Spain’s history of winemaking dates back to the Roman empire, it’s only in the past few decades that Spain has come into its own as a quality wine-producing country. The country had a brief stint as the world’s largest wine producer by volume in 2013 and received recognition as a leader in the industry. Spain has since fallen to third place, but remains a top producer in the world today. 

Are Spanish Wines Organic?

Spain is the world’s largest producer of organic wine, with 1,21,000 hectares in 2019 (27 percent of the world’s organic vineyard area). The country has more than doubled its organic wine production in the last eight years and shows no signs of slowing down. Many wines are vegan as well, and are made with minimal intervention in the fining and filtration process. This results in wines with natural and unique flavours that are true to their terroir, or their place of origin.

Want a Taste?

WineCollective’s Via Terra Selection, made from a local variety of Garnacha, is a great example of Spain’s vegan and organic wine.

Are Spanish Wineries Sustainable?

Larger Spanish wineries are leading the charge when it comes to building sustainable wineries and storage facilities that blend in with their landscape. Beronia in Rioja Alta opened the first winery with LEED (Leader in Energy Efficient and Sustainable Design) status in Europe, using renewable energy sources and cutting-edge technology. Finca Montepedroso in Rueda had a winery built with typical materials of the area to blend in with the surrounding vineyards. Many Spanish wineries use caves or underground storage facilities to age the wines naturally. 

glass of red wine with olives and charcuterie

What Grape Varieties Grow in Spain?

Spain is home to around 600 grape varieties, although only roughly 20 are used for the majority of wines. Some winemakers have a renewed interest in these indigenous grape varieties, however, as they really bring character and, literally, variety to the Spanish wine scene.

Some of the most common red grape varieties grown in Spain:

  • Tempranillo is the most widely planted grape variety in Spain, and the grape that characterizes the popular Rioja blends.
  • Garnacha is often used as a blending partner with Tempranillo. It shows rich berry flavours and spice, and sometimes tomato leaf.
  • Monastrell is known as Mourvèdre in France. It has high tannins and acidity, with characteristic dark berry fruit.
  • Bobal is the second most-planted red grape variety after Tempranillo. The wines have a lively acidity, with aromas of dried berries and chocolate.

Some of the most common white grape varieties grown in Spain:

  • Albariño grows in northern Spain, where the grape develop thick skins due to the cool climate. The wines are aromatic and zesty, ideal for seafood.
  • Verdejo makes subtle, but rich white wines with plenty of lemon, grass, and, with age, almond aromas and flavours.

Where is Wine Grown in Spain?

Spain’s climate is mostly continental, with hot, dry summers and cold winters. Although the country is in the hotter climate range for wine, its network of mountain ranges highly influences vine-growing temperatures. Climates vary quite a bit throughout Spain’s wine regions, which fosters an incredible variety of wine in the country. 

Wines of Northern Spain

The wines of northwestern Spain are cool-climate wines, with the zesty whites of Rias Baixas as the most famous ones. Further west is the small wine region of Bierzo, producing great wines made from indigenous grapes Mencia and Godello. Some great Tempranillos come from this region, such as the outspoken Bodegas Neo Disco. Toro, Rueda, and Ribeira del Duero are further inland, protected by the Cantabrian mountains. 

Northeastern Spain is characterized by the Ebro river and its valleys. The upper Ebro river is important to the regions of Rioja and Navarra which produce the best exports of Tempranillo and Garnacha. Our Armentia y Madrazo Gran Reserva is a beautiful example of Rioja’s excellence, while Castillo de Eneriz Riserva is a bit more of a modern-day blend from Navarra. 

Wines of South-Eastern Spain

Jumilla, Valencia, Alicante and Bullas are the fastest-growing regions in Spain. Fruity and stylish reds are their champions, made in a richer, sweeter style. These wines give producers from California and Australia a run for their money!

Local varieties such as Monastrell are blended with international grape varieties like Syrah, like the 3000 Años from Bullas. Or Tempranillo with Petit Verdot or Cabernet Sauvignon, like this Nucli Tinto from Valencia (Tempranillo with Petit Verdot and Syrah).

This region is also home to Bobal, a light and easy-drinking wine, made in a similar style to the light Pinot Noirs of French Burgundy. Our En La Parra is the life of the party!

The Wines of South of Madrid

Closest to Madrid are the vineyards of La Mancha, one of the best-known tourist destinations in Spain. Our biodynamic Pablo Claro is from this region, a blend of local grape Graciano and Cabernet Sauvignon.

The south is most widely planted with Airén, which is the grape most commonly used in making brandy. As time goes on this region is changing from white to more red varieties. 

Wines of Spain: a vineyard in Rioja

Wines from La Rioja are among the most popular wines in the world. The first mention of the name Rioja as a wine-producing region dates back to 1092. In 1872 the introduction of railways in the country made it possible for wineries to get their wines to the coast, to be shipped to foreign markets.

Early wineries in the area wanted to keep up with the famous châteaux of Bordeaux and started exporting their wines, putting Spain on the map. Until the 1970s, most of Rioja was made by small farmers. The grapes were picked fast and then aged in old American oak for many years. In the 20th century, new winemaking techniques were introduced as well as winemaking laws by the European Union, which led to higher quality wines.

Wines of Spain: a vineyard in Penedes, Catalonia

Catalonia – Home of Cava: Spain’s Sparkling Wine

Cava is Spain’s sparkling wine, made with the same method of production as Champagne. However, the grapes are different. Champagne uses Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier in their blends. For Cava, it’s a blend of Macabeo, with a combination of Xarel-Lo and Parellada to balance it out. As these are all white grape varieties, a small amount of Pinot Noir is planted in the area to blend in to make rose Cava.

Cava means “cave” in Spanish, referring to how these wines are made. Just like Champagne, these wines undergo a second fermentation in the bottle and must be cellared for a minimum of nine months on their lees (disintegrated yeast cells). The majority (around 95 percent) of Cava is made in Catalonia (in Penedès, pictured), but it may be produced in other regions as well. 

The Andalucia/Jerez Region: The Home of Sherry

Andalucia is cooler, due to its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. It’s perfect for growing Palomino, Pedro Ximenez and Moscatel grapes, the main source in the production of Sherry. Next to Port, Sherry is one of the world’s best-known fortified wines in the world. Though not as popular in modern times as it once was, Sherry is still widely exported. It is produced in a wide range of styles from light and dry to rich and sweet, using the “solera” system which blends wines of different ages from different barrels.

How are Spanish Wines Classified?

As a member of the European Union, Spain has wine laws that comply with the EU standards. Spain has 70 DOs (Denominación de Origen) and two DOCas (Denominación de Origen Calificada), La Rioja and Priorat. 

What is a DO?

A DO is a Spanish classification for wines that come from a specific region or zone and is not a blend of different areas. Unlike table wine which can be a blend from different regions, this ensures that the wines come from the region stated on the label as required by law.

What is a DOCa?

DOCa-status is reserved for standout regions among the DOs. Their standout regions are higher than the DOs, and they must have demonstrated superior quality as a DO for at least 10 years before obtaining DOa status. This classification has been awarded only to Rioja and Priorat so far.

Aging requirements and Terminology

Aging wine in oak barrels is a common practice in Spain. Labeling terminology to indicate a wine’s age is strictly regulated by Spanish wine law.

Wines of Spain aging designations

Vinos de Pago

On top of the traditional DO classification system, Spain saw the introduction of “vinos de pago” in 2003, similar to a “first growth” classification in France. To become certified, the estate needs to demonstrate unique characteristics. The standards for these wines are higher than those of other DO’s and DOa’s. Vino de Pagos set their own appellation rules, but if they are located inside an existing DO or DOa their standards must meet or exceed those expectations. There are currently 20 Vino de Pagos but that number is expected to increase.

This is just a high-level overview of a country that is endlessly fascinating and still very much in development. Due to changing climate conditions, new wineries are popping up in the southern regions of Spain. It’s becoming easier to plant vines and have a successful harvest in these regions. The wines of the Spanish islands are also gaining traction. Here at WineCollective, we make sure to share our discoveries and rare finds with our members. Join us as we explore uncharted territories and discover wonderful grape varieties and unusual blends. 

Wine 101: What Makes Red Wine Red?

You probably have a basic understanding of how wine is made (if not, here’s a primer). There’s one huge difference between making white wine and red wine: for red wine the juice needs to sit with the grape skins, seeds and stems for some time to extract colour, flavour and tannins. This is also called maceration. In this article, we’ll look at some of the techniques winemakers apply to macerate wine. Or, plainly put: to make red wine red. 

Where Does the Colour in Wine Come From? 

Think about it, if you squeeze a red grape, the juice that comes out is clear. And yes, it is possible to make white wine from red grapes. (There are a few red–fleshed grape varieties, called teinturiers, but they’re really rare.)

six wine glasses with different shades of red wine

What Makes Red Wine Red and White Wine White?

When you make white wine, the skins usually don’t sit with the juice, or just for a short amount of time before pressing. For red wine, the anthocyanins (what gives the wine its colour), flavour compounds and tannins need to leach from the grape skins, seeds and stems via maceration. This is sometimes done before, but mostly during and after the fermentation process. 

For a winemaker, it’s important to know what technique to use, depending on the type of red grape and the style of wine they’re going for. They don’t want to over-extract, which can lead to harsh, even bitter flavours in the wine. Over-extracted wines have a lot of colour, but also a lot of tannin, making them taste astringent and unbalanced. 

Extraction during Fermentation

Most often, extraction happens during alcoholic fermentation, where the alcohol and heat produced act as a solvent. However, when grape skins, seeds and stems are in contact with the grape “must” (grape juice), the carbon dioxide that is produced during fermentation pushes these solids to the top of the vat, forming a floating “cap”. This cap needs to be carefully managed, not only for extraction, but also to prevent it from drying out (and spoiling!). Breaking up the cap also helps in dissipating some heat that is created during fermentation.

The two most common cap management techniques are:

  • Punching Down

The cap is broken up and submerged with a special tool. This “pigéage”, or punching down, is typically done by hand and happens a few times a day. 

punching down the cap in making red wine
  • Pumping Over 

The French call this technique “remontage”. Red wine is pumped off from the bottom of the tank and then splashed back over the cap. 

pumping over red wine
  • Racking and Returning

“Délestage”, as the French call it, is a two-step process. It involves draining off the wine must from the solids (racking). The liquid is then returned back to the fermentation vessel, re-soaking the solids. This oxygenates the wine, making it less astringent. Racking and returning is a method to extract loads of colour and flavour at once.

The choice (and frequency) of the technique generally depends on the style of wine. While punch-downs are used for lighter wine styles, pump-overs are used to create bolder, more extracted wines. 

What is Cold Soak Maceration?

Some winemakers decide to extract colour, aromas and flavour before fermentation. This is called “cold soaking” or “pre-ferment cold maceration”. 

It requires keeping the must at a low temperature after crushing the grapes, so that fermentation doesn’t kick in. Winemakers use cooled fermenters or dry ice, and it’s common to add sulfur dioxide at this point to prevent microbial activity. 

The idea behind the technique is that, before any alcohol is formed, there is a better aqueous extraction of anthocyanins (colour), as well as aroma and flavour compounds, without extracting tannins, which mostly happens during alcoholic extraction. Cold soaking temperatures range from 5 to 10 ºC. The time can range from a few hours to a couple of days – depending on the style the winemaker is going for and the grape variety. Pinot Noir sees a lot of cold-soaking, as this grape variety tends to give off little colour during maceration. 

The origins of the practice of cold-soaking actually lie in making white wine, where it’s used to get some aromas and flavours from the skins – without extracting phenolics and bitterness. 

As it seems that there are as many different opinions as there are winemakers, some say this technique isn’t very efficient or effective. They say that vigorous pump-overs or punch-downs are much more effective to extract colour. 

crushing grapes barefeet

But Grape Stomping Is Extraction Too, Right?

There is another technique that you might associate with “making red wine red”: good old grape stomping. Crushing grapes barefoot, also known as grape treading, is a very traditional practice. In the Douro region in northern Portugal, this technique is still used to make some of the best port. Port wine requires an intense, but careful extraction, which is hard to achieve with machines. Foot-treading is a labour-intensive (not to mention messy and exhausting) process, so these days you’ll be most likely to find it as a fun activity at wine festivals and fairs.

So, there you have it: next time you pour yourself an almost inky Malbec, you know it probably had quite a few pump-overs. Or when you read “cold soak” on a California Pinot Noir label, you can confidently explain what it means to everybody who wants to know (and doesn’t).

Watch this space for more interesting insights into winemaking, or learn more about viticulture, grape varieties and wine regions. And why not sign up as a WineCollective member? Because nothing beats tasting what you just learned!

We Have Arrived: Q&A with Nondumiso Pikashe of Ses’fikile Wines

Nondumiso Pikashe of Ses'fikile Wines walks a red carpet wearing a traditional red skirt.
Nondumiso Pikashe of Ses’fikile Wines

With an entrepreneurial spirit that just could not be ignored, Nondumiso Pikashe left her career as a high school teacher and jumped into the world of South African wine. This was in 2006 and since then, she has launched her own Ses’fikile Wines. Meaning “We have arrived”, the brand proudly celebrates Nondumiso’s indigenous culture. The company is 100 percent owned and operated by women, and supports girls pursuing careers in the wine industry.

Nondumiso enrolled in a garagiste winemaking course, as well as the WSET Level 2 award in wine program. She now works in partnership with Leeuwenkuil Family Vineyards, deciding on the style of wines that will be made, and working closely with a group of all-female winemakers to get the end result she is looking for. 

WineCollective features two Ses’fikile wines, and we thought it’d be great to introduce the woman behind these wines to our members.

You’re a successful wine business owner, but you used to be a high school teacher. We’re curious to hear how you ended up where you are today – what propelled the decision to go into wine?

“Thank you for the kind and encouraging words. The decision was informed by socio-political changes and personal ones. South Africa was becoming a free and just society to pursue your dreams. It was a great time of discovery and adventure, a really exciting time. I had a conflicted relationship with alcohol since my two siblings succumbed to alcoholism. Wine as an alcoholic beverage was the most despised in my community, because it was obscured. It was during this time that I discovered the beauty and magic of a grape berry turning into a palatable and complex, yet divine drink.”

Can you tell us something about the meaning of the name “Ses’fikile” and what it represents?

“Ses’fikile is derived from my language IsiXhosa and means “We have arrived”. It is celebratory and aspirational. It is multifaceted in that it looks back to history with a spirit of triumph, and it celebrates inclusivity and consciousness. It affirms women alongside men for better coexistence and growth. It recognizes the arrival of the South African wine industry on the global platform to compete meaningfully amongst other wine-producing countries.”

Nondumiso Pikashe of Ses'fikile Wines speaks about the wines on display at an event.
Nondumiso Pikashe displaying Ses’fikile wines.

We’ve read that Ses’fikile strives to break stereotypes about indigenous brands in the wine industry. What are some of these stereotypes, and what is your approach towards working to break them?

“It goes to the extent that you rarely find such beautiful brands as Ses’fikile in the main market in South Africa. But it’s an uphill battle that we are going to win over time. Some of the stereotypes are from our ugly past as a country and others are cultural/societal constructs. We all have a role to play, irrespective of gender and upbringing. The approach was to be intentional and deliberate with the brand Ses’fikile and be proud about it. I try to ensure that the conventional is not the ONLY way. For example, I would do wine and food pairings using African cuisine. I would also share my own supposedly embarrassing moments about the culture of wine openly. I try to educate whenever I find an opportunity about the relevance of the brand in this day and age of innovation.”

I discovered the beauty and magic of a grape berry turning into a palatable and complex, yet divine drink

Nondumiso Pikashe

Does your background in education still come in handy in your day-to-day work, and if so, how?

“It does! I am able to speak confidently about my journey in front of an audience, but most importantly, I am able to apply my own motto: You are never old to learn. I am passionate about ensuring that we as a community talk about responsible wine consumption to young people. This should not be taboo.”

Can you tell us about your decision-making process regarding your wine blends and their overall style? What are some of the considerations you have to keep in mind?

“I did a mini survey on blends in the market and read a bit about what was out there. I discovered there was a gap in this blend space. I needed to create my unique selling point, that’s how the blends came into being. I decided on the two grape varieties, Cinsault and Roussanne, as they are beautiful unsung heroines. They complement the popular Shiraz and Chenin Blanc, respectively. I am for palatability, fruitiness, accessibility of the wine that can be enjoyed freely with no rules attached.”

WineCollective features your Chenin Blanc-Roussanne blend and your Shiraz-Cinsault blend. What are some of your favourite food pairings with these wines?

“Thank you for this. The Ses’fikile white, a Chenin-Roussanne blend, pairs well with light meals from salads to white meats. I pair the red Shiraz-Cinsault blend with my favourite dish, samp and tripe in the company of friends or family.”

Want to discover more inspiring stories behind our wines? Sign up as a WineCollective member today and receive a monthly wine guide with your delivery, filled to the brim with useful tasting notes, winemaker interviews and wine 101s that help you on your wine journey!

Are Wine Subscriptions Worth It?

Thinking about becoming a WineCollective member or joining another wine club, but you’re concerned about value? We’ll delve into the details, so you can decide for yourself whether wine subscriptions are worth the cost.

man sticking his nose in glass of red wine

Why would you join a wine club?

Whatever reason you have for joining a wine club, there will always be a wine subscription that meets your specific needs. Maybe you’re a fan of natural wines, and looking for ways to get your hands on them? Or a fan of good deals? Perhaps you’re purely interested in wines from a certain country or region? There’s a wine subscription out there that’s just right for you!!

Subscription services and wine clubs provide numerous benefits:

Discovery & Curation

Let’s face it: discovering new things is fun. Massive overwhelm when you’re standing in front of that wine aisle is not. Oh, the insecurity, the utter confusion! It makes you want to grab the first bottle under your nose and run out of the store. Wine subscriptions provide the joy of discovery – but the curation is done by somebody else. You know that your wine selection is in good hands, and the fun of discovering your favourite new wine is left to you.

Exclusive Access

Some wine clubs give you access to wines that are unavailable in your local liquor store. You’ll be able to taste wines that are rare in Canada, whether they’re small-batch or otherwise exclusive to members.


Are you the type of person who enjoys something more as you learn more about it? For many people, learning about wine (and getting a deeper appreciation for it) is part of their wine journey. Wine subscriptions often provide tasting notes, videos and other educational content to members so that they can learn about the exciting and vast world of wine. 


As a wine lover, you are going to buy wine anyway, so a wine subscription can save a lot of time and effort. The boxes are conveniently delivered to your door – you only need to sign for them. 

customer receiving a box of wine delivery

Are Wine Clubs Worth It?

Now for the big question: are wine subscriptions worth it? Generally, they are. On top of curation, exclusive access, education and convenience, wine club members often receive great member perks, such as discounts on special sales, access to special events, or limited-time hard-to-find bottles exclusively for members. 

Do Your Research

Before you sign up, it might be helpful to look into a few aspects of the wine club, and see if this is the right fit for you.

Make a list of these things:

  • Is shipping included or excluded in the price?
  • What extras do I get? 
  • How customizable is my wine subscription? Can I choose a selection based on wine colour, number of bottles or can I select all bottles in my pack?
  • How often will I receive shipments? There are clubs that offer monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly packs. Consider how much wine you will drink, and when you will be home to receive it.
  • What is the customer service policy? Will damaged or faulty bottles be replaced or exchanged? Can I skip or pause my subscription without too much hassle?
  • If I’m interested in wine education: what type of wine education does the club offer? Are there tasting notes included with the wine, or even a monthly brochure? Does the club offer recipes if I wanted to pair my wines with dinner?
  • Where are wines sourced from? International? Canada? VQA-certified? Small-batch? Can they be found in the liquor store or are they more exclusive?
  • Does the wine club deliver wines from a single winery or from a variety in a given month’s box? 


As a nice-to-have, it might be a good idea to look into the wine subscription’s values. Are they supporting local industries or charities? You can usually find this information on the wine subscription’s website. Find out how eco-friendly they are – does the shipment arrive in sustainable packaging? Does the club mention any organic wines?

To get an idea of the types of wines that are shipped out to members, you can usually check their store. Here, members can buy previously featured bottles, so you’ll get an idea of the wine selection before you sign up. You’ll see if these are the types of wine you’d typically enjoy.

Lastly, make sure if the wine subscription ships to your province and postal code.

Customers opening wine subscription box

Gifting a Wine Subscription: Is it Worth it?

Everybody loves wine, but instead of just picking up a few bottles at the local liquor store, a wine subscription as a gift is much more than that. You’re giving the gift of discovery, excitement, learning and convenience, for a single month, multiple months or even as long as a whole year.

For the gift giver, it’s as simple as filling out a form – a thoughtful gift without any stress. That’s all we wish for, especially during the holiday season!

Wine Club Brochure

Consider a WineCollective Wine Subscription

All of the above information is helpful when you’re considering joining a wine subscription. It’s good to consider your motivations, expectations and, not unimportantly, your budget. 

Exclusive to Canada

WineCollective offers primarily exclusive wines (not found anywhere else in Canada), sourced from all over the world. Each monthly pack contains 2,3, 4 or 6 bottles, delivered to your doorstep. You can choose from an all-red, all-white (only for the 2-pack) or mixed pack. The pack also comes with a wine tasting guide including tasty recipes and wine pairing suggestions. Members also receive educational content via newsletters and the blog.

Base shipping is included in the price, and we ship to most locations in Canada including rural addresses. We will credit your account for any damaged or faulty bottles, no questions asked. All of this, without a contract: members can cancel anytime!

Member Perks

Access to the member store is another perk: here, members can find past features and exclusive wines not found anywhere else. Members receive 15-50% off the retail price of wine in our online store, with free shipping over $150. WineCollective’s packaging is eco-friendly, and we’re committed to building an environment that values diversity, equality, and inclusion. 


International Grapes Versus Native Grapes

You might have heard the term “native grapes,” but what do we mean by it? And what about “international grapes” – what are those? In this blog post we’ll give you the lowdown.

According to the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV):

  • There are around 10,000 known wine grape varieties
  • 6,000 belong to fine wine species Vitis vinifera
  • 13 of those grape varieties cover more than a third of the global vineyard surface
  • Just 33 grape varieties cover 50% of the global vineyard surface

What are Native Grape Varieties?

“Native” or “indigenous” varieties refer to grapes that thrive in their originated region. These produce quite distinctive wines. Italy alone boasts over 400 registered grape varieties (although probably, lots more varieties occur in the country).
There’s been a worldwide drive to revive obscure, local grapes in the last few decades, literally bringing back more variety. Viognier was one of the firsts. It is so hard to imagine that Viognier was almost extinct in the 1960s, since they have been so widely planted. Other examples include Ruchè from Piedmont, Criolla in Argentina or Trepat in Catalonia.

Why are Native Grapes Rising in Popularity?

Many cultural factors account for the rising popularity of native grapes. With our current generation of winemakers and wine drinkers, there is a newfound enthusiasm for new old-world styles, production methods, and even varieties.

With a high standard placed on localism these days, we see many people reestablishing the bond between grape varieties and their homes! These factors coupled with the ease of growing these varieties in their home environments, these new native varieties produce interesting wines that attract the newer generations of wine drinkers and makers.

These grape varieties also grow in fewer numbers or produce a lower yield. This creates an opportunity for winemakers to explore and create new boutique or novelty varieties of wine.

Bringing Back Tradition with Native Grape Varieties

With the popularity of native grapes rising again, many winemakers, viticulturists, and regions are reviving these grape varieties.

Restoring Old-World Vines in the Present

One leading force in this movement is Spanish winemaker Miguel A. Torres, from Bodega Torres. He went to France to study viticulture, and upon his return to Spain in 1983, he was sure that there would be old vines that had survived the 19th-century phylloxera epidemic –the tiny louse that destroyed most of the vineyards in Europe. So Torres reached out to farmers in Catalonia. He asked them to get in touch if they found vines they could not identify.

In the mid-1980s, a red wine grape that was later identified as Garro was found. Its vine was first checked for disease. Then, using scientific methods, it was acclimated to different soil types to see where it would grow best. The vine was then grafted to another one, eventually planted in Conca de Barberà. The grape made its debut in 1996 as part of the Torres’ Grans Muralles blend. So far to date, the company has been able to identify and revive almost 50 forgotten grapes that survived phylloxera. An upside of these revivals is that many of these grape varieties show good heat and drought resistance; this obviously appeals to today’s winemakers who are struggling to adapt to climate change.

Preserving Old-World Vines for the Future

Another interesting movement is the “Louvre of Wine” that is occurring in France. Scientists from the French National Institute for Research into Agriculture, Food and the Environment will be freezing the largest collection of vines. If the current popular grape varieties die out due to climate change, they might one day be revived. 

Scientists will freeze the vines using liquid nitrogen at -320 °F (-196 °C). The hope is that future researchers will use these these long-lost varieties to find a way to revive them for wine drinkers decades from now. 

What are International Grape Varieties?

Grape varieties that are planted in a lot of different countries are known as “international varieties” or “classic varieties”. Cabernet Sauvignon is the best-known red, and Chardonnay for white. The majority of these varieties are French in origin – this means they are native to certain regions of France.

They gained international recognition when the wines produced were labeled as varietal wines. This means when new-world winemakers started labeling their wines as varietal wines. This was the opposite of what their old world counterparts did. Old-world wines are usually named after the appellation or region that the grapes were grown in.

As per the OIV these are the most popular red wine grape varieties that grow around the world. 

  • Cabernet Sauvignon 
  • Merlot 
  • Syrah 
  • Grenache Noir 
A glass of white wine made from popular international grape varieties

As per the OIV, these are the most popular white wine grape varieties that grow worldwide. 

  • Chardonnay 
  • Sauvignon Blanc 
  • Riesling

Why are International Grape Varieties So Widely Planted?

It’s All in the Name

So why are international grapes so popular?
For starters, when winemakers began naming wines after the variety rather than the appellation, and it really caught on among consumers. So, these wines grew in popularity, and many winemakers began copying them by planting these varieties themselves and producing their own wines by the same name.

Smart Marketing

Since they are so recognizable, this was also a commercially smart move for winemakers and wineries trying to get on the map. Many wine lovers would be willing to pick up a bottle of a famous grape variety such as Merlot. However, not many people wanted to experiment with a native variety that is lesser known.

They’re Easy to Grow

Lastly, many of these international varieties are easier to grow than native varieties which often require more tending to. Take Cabernet Sauvignon for an example. This grape can grow in several regions worldwide due to it’s versatility. Cabernet Sauvignon thrives in both cooler and warmer climates alike. However, you can expect wines that differ in taste and characteristics. 

International Grape Varieties aren’t Always Successful

A Merlot Mishap

It is important to remember that even international varieties that have proven their success tend to go in and out of fashion. A good example of this is Merlot in California. Its rapid expansion in the early 2000s (and not a well-thought-out one) led to the rise in the number of Merlot grapes. Soon after this, due to many factors, Merlot dropped in popularity. This obviously included the high number of grapes available. In addition to this, the low pricing, and typical average flavours led Merlot to its demise in popularity.

Precious Pinot

In addition to this, some varieties just aren’t suitable for a particular climate, resulting in poor-quality wine. One of these examples would be Pinot Noir. Even though it is an increasingly popular grape variety, it is difficult to grow. It is even harder to produce optimal wine if it is grown in regions that don’t allow the grape to thrive (outside of its normal growing regions). Therefore, winegrowers need to keep climate and terroir in mind when looking for the right grape varieties to grow.

What Do You Think? 

Do lesser known grape varieties make your wine journey more exciting? Or does it only make wine more confusing? We’d love to know what you think! So tag us or send us a message on our Instagram @WineCollective.

And if you’re looking to discover more interesting grape varieties, then you’re at the right place. Subscribe to become a member and enjoy new and exciting wines from around the world, delivered straight to your door!

Infographic: A Year in The Vineyard

A vineyard’s annual cycle is something to marvel at. A barren field in winter which transforms into a green spectacle at the end of summer, abundant with heavy, perfectly ripe grape bunches. 

In this infographic, we’ll have a look at what happens in the vineyard from month to month. Remember that it’s a cycle: each year, grapes grow from the green shoots that emerge from canes or spurs, the (now) woody shoots from the previous year. Every stage offers promise for making great wine, but presents specific challenges as well. Read on to learn more about how grapes come about – it can give you a deeper appreciation for what’s in the glass! 

As we’re following the northern hemisphere vine cycle this year, we’ll update this infographic on a monthly basis. So check back often to learn what’s happening!

The first stage is bud break, the exciting new ‘beginning’ of each growing cycle.

budbreak in the vineyard
Shoot and leaf growth in the vineyard infographic
infographic of flowering in the vineyard - what is it and what are the challenges?
infographic showing what happens to a vine during green harvest

Decisions in the vineyard

While much of a wine’s character is determined by the grapes themselves, grape growers have a great deal of influence as well. During the entire growing phase, they make all sorts of decisions impacting the grapes: how to trellis or prune the vines, how to protect them from frost, hail, or heat, as well as from intruders in the vineyard (bugs, birds and the likes). Ultimately, it’s Mother Nature who calls the shots, but when perfectly ripe grapes eventually reach the cellar, it’s the perfect starting point for making great wine. You must’ve heard the tired saying “a great wine is made in the vineyard”, but it’s true!

Stay tuned for future infographics that shed light on what happens in the cellar, the ‘other’ side of great winemaking! 

Having fun and want to keep learning? Having fun and want to keep learning? Subscribe and receive our weekly newsletter!

Wedding Gift Ideas for Every Couple

Finding the Perfect Wedding Gift

In 2021, many couples are choosing to forego the classic gift registries in favour of collecting experiences and monetary gifts to help cover costs for travel, home buying, and beyond. This shift can make finding the perfect wedding gift a little tricky. Which is why we created WineCollective wedding gifts!

Gift for Couples who Live together

Dark coloured paper wedding invitation with "love" written on it, topped with two wedding bands

These days, most couples are already settled into a home together before tying the knot. Less couples are in need of the “classic” wedding gifts, like pots and pans. Most have already been cooking and decorating for months or years. You can still give them something special to help them start their married life together!

WineCollective gift subscriptions are the perfect gift. The newlyweds get to experience, taste, and learn about wine together for months after the wedding. So help them kick-start their new life together with great wine!

Gift for Couples Who Have Everything

A bride and groom holding two glasses of red wine.

With people getting married later in life (even if they haven’t been cohabiting), there are many couples who already have all the things they need. These couples are looking for experiences over material items, and WineCollective is absolutely an experience — not just bottles of wine. Whether this is a second marriage or senior couples, this is the perfect gift to encourage even more, personal celebrations. Each month their wine gift will include:

  • An educational wine guide with tasting notes, winery information, cellar recommendations, and more
  • Many exclusive bottles that cannot be bought anywhere else in Canada
  • Access to our members online store, where even more wine information can be found alongside tons of other great wines to try
  • Digital content including blogs and newsletters which share even more wine education

The WineCollective experience is a unique opportunity for newly married couples to learn more about the wine world, while enjoying great bottles they otherwise would not get to try. We can’t think of a better experience for newlyweds than opening a bottle (or two) after the exhausting wedding process. 

Gift for Best Friends

champagne being poured into champagne flutes on a tabletop

What do you get for the person or couple who has been there for you through it all? When a home improvement store gift card won’t do the trick, we think WineCollective is a wonderful and extra special way to celebrate your closest friend’s new life chapter.

Having wine delivered to your best friend’s door every month, as they celebrate their new marriage, is the best way to show you love them. And if you’re really lucky, maybe they’ll share a glass or two with you once the honeymoon is over. 

A Unique Wine Gift

Don’t stress any longer about giving the best wedding gift. We have you covered! WineCollective wedding gifts are easy to buy, from the comfort of home. Help your newlywed friends and family toast to a long, beautiful life together with a gift from WineCollective.

How the WineCollective Membership Works

Welcome to WineCollective

You made the great decision to sign up for a WineCollective wine subscription! Welcome! We’re so excited to have new members join and discover the great wine we’ve been curating for them. Now that you are a member, you aren’t simply receiving a shipment of amazing wine each month. Your subscription goes far beyond that, with a number of features and perks that we don’t want you to miss! Let’s explore how the WineCollective membership works and what you can expect.

WineCollective Member Perks

Being a member of WineCollective, you gain access to amazing perks that are valuable beyond the bottles we ship each month. These member perks are part of what makes your subscription the best wine experience possible! With WineCollective you receive:

  • Access to our members only online store with discounted bottles, mix packs, and exclusive offers
  • Wine shipped in sustainable packaging that can be recycled or composted (depending on local regulations)
  • Monthly wine guides with education about each bottle and the wine world in general, making you a real wine expert
  • Exclusive wines that the rest of the Canadian market does not have access to
  • Educational wine information in blogs, emails, and printed pieces that will help build up your wine knowledge

Your WineCollective Wine Guide

Each month when you receive your wine subscription box, it will come with a wine guide full of great information. Each copy highlights every bottle we have included in our wine subscription packages for that month — which means you get to see the many wines we featured in other subscription packs. Our variety of packages means we are sourcing up to 14 different wines each month! The vast majority of these bottles will also be added to our members-only online store, so if anything in the guide catches your eye, we recommend visiting the WineCollective store.

Your monthly guide also includes educational pieces, designed to help expand your wine knowledge. We aren’t just selling bottles of wine (at amazing member prices). We want to help grow your knowledge and guide you to being an informed wine consumer. Our monthly guides are designed to educate through:

  • long-form articles
  • exclusive sales and offers
  • wine profiles for each wine feature; including tasting notes, food pairings, winery information, QR codes leading to extended wine reviews, and more

Our monthly guides are one of the most important components of our subscription service and we encourage you to hang onto them!

WineCollective Shipping

We have worked hard over the years to utilize reliable shipping methods and we continue to constantly monitor, change, and update our shipping procedures. Since 2020 we have been using sustainable shipping materials that are recyclable, and even compostable in most urban areas.

We also use a variety of courier services who we have worked with over many years, including Canada Post, Loomis Express, Fedex, and ATS Healthcare. Our commitment is to get your wine to you in the fastest, safest, and most cost effective manner possible. Shipping across a country like Canada has its barriers, but our expertise in shipping wine for over 12+ years ensures we are always providing the best experience possible.

Enjoy Your Wine

Being a member of WineCollective is the start to a wonderful journey and we’re so grateful you’re here! Each month you will receive an email on the 1st, letting you know when wine will be shipping. If you ever need to rearrange shipping addresses or dates, or have questions about how the WineCollective membership works, let us know anytime. Now all you need to do is sit back and enjoy!

Father’s Day Gift Idea

A Special Gift Just for Dad

Every year we rack our brains for something fun and unexpected to give Dad for Father’s Day. How many tools and grilling recipe books can one guy have?! Thankfully we have put together a great Father’s Day gift idea with our WineCollective gifts! With great options to fit your budget and any Dad, it’s sure to make this Father’s Day the best one yet. Here at WineCollective we’ve always created memorable Mother’s Day gifts, but this year we’re showing up for the Dads too. Because Dad deserves some great bottles and the chance to relax with a glass of wine.

The Best Father’s Day Gift

Preview of the contents of a WineCollective subscription box - a Father's Day gift idea.

There are many reasons why a WineCollective gift is perfect for Father’s Day. 

  • Unexpected: we are Canada’s largest wine subscription service and since this is our first time offering a Father’s Day gift option, we’re pretty sure Dad hasn’t had a wine gift like this before!
  • Education: WineCollective gifts aren’t just random bottles. We provide wine education too, with in-depth online wine reviews and monthly wine guides including tasting notes, food pairings, and more.
  • Sustainable: we are your source for a great sustainable Father’s Day gift. Our shipping materials are compostable and recyclable, while ensuring wine bottles arrive intact. 

There are many more ways that make WineCollective a great Father’s Day gift idea. We offer exclusive bottles that can’t be found elsewhere in the Canadian wine market, which means Dad will be trying new wines. Not to mention, this is the perfect time to surprise anyone who plays a special role in your life: father-in-law, neighbour, uncle, coworker. Everyone deserves a token of appreciation!

A Wine Gift Just for Dad

A glass of wine from WineCollective accompanied by a barbecue for Father's Day festivities - a father's day gift idea.

Our WineCollective Father’s Day gifts at a glance:

  • 3 professionally-curated bottles of wine: all-red or mixed
  • Your choice of gift length: 1, 2, 3 months or 6 months
  • Starting at just $89.99

The first shipment will arrive mid-July and includes three curated wines from around the world, tasting notes, and exclusive member pricing so Dad can revisit his favourite bottles. Shipping is included* and the more months you gift, the more you will save!

  • 1 month $89.99
  • 2 months $179.98 (10% on first month)
  • 3 months $269.97 (15% off the first month)
  • 6 months $539.94 (30% off the first month

*Includes base shipping costs (where allowed by applicable provincial laws), additional shipping surcharges and taxes may apply.

Give Dad a Memorable Gift

A preview of the contents of a father's day wine subscription box from WineCollective.

This is the perfect time to get the best gift for Dad and give him a special treat this Father’s Day. There are plenty of Father’s Day gifting options out there, but Dad will love his very own wine subscription sent right to his door. Make Dad proud this year and share the world of wine.

Featured February 2020 Wines

Battling the Winter Blues with Winter Wine!

February can be a pretty hard month. Winter is dragging on, the weather can be extra cold, and spring seems far away. Even though celebrations like Valentine’s Day and Family Day/Louis Riel Day warm our cold hearts, we’re ready for sunshine! With March quickly creeping up on us, we wanted to take a look back at the great wine that got us through the month of February 2020. Hopefully these bottles were shared with loved ones and opened in the warmest of homes. We’re excited about sunnier days and new wine next month, so don’t forget to leave some room in the wine rack! Here’s to high hopes that the snow stays in the mountains, the freezing rain stays in the clouds, and warmer days are ahead.

WineCollective Featured Wine © 2020

We hope you loved the winter wine you received in February and members don’t forget: shop the WineCollective online store to stock up on your favourites from the month. If you aren’t a member of WineCollective — Canada’s best wine club — you’re missing out on some really great wine! What are you waiting for?! See you next month when we recap all the amazing March wine or check out last month to see what else we shared!

Featured January 2020 Wines

Start the Year With Canada’s Best Wine Club

Well it’s finally here. A whole new decade to start fresh in. 2020 is the 11th year WineCollective has been Canada’s best wine club! We’ve been sharing wine with Canadians for over a decade now and boy does it feel good. January is always an exciting time at WineCollective because all the lucky people who received a club subscription for Christmas receive their first package. This gives us the chance to broaden our audience and share even more bottles than we usually do! If you follow these monthly recap posts you’ll notice there are more bottles than usual, and that’s exactly why. More members = more wine! This gives you all the more reason to shop away and try out some bottles you didn’t receive this month.

WineCollective Featured Wine

We hope you loved the wines you received and members don’t forget: shop the WineCollective online store to stock up on your favourites from the month. If you aren’t a member of WineCollective — Canada’s best wine club — you’re missing out on some really great wine! What are you waiting for?! See you next month when we recap all the amazing February wine or check out last month to see what else we shared!

Featured December 2019 Wine

There’s Always Time for Wine

Oh my goodness, the holiday season can be so overwhelming! We likely aren’t alone in being at least a little glad the hustle and bustle is over. That being said, December is also a great month in WineCollective’s calendar. We get to share wine with our members that are part of many memorable moments and nothing is better than that. From engagements to family gatherings, bottles from WineCollective are popped open all month long. We are so honoured to be part of the chaos and fun of the holiday season! Let’s take a look back to the wonderful featured wine we shared in December 2019.

WineCollective Featured Wine

  • El Camino — Malbec | Mendoza, Argentina
  • Adulation — Pinot Noir | California, USA
  • Amata Prosecco — Glera | Veneto, Italy
  • Cavazza — Tai Rosso | Veneto, Italy
  • Diatom Bar-M — Chardonnay | California, USA
  • Sunrock Illumina —Zinfandel, Shiraz | Okanagan Valley, Canada
  • Montepeloso A Quo — Montepulciano, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Marselan, Alicante | Tuscany, Italy
  • Opal Ridge — Semillon, Chardonnay | South Eastern, Australia
  • Tridente Gota de Arena — Tempranillo | Castilla y León, Spain
  • Clos d’Alzan Signargues Villages — Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah | Côtes-du-Rhône, France
  • Westcott Estate — Chardonnay | Vinemount Ridge, Canada
  • Burnt Ship Bay — Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc | Niagara Peninsula, Canada

We hope you loved the wines you received and members don’t forget: shop the WineCollective online store to stock up on your favourites from the month. If you aren’t a WineCollective member, you’re missing out on some really great wine! What are you waiting for?! See you next month when we recap all the amazing January wine that will be going out to members later this month!