Red Varietals

 

Learn about red varietals and blends

Amarone

Amarone is created in the Veneto region of Italy. Amarones are typically very big, rich wines with flavours of raisin, liquorice, tobacco and fig and go well with rich dishes like game and ripe cheese. Amarone can be drunk young, while still a ruby purple, but they also age magnificently to a dark garnet for thirty years or more. A typical drinking age is 10 years.

Amarone wines are made with the Corvina Veronese, Rondinella and Molinara grapes. The grapes have been dried on racks, bringing out their intense flavours. 


Barbera

Barbera d'Asti is one of the most renowned of the Barbera based wines, found in two main variants: Barbera d'Asti Superiore which must be aged in big oak barrels or small French oak barrels for at least six months, and plain Barbera d'Asti which is not required to be aged in oak. The wine has a strong aging potential; the "Superiore" kind can often be aged from three to eight years.


Barolo

Barolo wines are made from the Nebbiolo grape, a red grape originally found in Piedmont Italy, but is now also grown in many other regions of the world. This grape is used to make both Barbaresco and Barolo wines.

Barolo wines are typically rich and complex. Barbaresco wines are lighter, more elegant.


Brunello

Brunello di Montalcino is made 100% from the Sangiovese grape. Traditionally, the wine goes through an extended maceration period where color and flavour are extracted from the skins. Following fermentation the wine is then aged in oak. Traditionally, the wines are aged 3 years or more "in bottle" - large Slovenian oak casks that impart little oak flavour and generally produce more austere wines. Some winemakers will use small French barrells which impart a more pronounced vanilla oak flavour and add a certain fruitiness to the wine.


Carmenère

The Carmenère grape is a wine grape variety originally planted in the Médoc region of Bordeaux, France, where it was used to produce deep red wines and occasionally used for blending purposes in the same manner as Petit Verdot. Now rarely found in France, the world's largest area planted with this variety is in Chile in South America.

Carmenère wine has a deep red color and aromas found in red fruits, spices and berries. The tannins are gentler and softer than those in Cabernet Sauvignon and it is a medium bodied wine. Although mostly used as a blending grape, wineries do bottle a pure varietal Carmenère which, when produced from grapes at optimal ripeness, imparts a cherry-like, fruity flavour with smokey, spicy and earthy notes and a deep crimson color. Its taste might also be reminiscent of dark chocolate, tobacco, and leather. The wine is best drunk young.


Cabernet Sauvignon 

Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the world's most widely recognized red wine grape varieties. It is grown in nearly every major wine producing country among a diverse spectrum of climates from Canada's Okanagan Valley to Lebanon's Beqaa Valley. Cabernet Sauvignon became internationally recognized through its prominence in Bordeaux wines where it is often blended with Merlot and Cabernet franc.

One of the most noted traits of Cabernet Sauvignon is its affinity for oak, either during fermentation or in barrel aging. In addition to having a softening effect on the grape's naturally high tannins, the unique wood flavours of vanilla and spice complement the natural grape flavours of black currant and tobacco. The aroma of black currants is one of the most distinctive and characteristic element of Cabernet Sauvignon that is present in virtually every style of the wine across the globe. Styles from various regions and producers may also have aromas of eucalyptus, mint and tobacco. In general New World examples have more pronounced fruity notes while Old World wines can be more austere with heightened earthy notes.


Cabernet / Merlot

This is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. A Cabernet/Merlot is a medium bodied red wine. Merlot-based wines usually have medium body with hints of berry, plum, and currant. Its softness and "fleshiness", combined with its earlier ripening, makes Merlot a popular grape for blending with the sterner, later-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon, which tends to be higher in tannin.   


Cabernet / Shiraz

This is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz that results in a full bodied, hefty wine. The sweetness of Shiraz often balances well and softens the sometimes strong tannins of Cabernet Sauvignon.


Châteauneuf-de- Pape (a.k.a Vieux Château du Roi)

Extremely concentrated. Made from a variety of grapes, but usually includes Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah. Look for a very deep-colored, almost black wine with flavors of licorice, roasted meat, black cherry and blackberry fruit. Also a truffle-like, earthy note, pepper, spice and slight perfumed quality  


Chianti

Chianti is made primarily from the Sangiovese and Canaiolo grapes. Chianti is a famous red wine of Italy, which takes its name from a traditional region of Tuscany where it is produced. It used to be easily identified by its squat bottle enclosed in a straw basket, called fiasco; however, the fiasco is only used by a few makers of the wine now; most Chianti is bottled in traditionally shaped wine bottles. Low-end Chianti is fairly inexpensive. There are many higher end, sophisticated Chiantis being made recently, however, and these are sold at substantially higher prices.


Grenache

Grenache (pronounced GREN-ASH) ripens late, so needs hot, dry conditions such as those found in Spain and in the south of France. It is generally spicy, berry-flavoured and soft on the palate with a relatively high alcohol content, but it needs careful control of yields for best results. It tends to lack acid, tannin and colour, and is usually blended with other varieties such as Syrah, Carignan and Cinsaut.

Grenache is the dominant variety in most Southern Rhône wines, especially in Châteauneuf-du-Pape where it is typically over 80% of the blend. In France and Australia it is typically blended in "GSM" blends with Syrah and Mourvèdre.
Grenache is also used to make rosé wines in France and Spain, notably those of the Tavel district in the Côtes du Rhône. And the high sugar levels of Grenache have led to extensive use in fortified wines, including the red vins doux naturels of Roussillon such as Banyuls, and as the basis of most Australian 'port'.


Malbec

Malbec is a red grape varietal. The grapes tend to have an inky dark colour and robust tannins. Long known as one of the six grapes allowed in the blend of red Bordeaux wine, the French plantations of Malbec are now found primarily in Cahors in the South West France region. It is increasingly celebrated as an Argentine varietal wine and is being grown around the world.


Merlot

Merlot is a red wine grape that is used as both a blending grape and for varietal wines. Merlot-based wines usually have medium body with hints of berry, plum, and currant. Its softness and "fleshiness", combined with its earlier ripening, makes Merlot a popular grape for blending with the sterner, later-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon, which tends to be higher in tannin. Along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, Merlot is one of the primary grapes in Bordeaux wine where it is the most widely planted grape. Merlot is also one of the most popular red wine varietals in many markets.


Montepulciano

Montepulciano is the name of a red grape that is grown in Tuscany and most widely known for its use in Abruzzi. Montepulciano has lower acidity than some other reds (especially for an Italian varietal) and mild tannins. The resulting wines tend to be somewhat softer than Chianti or Nebbiolo, for example. The young wines are pleasurable reds that go as well with food. Almost all of the Montepulciano wines at the low end of the price spectrum are enjoyable, easy drinking wines. At the same time, some Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wines can age brilliantly, especially in the hands of the right producer.


Mourvedre

Mourvedre, is a variety of red wine grape grown around the world. In Portugal and the New World it is known as Mataró. In Spain, it is known as Monastrell.
It produces tannic wines that can be high in alcohol, and is most successful in Rhone-style blends. It has a particular affinity for Grenache, softening it and giving it structure. Its taste varies greatly according to area, but often has a wild, gamey or earthy flavour, with soft red fruit flavours.


Nebbiolo

Nebbiolo is a red grape originally found in Piedmont Italy, but is now also grown in many other regions of the world. This grape is used to make both Barbaresco and Barolo wines.
Barolo wines are typically rich and complex. Barbaresco wines are lighter, more elegant.


Nero d'Avola

Nero d'Avola ("Black from Avola" in Italian) is "the most important red wine grape in Sicily" and is one of Italy's most important indigenous varieties. It is named after Avola, near Syracusa in the southeast of Sicily and its wines are often compared to New World Shiraz, with sweet soft tannins and plum/ prune fruit and sometimes peppery flavours. 


Petit Verdot

Petit verdot is a variety of red wine grape, principally used in classic Bordeaux blends. It ripens much later than the other varieties in Bordeaux, often too late, so it fell out of favour in its home region. When it does ripen, it is added in small amounts to add tannin, colour and flavour to the blend. It has attracted attention among winemakers in the New World, where it ripens more reliably and has been made into single varietal wine. It is also useful in 'stiffening' the mid palate of Cabernet Sauvignon blends.


Pinot Noir

In the broadest terms, Pinot Noir tends to be of light to medium body with an aroma reminiscent of black cherry, raspberry or currant. Traditional red Burgundy is famous for its fleshy, 'farmyard' aromas, but changing fashions and new easier-to-grow clones have favoured a lighter, fruitier style. However, an emerging style from California and New Zealand highlights a more powerful, fruit forward and darker wine that can approach syrah in depth. Pinot noir is also often used in the production of Champagne. 


Pinotage

Pinotage is a red wine grape that is South Africa's signature variety. It was bred there in 1925 as a cross between Pinot noir and Cinsaut. It typically produces deep red varietal wines with smoky, bramble and earthy flavours, sometimes with notes of bananas and tropical fruit, but has been criticized for sometimes smelling of acetone. Pinotage is often blended, and also made into fortified wine and even red sparkling wine.


Rioja

Rioja is a wine from a region named after the Rio Oja in Spain. Rioja wines are normally a blend of various grape varieties, and can be either red, white or rose. Among the reds, the best-known and most widely-used variety is Tempranillo. Red Rioja's often display characteristics of oak and vanilla. A typical blend will consist of approximately 60% Tempranillo and up to 20% Garnacha, with much smaller proportions of Mazuelo and Graciano. Each grape adds a unique component to the wine.


Sangiovese

Sangiovese is a red wine grape variety originating in Italy whose name derives from sanguis Jovis, "the blood of Jove". It is most famous as the main component of the Chianti blend in Tuscany, but winemakers outside Italy are starting to experiment with it. Young sangiovese has fresh fruity flavours of strawberry and a little spiciness, but it readily takes on oaky, even tarry, flavours when aged in barrels.


Shiraz

Shiraz and Syrah are one and the same grape. The name Shiraz became popular for this grape variety in Australia, where it has long been established as one of the most widely grown varieties. Syrah is grown in many countries and is primarily used to produce powerful red wines, which enjoy great popularity in the marketplace, relatively often under the synonym Shiraz. Syrah is used both for varietal wines and in blended wines, where it can be both the major and minor component. It is called Syrah in its country of origin, France, as well as in the rest of Europe, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and most of the United States. The name Shiraz for this grape variety is also commonly used in South Africa and Canada.


Syrah 

Shiraz and Syrah are one and the same grape. The name Shiraz became popular for this grape variety in Australia, where it has long been established as one of the most widely grown varieties. Syrah is grown in many countries and is primarily used to produce powerful red wines, which enjoy great popularity in the marketplace, relatively often under the synonym Shiraz. Syrah is used both for varietal wines and in blended wines, where it can be both the major and minor component. It is called Syrah in its country of origin, France, as well as in the rest of Europe, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and most of the United States. The name Shiraz for this grape variety is also commonly used in South Africa and Canada.


Tempranillo

Tempranillo is a variety of black grape widely grown to make full-bodied red wines in its native Spain. It is the main grape used in Rioja, and is often referred to as Spain's "noble grape". Its name is the diminutive of the Spanish temprano ("early"), a reference to the fact that it ripens several weeks earlier than most Spanish red grapes. In the last 100 years it has been planted in South America, USA, South Africa and Australia.

Tempranillo wines can be consumed young, but the most expensive ones are aged for several years in oak barrels. The wines are ruby red in colour, with aromas and flavors of berries, plum, tobacco, vanilla, leather and herb.  


Valpolicella

Valpolicella is a viticultural zone of the province of Verona, Italy, east of Lake Garda. The hilly agricultural and marble-quarrying region of small holdings north of the Adige is famous for wine production. Valpolicella ranks just after Chianti in total Italian DOC wine production. The wine known as Valpolicella is typically made from three grape varietals: Corvina Veronese, Rondinella, and Molinara. Most Valpolicellas are quite light and fragrant table wines. 


Zinfandel

Zinfandel is a variety of red grape planted in over 10 percent of California wine vineyards. The grapes typically produce a robust red wine, although a semi-sweet rose (blush-style) wine called White Zinfandel has six times the sales of the red wine in the United States. The grape's high sugar content can be fermented into levels of alcohol exceeding 15 per cent.
The taste of the red wine depends on the ripeness of the grapes from which it is made. Red berry fruits like raspberry predominate in wines from cooler areas, whereas blackberry, anise and pepper notes are more common in wines made in warmer areas and in wines made from the earlier-ripening Primitivo clone. 

 

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