Polish wine has something for every taste bud, from crisp whites to bold reds. With over 70 grape varieties grown in Polish vineyards, you’ll never run out of new and exciting vinous discoveries to try. The marginal climate still allows for an impressive diversity of terroirs, moderated by major rivers like Vistula, Odra and Warta, as well as the country’s numerous mountains and lakes. The northern latitude dictates the winegrowers’ constant quest for the best sites: an optimal aspect and location must ensure that the crop is getting enough sun and is protected from bitter frost and blustery wind gusts.
In the west, regions like Lubuskie and Lower Silesia enjoy a longer growing season and milder winters, making them the perfect place to cultivate Vitis vinifera grapes. Stars of international winemaking such as the white Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc, or the red Pinot Noir, Zweigelt and even Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon all thrive here. Winegrowers only started experimenting with viniferas in the late 1990s, when Silesia saw the first plantings of Pinot Noir. Winemakers like Agnieszka Rousseau see Poland’s cool and humid climate as a challenge worth embracing. With the right site selection, Vitis vinifera grapes can even be grown biodynamically, as evidenced by her renowned estate Winnica Wieliczka.
Harsher conditions of some regions in the east – Lesser Poland, Subcarpathian, Sandomierz and Kazimierz, to name a few – are ideal for hardened hybrids. Roman Myśliwiec, the legend of vine reintroduction in Poland, breaks them down into two groups: frost-resistant and moderately frost-resistant varieties. Myśliwiec is a photographer turned vintner, who planted vines as early as over 40 years ago, founding the Golesz vineyard in Subcarpathian and a nursery of Poland-friendly vines. For hybrid grapes, take note of names like Solaris, Seyval Blanc, Odessa Muscat, Jutrzenka, Johanniter or Hibernal for whites, and Monarch, Rondo or Regent for reds; all selected for their ability to stand up to freezing temperatures, pests and diseases.
Ready to keep exploring the vibrant world of Polish wine? Our A to Z guide to the country’s top grape varieties is the perfect place to start.
Polish White Grape Varieties
Among the most popular vinifera white grapes in the country, Chardonnay is flourishing on the hills of Lower Silesia and on the sunny slopes of Lesser Poland, home to Winnica Wieliczka. Alongside the traditional oak ageing regime, some producers like Turnau in Western Pomerania or Kresy in Lesser Poland are also experimenting with maturing in acacia (although the latter one prefers the sturdy Solaris).
A hardy hybrid of German origin, also popular in the neighbouring Czech Republic. This resistant grape is capable of making elegant wines with flinty, mineral notes – especially in the region of Jura north of Krakow with its distinctive calcareous soils.
Another German purpose-bred grape with noble Riesling as one of the parents. Wines made with Johanniter do not have the same searing acidity as Riesling but show an appealing fruity profile with pear and peach flavours.
A Polish grape star on the rise, Jutrzenka was crossed in Poland by Roman Myśliwiec in the late 1980s in the Golesz vineyard. Early-ripening, it shows a broad resistance to fungal diseases and is considered a PIWI variety (the very abbreviation “PIWI” standing for fungus-resistant wines in German). Jutrzenka wines have a moderately spicy and lightly herbal aroma with a Muscat tone.
The ancient, noble Muscat family has found its home in Poland in the south of the country. Producers in Małopolska, Świętokrzyskie and Podkarpackie are particularly fond of its exuberant aromas of blossom and grape. The most common types of Muscat grown in Poland are the vinifera Muscat Ottonel, traditionally grown on the territory of the old Hapsburg empire in eastern Europe, and the Muscat Odessky hybrid, with Muscat Hamburg as one of the parents.
The undisputed king of German vineyards and wine critics darling, Riesling is the most planted Vitis vinifera variety in Poland. The acclaimed Lubuskie region on the border with Germany concentrates over 25% of vineyards: with the change of borders after the World War II the Poles continued the century-long grape growing tradition, started by Germans. The age-worthy grape with searing acidity and enormous ageing potential is vinified in a range of styles. Some go for lean and steely, while others prefer it riper and fuller-bodied, like the Winnica Silesian award-winning bottling. Don’t miss their exuberant Roter Riesling too, made with a rare mutation of its namesake grape. A number of producers, like the family-run Winnica Margaret, are also experimenting with the traditional method Riesling sparklers.
A French-American hybrid that has shown extremely promising results in cooler climes of Canada, New York and England, Seyval Blanc does particularly well in the poor soils of the southern Polish regions. Its signature citrus and green fruit notes, coupled with flinty minerality, have often merited its comparisons to white Burgundy.
In all major wine regions of Poland, you’re likely to find this hardy and versatile German hybrid grape. Its high resistance to fungal diseases and frost, combined with its moderately perfumed profile and notes of citrus, apple, peach, and hazelnut, make it a favourite among winegrowers across the country. Thanks to its extremely high natural sugar levels – up to 23% sugar content, Solaris is also well suited to the production of sweet wines. For a complex and refined expression of the grape, try the Winnica Turnau Solaris from Western Pomerania.
Polish Red Grape Varieties
A Freiburg-created hybrid with Cabernet Sauvignon as one of the parents, Cabernet Cortis yields highly coloured, tannic, intensely perfumed wines with a herbal-vegetal character reminiscent of its progenitor. Used in blends, it is also bottled as a single-varietal wine by producers like Srebrna Góra in Lesser Poland, Folwark Pszczew in Lubuskie and Winnica Jadwiga in Lower Silesia, just to name a few.
There’s no denying the star power of this iconic Bordeaux grape. Known for its complexity and long lifespan, it’s a favourite among many winemakers around the world. But in Poland, they face a unique challenge of finding warmer pockets of land for this late-ripening globetrotter. One of Poland’s warmest regions, Lower Silesia, is home to about a third of Polish Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards. Further significant plantings are found in the sunny Sandomierz, where Winnica Św. Jakuba planted Cabernet Sauvignon.
A famous blending partner for Cabernet Sauvignon and a standout performer on its own, Merlot is also gaining popularity across Poland. A faster-maturing grape than Cabernet, it makes plummy, plush reds in a variety of Polish terroirs. In Lubuskie, Winnica Saganum makes an excellent example of dry Merlot in an elegant Bordeaux style, and an exciting passito style too with partially dried grapes. In Lesser Poland, Winnica Wieliczka wows with its biodynamic Merlot Rosé with hints of mint and wild strawberries.
The finicky Burgundian is the most planted red grape in Poland. This is far from surprising, given its thick skins and high adaptability to cooler climes across the world. The largest concentration of Pinot plantings is found in the Lubuskie region, where about every second producer works with the varietal. For some truly superb examples, try Polish Pinots by producers like Winnice Kamil Barczentewicz in the Lesser Poland Vistula Valley, Winnica Wieliczka in Lesser poland, or Winnica Miłosz in Lubuskie.
A Germanic hybrid that owes its name to the famous diamond found at the Louis XV coronation, this hardened jewel truly shines on Polish vineyards. Winemakers love this grape for its natural resistance to diseases, which makes organic farming a breeze. Regarded as usefully compatible with French oak ageing, it yields wines of dark ruby colour, with noticeable, yet plush tannins and expressive fruit. Try some top examples by Winnica Spotkaniówka in Subcarpathian, Winnica Morena near Poznan and Winnica Zagardle in Lesser Poland.
An early-ripening crossing with German origins and almost Mediterranean character: tastable tannins, and noble aromas of forest fruits with hints of spice and floral notes. This versatile variety can be made into a number of different styles, including refreshing, yet complex rosé. With its high resistance to frost and other hazards, this grape is a favourite among Polish winegrowers and is grown in virtually every region. Some of the best Polish Rondos, both single-varietal and blends, are made by Winnica Spotkaniówka, Winnica Zagardle and Winnica Na Dziole.
Rondo and Regent, sometimes accompanied by Cabernet Cortis, form the so-called ‘Polish blend’: a premier example is the Transfirgurato by Winnica Kresy.
An invitation to explore Polish Grapes
Still curious about Polish grapes and the myriad varieties that grow on the Vuistula and Oder? You might find it helpful to get in touch with Tomasz from VeloWino, who can plan out a whole trip to explore Polish grape varieties. Feel free to write at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at +48 728 758 263. With 5 languages spoken, he is just the guy to explain Polish grapes to keen amateurs.