In our “notes” section we would like to impart some facts about wines for our web visitors. This month we are discussing different wine grapes and their distinctive flavors. Remember that grapes change flavors in the wines from which they are made depending on soil conditions, climate, harvesting methods, length of fermentation, and types of barrels used for the wine to ferment. In the interest of brevity, we are limiting this list to what we feel are the most popular grapes. We hope we impart some fun facts along with your learning experience.
Barbera grapes typically come from Italy in the Piedmont region. These grapes are used as blending agent rather than as a main wine source. Depending on the length of oak given to this grape it can range in flavors from cherries, raspberries and blueberries, to blackberries, currants and plums. It is a deep ruby color and usually full bodied. The most notable wines are from Barbera D’Asti and Barbera D’Alba.
Pairings: pasta, meat dishes, ham and cheeses.
We recommend: Giacomo Vico and Batasiolo.
Brunello grapes “stem” from a Sangiovese grape and are the only grape allowed for the wine Brunello di Montalcino which is produced in the Tuscan area of Italy. According to established Italian wine laws, this grape production needs to be aged for at least two years and four months in a bottle. Before that they are aged three years or more in large casks with light oak flavor. These wines have a full bodied texture with flavors and aromas of blackberry, black cherry, and black raspberry. Extraordinary Complexity (An elegant wine).
Pairings: Bar B Que Beef or Pork Ribs, Cassoulet, A white bean main dish.
We recommend: San Polino, Poggio Antico, Cupano, Casanova Di Neri.
Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most well known grapes and wine throughout the world. It is grown in the Bordeaux region of France as well as in California, Washington State, South America, Eastern Europe, and Australia. Since it is grown in so many regions, the flavors of the wines made with this grape will obviously vary tremendously. The grape itself is late-ripening and thick-skinned, often requiring years to age, soften, and become drinkable. Typically dark purple or ruby red in color, aromas and flavors are often compared to black currant, cherry, with hints of bell pepper. It produces a full-bodied wine.
Pairings: Camembert cheese, An amazing cut of beef anyway you like it prepared, Dark chocolate.
We recommend: Caymus, Dominus, Cakebread, Groth, Jordan, Jean Leon, Bohigas, Post House.
Carmenere grapes, until the 1990’s they were thought to be a variety of Merlot. The grapes are used both individually and in blends. The flavors tend towards blackberries and black pepper with smooth well-rounded tannins. The wines from these grapes produce a deep red color with a fruity note of cherries and are full bodied. These grapes take a longer time to ripen than most others and do well in a warm, Chilean climate.
Pairings: Lamb, Rabbit, Stewing Beef, Pork, Hard Cheeses.
We recommend: Montes Alpha, Santa Ema, Veranda, Casa Lapostolle, Coyam, Las Lomas.
Grenache is grown in both Spain and California, but typically comes from the southern Rhone in France. It is used in Chateauneuf-du-Pape as over 80% of its blend as well as in rose wines in the Cotes du Rhone. It produces light colored, light bodied wine. Many flavors are associated with this grape, some of which are black cherries, black olives, coffee, honey, and varied spices. Known as Garnacha in Spain, it is used in wines as a blend in both the Priorat and Catalonia regions. In Rioja it is used in conjunction with the Tempranillo grape.
Pairings: Deviled Eggs, Kasseri Cheese, Lamb Chops, Skirt Steak, Flank Steak, Figs.
We recommend: Gabriel Meffre, Genium Cellar, Becquer, Grant Hurge.
Malbec has an inky dark color and robust tannins and is one of 6 grapes known to the Bordeaux Blends. Its flavors range in taste towards the dark, damson plum to earthy tobacco and raisins. The popularity of this wine has grown thanks to Argentina, which produces a huge variety of wines from this individual grape as well as using it in blends.
Pairings: Argentinean Steak, Chicken wings, Duck pate, Salami, Swordfish, Spinach, Mexican Food.
We recommend: Luigi Bosca, Luca, Catena, Cuvelier Los Andes, Del Fin Del Mundo, Tikal, Las Lomas.
Merlot grapes are medium bodied with little or no acidity which make them very easy to drink for a variety of wine drinkers. Tastes associated with this grape are raisins, blackberries, cherries, plum, cassis, rosemary, sage, and chocolate. It is very low in tannins and creates a smooth medium bodied wine. Two thirds of this grape are produced in France and are greatly used in Bordeaux Blends although it stands beautifully on its own.
Pairings: Almost anything but fish.
We recommend: Cakebread, Schug, Nickel & Nickel, Duckhorn, Montes Alpha, Santa Ema, Luigi Bosca.
Nebbiolo grapes are grown in Italy in the Piedmont region (Barolo and Barbaresco). Flavors associated with this grape are blackberry, cherry, and vanilla with such spices as anise. Wines produced from this grape are rich and full bodied with long lasting flavors. It produces a dry wine with robust tannins.
Pairings: Fontina Cheese, Chicken Caccitore, Osso Buco and any Game Meat.
We recommend: Neirano, Michele Chiarlo, Gianni Gagliardo, Veglio, Ceretto, Fontanafredda Vigna da Rosa.
Petit Sirah grapes or Durif are grown in California, Australia, France, and Israel. It is highly acidic with spice, plum, and blueberries. The color is more purple than a Syrah. This grape originated in France from the Syrah grape when a scientist tried to get rid of a grape disease the Syrah was susceptible to. His name was Durif.
Pairings: Rich Meat Dishes, Lamb, Game or Pork.
We recommend: Robert Foley and Earthquake.
Pinot Noir grapes are one of the most difficult grapes to grow, but they are grown all over the world. It typically creates a light-bodied and fruit forward wine. Flavors associated with this grape are sweet red berries, plums, ripe tomatoes, cinnamon, rosemary, beets, and rhubarb. Although originally from France, it has gained popularity in both Oregon and California.
Pairings: Shellfish, Tuna, Salmon, Poultry, Brisket (a light red wine great with fish).
We recommend: Bethel Heights, Robert Sinskey, Luigi Bosca, Schug, Archery Summit, Benton Lane, Universo de Los Andes.
Pinotage is a popular South African grape that tastes like mulberries and blackberries with high tannin levels. Although bottled singularly, it is often used in blends. Interestingly, it was created in South Africa in 1925 by cross breeding the Pinot Noir grape with the Cinsault. It produces a deep colored fruity wine with a velvety texture.
Pairings: Smoked Duck, Pulled Pork, Indian Curry.
We recommend: Post House, Avontuur, Remhoogte, Kanonkop.
Sangiovese grapes are from Italy in Tuscany and are used predominantly in Chianti wines, as well as Super Tuscans and Brunello di Montalcino. The grape creates wines with flavors of cherry, black cherry, black currant and tea. It is high in tannins and acidity which tends to create a robust finish to the wine. This grape is rarely produced outside of Italy.
Pairings: Asiago and Parmesan Cheeses, Pizza, Red Peppers, Ham, Cream Sauces.
We recommend: Genius Loci, Monticello, Il Colombaio Di Cencio, Petrolo, Garofoli, Tenuta Sette Ponti.
Syrah or Shiraz grapes get their name depending on where they are grown. Syrah originated in France and is known there and throughout Europe as that. It is one of the blends in Chateauneuf du Pape. In Australia, it is called Shiraz but is the same grape. This grape is used in blends throughout France and Australia, but can definitely stand alone. The grape produces flavors of dark berries, chocolate, espresso, black pepper, clove, and thyme. It is a deep violet to black color with spicy aromas.
Pairings: Cajun Red Beans and Rice, Sausage, anything with Carmelized Onions, Spicy Foods.
We recommend: Mitolo, Penfolds, Mollydooker, Tenuta di Morrona, Gabriel Meffre, Elderton, Ceravolo.
Tempranillo grapes are grown in Spain and native to the Rioja and Ribera del Duero regions. It is the main grape used in Riojas. This grape produces a medium to full bodied wine with low acidity and flavors of plum, cherry, strawberry and earthy minerals.
Pairings: Most cheeses such as Maytag Blue, Goat, Asiago, Steak au poivre, Cajun shrimp.
We recommend: Arrocal, Finca Torremilanos, Pujanza, Protos, Dinastia Vivanco, Valdelana, Costaval.
Zinfandel grapes are grown predominantly in California and where they originated in Europe is still a mystery. They carry flavors of raspberry, blackberry, anise and pepper. Once made into wine, they tend to have high alcohol content.
Pairings: Aged cheddar and gouda cheese, Olives, Cioppino, Rack of Lamb.
We recommend: Elyse, Robert Biale, Adler Fels, Dry Creek, Van Ruiten.
Cabernet Franc is typically another blending grape. It is light to medium bodied and is usually grown in France in the Loire valley. The grapes are lighter in color and flavor than Cabernet Sauvignon, also grown in that region. Flavors known to this grape are raspberry, strawberry, cherry and plum.
Dolchetto grapes are almost always from the Piedmont region of Italy. The flavors of these wines carry black cherry, licorice, and prunes, but finish very dry in the mouth due to the tannins and are therefore considered a dry, red wine.
Gamay grapes come from the Beaujolais region of France. They produce light bodied wine with flavors ranging anywhere from sour cherry, black currant and dried berries to tropical flavors of banana, coconut, and vanilla. The color can be somewhat blue with a purple tinge.
Albarino grapes are from Spain and they are known as Alvarino grapes in Portugal. In wines they are almond scented with peach, apple, and citrus flavors. They have high acidity and should be drunk when young.
Pairings: Paella, Ceviche, Chicken or Turkey soup, Lobster salad, Fried or saute’ed Calamari.
We recommend Mar de Vinas, La Val, Nessa.
Chardonnay is the green skinned queen of the white grape varietals. It is grown throughout the world and can take on a variety of flavors depending on where it is produced. It ranges in flavor from butter to green apple, caramel to smoke, cinnamon to vanilla. It is used throughout Europe to make many blends of white wines, and in Champagne, France to produce that delightful bubbly, champagne. It is the most grown white varietal in the United States.
Pairings: Roasted, baked, broiled or fried chicken, Oyster Stew, Pork Tenderloin, Crab Cakes, Filet Mignon, etc.
We recommend Cakebread, Far Niente, Santa Ema.
Chenin Blanc is grown throughout the world, but most of the grapes are in California, France, and South Africa. Depending on the region grown, the grapes can vary greatly in flavor. Thought to be light and fruity, it can have green apple, mineral, honey, quince, and peaches. If it is harvested in a more tropical climate, the flavors tend towards banana and pineapple. The wine has higher than average acidity.
Pairings: Fish and shellfish with lemon, salad, pork, Chinese Food, Apple desserts.
We recommend La Craie, Morgenhof, Post House.
Muscat or Moscato grapes are thought to be the oldest variety of grape domesticated in history. They are grown around the world and used in sweet dessert wines. However Moscato wine from Italy is not classified as a dessert wine. Spanish wines of this grape are Moscatel. This grape has a distinct floral nose and can be pungent, and musky. The color of the grape varies from almost white to almost black.
Pairings: Almost any dessert, including fresh and dried fruit, cream desserts, cake and berries.
We recommend Poderi Chiara, Robert Mondavi, Ca’Montebello, Laurus.
Pinot Gris which is known as the very popular Pinot Grigio in Italy almost always has a citrus aroma. It is a refreshing wine and varies in flavor depending on the region in which it is produced. It is medium to full-bodied with hints of pear, apple or melon and is crisp and acidic.
Pairings: Goat cheese, chicken, white fishes or salmon grilled or poached, shellfish, salad.
We recommend San Simone, Italo Cescon, Paolo Pecorari.
Riesling is most notably from Germany, although it is grown in the nearby Alsace in France as well a locally in California and Washington. Distinctive flavors vary depending on the sweetness of the wine; anywhere from semi-dry to very sweet. Often there is a floral scent with tastes of apple, pear, peach and mineral flavors. There is a slight effervescence to this wine along with high acidity.
Pairings: Brie Cheese, Chinese and Thai foods, salty foods, duck, any fruit dessert.
We recommend Dr Loosen, Schloss Vollrads, Hartenberg ,Moselland.
Sauvignon Blanc was originally from the Bordeaux region in France. Exceptional Sauvignon Blancs are grown in South Africa and New Zealand as well as the United States. The wine can be anywhere from grassy to sweet and tropical fruit flavored. It is a light wine, elegant with crisp acidity.
Pairings: Great with sushi as well as cooked fish, mild cheeses, white meats using lemon and capers.
We recommend Jean Francois Merieau, Iona, Schug, Cakebread.
Semillon grapes are used in eighty percent of the dessert wines produced in the world. They are typically blended with Sauvignon Blanc and usually are not stand alone grapes. It’s flavors range from lemon and grass to figs, pears and vanilla.
Pairings: Fish and Shellfish, pasta with white sauce, chicken, pork cooked with fruit.
We recommend Camino de los 7 Lagos and Bouchard Finlayson.
Torrontes grapes originated in Spain, but have gained great notoriety from their success in Argentina. Flavors of peach and orange citrus combine with floral aromas to create a fruity, but dry crisp wine. Drink when young.
Pairings: Mild and medium cheeses along with smoked meats and spicy foods.
We recommend La Linda and Gozzo.