Red Wine Classics:
These are the wines that you’ll be able to find almost everyone, usually the first types of wines that consumers are able to taste. Many of these grapes make not only the most affordable jug wines, but can also be grown in such a way that they create the $100+ bottles of wine that can be cellared for decades in order to reach their full potential.
Cabernet Sauvignon: The King of red wines, both in terms of plantings and critical acclaim. From $5 entry level wines from South America to $750+ collectibles from Cult Wineries in Napa to the even more ultra expensive First Growth Bordeaux’s, Cab offers something for everyone. Generalizations can be difficult based on the huge number of different styles which can be grown, but Cab is generally known for a rich structure of tannins which seem to hold the wine together from its first moment in your mouth until the finish which can last minutes after being drunk for great versions.
Merlot: The wine that most of us start drinking, usually in large jugs which mark a large area from which grapes are picked, such as the California label which graces most of Gallo’s wines. Of course, as the 3rd most planted varietal in the world, it can be much, much more. No longer simply a blending agent for Right Bank Bordeaux blends Merlot is now recognized as a wine which offers both a food friendly demeanor, full mouth feel and approachable flavors and alcohol levels which can satisfy everyone from the wine novice to the collector.
Pinot Noir: Long a favorite of wine connosiours the world over, this grape grows well in cool climate conditions and really didn’t enter the public consciousness until the movie Sideways hit theatres. Now more then a cult favorite, Pinot Noir is known among the average consumer as both food friendly and perhaps the most difficult grape to grow. Usually recognizable based on its cherry flavors and the way that the wine feels as if it literally falls apart in your mouth, this is an extremely interesting wine that is made in a large number of different styles from California to it’s ancesteral home in Burgundy France to New Zealand.
Syrah: Also referred to as Shiraz in the Southern Hemisphere, Syrah is originally native to the Rhone Valley of France, but has gained international acclaim in places such as France, California and certainly Australia where it is in many ways their national grape. Probably the most distinctive of any grape which we include as part of our Classics it has an incredibly spicy finish that pairs well with grilled meats and stews.
There are, of course a few grapes which can argue that they belong among the Classic tier. For us, Zinfandel is certainly a classic in California, but rarely elsewhere and can be hard to find outside the United States. Grenache is incredibly widely planted, but such a small percentage of the vines are afforded the type of care to produce world class wines that it’s hard to suggest it carte blanch without knowning more about the producer. When done well, either of these grapes can produce truly memorable world class wines.
Grenache: It says a lot about the quality of wines produced from Grenache over the years that as the most widely planted grape in the world can’t easily be included in the Classic tier. Luckily for wine drinkers the world over, things have changed dramatically for the grape in the past twenty years. From its original home in Spain to Australia and California Grenache when grown at low yields can give some of the most interesting and almost delicate red wines around. To us, at Uncorked Ventures this wine is all about mouth feel where it can be both full bodied, but not tannic and serves as an incredibly interesting replacement for Merlot.
Zinfandel: California’s only true native grape. Interestingly, it is not grown in many other parts of the world (save Italy where they call it Primitivo) despite the ease of growing in warm climates. This is certainly the darkest red wine grape, almost black in color and the wines when produced well are dark, rich and almost earthy in texture. It’s also probably the grape which benefits most from older vines, with the best zinfandels being produced from vines at least 75 years old.
Wines which, we think at least, the quality and price should lead to more critical acclaim and attention by wine drinkers.
Sangiovese: Italy’s main red wine grape. Sangiovese makes a range of wines and unfortunately many wine drinkers across the world have only been exposed to the incredibly cheap wicker basket versions of this grape. When produced in smaller yields this grape is capable of producing memorable and ageworthy wines. Lastly, it is interesting to note that this is the grape which carries the largest amount of genetic differences which gives quality winemakers an incredible amount of options.
Tempranillo: In many ways Spain’s national grape, it has a medium body similar to Pinot Noir in flavors, but offers a more earthy consistenty that is very popular. Definitely one of those grapes that if consumers were able to taste, they would enjoy and include as part of their normal wine purchases. Tempranillo can often make solid, affordable, drinkable every day wines.
The Next Wave
We’re always looking for the next big thing. Think Pinot Noir before Sideways, here are our best guesses.
Carmenere: Largely known for being grown in Chile, it’s flavor profile and texture sits somewhere between Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. One good reason this varietal will take off in the United States is its nose, or smell of the wine which is typically quite good compared to other red wines.
Malbec: Originally from Bordeaux, the grape is barely if ever grown there any more. It has however, found a home in Argentina. One of the most tannic and chewy wines available anywhere, good examples of the varietal are being imported in the $10 range.
Classic Blending Grapes
Cabernet Franc: Used mainly in Right Bank Bordeaux blends to impart its spice and violet aromas.
Petite Verdot: Offers perhaps the largest and thickest of all tannin structures to red wine blends. It has fallen out of favor in the old world, but winemakers, especialyl those in Napa and Sonoma are using the grape sparingly in red wine blends.
Mouvedre: The classic blending in Rhone Valley style Grenache-Syrah-Mouvedre blends. In those types of wines Mouvedre is included to offer more tannins and an almost gritty quality which helps to add interest to wines, especially those focused on Grenache.
When You’re Ready for an Adventure
- Alfrocheiro Preto
- Ancellotta: Lesser known blending grape from northern Italy.
- Aramon: Native to the French Languedoc, one the most planted grape in all of France as recently as WWII, now almost extinct.
- Aspiran Noir: French in nature, but nearly extinct due to frost.
- Aubun: High yields and Phylloxera resistant are good factors, but the taste is not.
- Baga: Relatively unknown grape from Portugal.
- Bastardo: Interesting name for a Portugese grape used in the Dao region for table wine, but most importantly as a blending grape in Port.
- Blauer Portugieser: Austrian red wine grape most closely associated with plantings in Germany, also a central part of viticulture research in Central Europe.
- Bovale: Blending grapes from Italy’s Sardinia region.
- Cabernet Severny: A Russian grape which many hope will help open up even cooler growing sites for wine production based on hybrid varieties.
- Canaiolo: Italian grape native to Tuscany, almost excinct. Now being planted again in abundance.
- Cinsaut: Crossed with Pinot Noir to craft Pinotage.
- Domina: Another Pinot Noir child, this German lab made grape is only now increasing in plantings after being released in 1974.
- Gros Verdot: Terrible name from this French grape. Tart wines, included in an increasingly smaller number of Meritage blends.
- Heroldrebe: Soon to be extinct German late ripening, lightly colored red wine grape.
- Juan Garcia: Spanish blending grape
- Liatiko: Grown on Crete, high alcohol and sweet. What’s not to like if you’re a college student?
- Limnio: A Greek grape dating to at least the time of Aristotle, known for mineral aromas which are incredibly rare.
- Negrette: Native to Cyprus, grown well in France since the 12th century.
- Nero d’Avola
- Petite Sirah
- Pignolo: Lesser known Italian grape, well named in Italian as “fussy”.
- Pineau d’Aunis: French red wine grape typically blended to make Rose in the Loire Valley.
- Pinot St George: Also referred to as Negrette.
- Plavac Mali: Croatian grape with Zinfandel as one parent. The smallest and bluest berries you’ll find anywhere.
- Portan: Lesser known French grape from the Languedoc. An early ripening off spring of Grenache.
- Prokupac: Serbian Rose does exist!
- Rotberger: A German red wine grape at least partially descendent from Riesling.
- Souzao: Portugese grape which is a main componet of Port.
- Tarrango: Created at an Australian research lab, it is a slow ripening, high acidity red wine grown in very warm climates.
- More Information Coming Soon…..