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Wine 101


Introduction
Wine Making Process
Wine Storing
Decanting
Wine Tasting
Wine Serving
White Wine Grapes
Red Wine Grapes
Wine & Food Pairings
How To Read a Wine Label
Wine Glossary
Wine Recommendations
Red Grapes

Red Wine Grapes

Red wine is principally made from red grapes, although not necessarily the converse, for example Pinot Gris. It is the amount of contact with the skins during fermentation that gives the red wine its deep red color. As a group, the reds are bold, somewhat tannic and full bodied. They are often aged in oak and are grown in all major wine producing areas around the world.

 



·        Cabernet Sauvignon

This is the premier red wine grape in the world.  Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant grape in the Bordeaux region of France and has spread to every other major growing region where it is pervasive.  Their think skins give the Cabernet Sauvignon grape produces distinctive wines that are tannic and have long aging potential with the average aging of 5 to 10 years in order to achieve peak flavor. It requires ample sunshine and good soil drainage. It is usually blended with other varieties to make wines with increased complexity. Cabernet Sauvignon is a small dark thick skinned grape that gives average yields.  It needs slightly warmer growing conditions than many other varieties in order to achieve maturity. Cabernet Sauvignon Taste characteristics include:  dark cherry, cedar, tobacco, black currant, chocolate. Cool climate growth can give green pepper or olive. The grape employs heavy use of oak in its fermentation process.

 



·        Merlot

The Merlot grape is a close cousin to Cabernet Sauvignon in many respects.  It is lower in tannins and makes wines that mature faster and are softer in texture.  Merlot is often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon in order to soften the blend. The grape itself has a lower acidity and hence lower astringency than Cabernet and is less tannic even though its flavor profile is similar. Characteristics include current, black cherry and plum. At its best, Merlot makes a wine that is dry, rich in flavor and smooth.. It has gained huge popularity in the US despite the references in the movie “Sideways”. It remains a very drinkable wine for many palettes.

 



·        Nebbiolo

This Italian red grape is known for its success in the Piedmont region such as Borolo, Barbaresco and Gattinara.  The thin although tough skinned grape imparts such flavor characteristics as blackberries, black cherries, licorice, tar and chocolate with high tannins. These wines are full flavored and can age well. The grape is difficult to work with and successful producers command higher prices for these wines.

 



·        Syrah/Shiraz

Here is a grape by 2 names – Shiraz in Australia and Syrah everywhere else. What are they thinking down under. In France,this grape is used to make the famous Rhône wines from the Rhône valley in Southern France. Among the notable names that you might recognize are Hermitage, Côtes du Rhône and Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe. This thick skinned grape is almost black in color and produces full rich wines of intense color and flavor. These flavor characteristics include black current, blackberry with spices notes of black pepper, licorice, clove, thyme and bay leaf. The warmer climates of Australia produce a sweeter more ripe tasting wine. The cooler climates of the Rhone valley yield a more spicy and peppery distinction to this wine.

 



·        Pinot Noir

This is one of the most difficult grapes to grow and make into fine wine as well as one of the oldest varietals to be made into wine.  It is also one of the very best when it is done properly. The area of Burgundy exhibits the necessary terrain to grow this grape. Its gentle easterly slope allows for long sun exposure without the damaging afternoon heat. The soil content is chalky with good drainage.  It has very specific requirements for its growing conditions.  It is also a major component in the production of most fine quality Champagne and California sparkling wines. The flavor characteristics of this grape are red currents, cranberries, strawberries, blackberries and chocolate. Also apparent are aromas of sassafras, rosemary and cinnamon. This wine will reach its peak age from 5 to 8 years past the vintage. It is rich, but not too heavy and high in alcohol. If done right, it is velvety, soft and easy to drink. Pinot Noir wine contains about 3 times the amount of resveratrol as other red wines. This has received recent cardiac health claims.

 





·        Sangiovese

The Sangiovese grape is primarily grown in Northern Italy, in the Tuscany region. It is the principle grape in Chianti (actually a blend of Sangiovese, Canaiolo and Trebbiano), Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di MontepulcianoSangiovese produces wines that are spicy, with good acid levels, smooth texture and medium body.  The grape thrives in a hot dry climate and with controlled yields, Sangiovese can be made into very structured and full bodied wines.  It is usually blended with other grapes for best results and in northern Italy is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon in the 'Super Tuscan' blends. The flavor characteristics include strawberry, blueberry, orange peel and plum. Also present are cinnamon, clove and thyme. 

 



·        Syrah/Shiraz

Here is a grape by 2 names – Shiraz in Australia and Syrah everywhere else. What are they thinking down under. In France,this grape is used to make the famous Rhône wines from the Rhône valley in Southern France. Among the notable names that you might recognize are Hermitage, Côtes du Rhône and Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe. This thick skinned grape is almost black in color and produces full rich wines of intense color and flavor. These flavor characteristics include black current, blackberry with spices notes of black pepper, licorice, clove, thyme and bay leaf. The warmer climates of Australia produce a sweeter more ripe tasting wine. The cooler climates of the Rhone valley yield a more spicy and peppery distinction to this wine.

 



·        Zinfandel

The grape appears as varietal in both its familiar red form or as White Zinfandel, which is actually pink in color. This grape is generic California. but its genetic twin Primitivo is found in Southern Italy. It is light and fruity, but can age to complex grandeur. Flavor characteristics are raspberry, blackberry, black cherry and cranberry. Also present are notes of cinnamon and black pepper as well as licorice, hence its decided spiciness. It can take on light or heavy oak fermenting at the discretion of the producer. It is best drunk 3 to 5 years after vintage. As described in the Wine Making Process, the red version is achieved by contact with the red skins of the grape during fermentation, while the white version (really pink for those who are not color blind) contacts limited grape skin. This wine is also among the highest in alcohol content ranging up to 17%, hence a favorite of the college crowd.