Major Red Grape Varieties and Their Wines

We begin with the Cabernet Sauvignon grape as it is the most famous. It prefers a not too cool climate and is grown in Washington State, Texas, Virginia, Long Isand, New York and internationally in Argentina, Australia, Chile, New Zealand, Hungary, Italy and South Africa with the best cabernet sauvignon grapes coming from Bordeaux, France. Excellent cabernet wines are now regularly being produced in California as well.

The resulting wine is medium to full bodied and quite high in tannin. The noteworthy aromas are of black currant, cassis, plum, blackberry, mint, eucalyptus and cedar. The best “Cab” can age for 15 years or longer bringing all the fruity aromas into balance. Because of its tannic nature Cabernet Sauvignon is often blended with Merlot to soften it. When planning to eat a rib eye steak or rich beef stew think of pairing these with Cabernet.

Our second classic red grape is Merlot, which is the number one grown grape in the Bordeaux region of France. It is similar in taste to Cabernet with flavors of blackberry, cassis, plums, and even chocolate and mocha. Merlot is, however, much less tannic than Cabernet making it more palatable for many wine drinkers. The merlot grape is also grown very successfully in Chile, Italy and in the United States in California, Washington State, Long Island, New York and Virginia. It is known for its deep, rich red color and is full bodied making it a great match for grilled meats and fish.

The major grape of the Burgundy region of France is Pinot Noir. All red wines in Burgundy are made from the pinot noir grape with the exception of Beaujolais, which is made from the gamay grape.Pinot Noiris the most difficult grape to make into wine because of its sensitivity to changes in climate and soil and it is prone to mutation in the vineyard. Lighter in color and less tannic than cabernet and merlot, pinot noir has flavors and aromas that are very fruity. A wine drinker can notice baked cherries, plums, cedar, chocolate, mushrooms and earthy aromas and flavors. In the United States the state of Oregon is fast becoming famous for their pinot noir grapes and wines. This grape also grows very well in California and New Zealand. In Champagne, France it is one of the three grapes grown to produce true Champagne. Pinot Noir pairs well with lamb, goat cheese, crème brulee and white chocolate.

France’s Northern Rhone Valley is home to the finest wines made from the Syrah grape. Hermitage and Cotie-Rotie, made exclusively with the syrah grape, inspired certain visitors to France to take the syrah grape home to Australia and South Africa (where the grape is called shiraz) and to California. A deeply colored red wine, Syrah is full bodied and rich with tannins. Aromas and flavors in the mouth are of blackberries, black pepper and spice. This wine complements roast game, and spicy meats like sausage and pepperoni.

Without grapes there would be no wine. Thank you to Mother Nature and the gifted winemakers around the world who have mastered the production of the greatest wines from the classic red grapes – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Syrah. Cheers!

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