Red Wine Grapes
There follows some of the more important grapes used internationally for the production of red wines.
Cabernet Sauvignon has thick skins and makes full bodied wines with high acidity and tannins. Flavours include blackcurrent with notes of green capsicum and cedar in cooler climates and black cherry in warmer climates. It is the dominant grape in most Left Bank Bordeaux wines. Other regions with good wines made with Cabernet Sauvignon include Coonawarra in Australia, Hawkes Bay in New Zealand, Colchagua in Chile and Napa Valley in the USA.
Merlot is one of the key grapes in Bordeaux blends and is the dominant grape in Right Bank wines (for example Saint Emilion and Pomerol). When blended in Bordeaux it softens the acidity and tannins of Cabernet Sauvignon while adding red fruit flavours. Many places around the world produce good single variety Merlot wines - examples include Napa Valley and Lodi AVA in California.
Cabernet Franc is also a minor component of most Bordeaux blends, notably in Saint Emilion. Cabernet Franc is popular in the Loire Valley (wines including AC Anjou, AC Bourgueil, AC Cabernet d'Anjou, AC Saumar, AC Chinon, AC Saumar-Champigny all have Cabernet Franc as the only or dominant grape). Cabernet Franc can have herbaceous aromas.
Syrah is the grape of the Northern Rhone. Wines such as AC Cote Rotie, AC Hermitage, AC Crozes-Hermitage and AC Saint-Joseph are all Syrah wines. Outside of Europe, this grape tends to be called Shiraz and some very good quality and very expensive wines made using Shiraz can be found in regions such as Barossa Valley (e.g. Penfold's Grange) and McLaren Vale in Australia and Washington State in the USA. Cold climate Syrah has high tannins and blackberry fruit with spice (black pepper). Hot climate Shiraz is more full bodied with softer tannins and earthy, leathery flavours as well as spice (liquorice).
Grenache is a key component of many Southern Rh?ne wines (including Chateauneuf-du-Pape) as well as wines from Provence and the Languedoc . As Garnacha it is the most widely planted Spanish grape, prominent in wines from Rioja and Navarra. It is present in many of the world's best rosé wines (including those of the southern Rh?ne and Southern France). Grapes are thin skinned and produce wines that are high in alcohol with soft tannins and full bodies. Wines tend to be light in colour with red fruit flavours which develop into leather, tar and toffee as the wine matures.
Pinot Noir is a notoriously difficult grape. It mutates very easily and its thin skins encourage rot and mean hand picking is almost mandatory. Burgundy is the classic home of Pinot Noir, while in recent years New Zealand (Martinborough, Marlborough, Central Otago) and Oregon (Willamette Valley) have developed Pinot Noirs with a good sense of place. California tends to be too hot for Pinot Noirs but there are some regions where coastal influences or altitude allow good Pinot Noirs to be developed. An example is Mount Harlan AVA whose wines are said to be the closest to those of Burgundy. Pinot Noir when young has flavours of red cherries, strawberries or raspberries but as it matures these flavours can turn into vegetal or animal flavours.
Sangiovesse is famous for being the Chianti grape and other very good wines including Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Wines are high in acidity with sour red cherry fruits and earthy, dusty aromas (tea leaves).
Tempranillo is consdered to be Spain's top quality red wine grape and is a major component of the best wines from Rioja and Ribera del Duero - for example Ull de Llebre, Cencibel and Tinto del Paí. Tempranillo has light tannins and is light in colour and so is often blended with other varities. Its nose can have soft leather notes with flavours of ripe strawberries.
Gamay is the Beaujolais grape, where it is often fermented using carbonic maceration (particularly for Beaujolais Nouveau), where the whole grape complete with stems is fermented under a layer of carbon dioxide. This extracts colour and fruit flavours with very little tannin with kirsch, banana and cinnamon like spice.
Native to Piemonte. Famous wines include Barolo and Barbaresco. When fully mature these wines are very complex, with aromas ranging from floral through strawberry to mushroom, leaves, tar and leather.
Native to Piemonte. Two famous wines made with Barbera are Barbera d'Asti DOC and Barbera d'Alba DOC. High acidity and low tannins. Can be made either as a wine to be drunk young (with sour cherry) or an oaked wine for ageing.
Native to Piemonte. Famous wines include Dogliani DOCG and Dolcetto d'Alba DOC. Softer and more fruity than Nebbiolo and Barbera.
Zinfandel is very popular in California both as a red and also a Rosé wine ("Blush" or "White" Zinfandel). Zinfandel is the Italian grape Primitovo (common in Puglia).