A quick guide of different wine types, courtesy of Wine Answers.
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The somewhat leaner sister of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc is often grown in the same places and is usually blended with cabernet sauvignon and merlot. The one noteworthy exception to this is the Loire Valley of France where cabernet franc alone makes the well known wines Chinon and Bourgeuil. Cabernet franc often has a unique violet aroma and a slightly spicy flavor.
Often called the “king” of red grapes, cabernet sauvignon is, along with merlot, the famous grape of Bordeaux, and is also grown in other renowned wine regions throughout the world including California, Washington state, Italy, Australia, and Chile. Cabernet sauvignon possesses what can be an impressive structure along with deep, rich cassis flavors.
One of the most popular white grape varieties in America and throughout the New World, as well as the white grape of the Burgundy region of France. Very easy to enjoy thanks to its full, round body and buttery, appley flavors laced with toastiness (the latter comes from the oak barrels used in the making of most chardonnays).
The famous sparkling wine produced in the Champagne region of France, about 90 miles northeast of Paris. Champagne is generally a blend of three grapes–two red: pinot noir and pinot meunier, and one white: chardonnay. It is made by a labor-intensive method known as methode Champenoise in which the secondary bubble-causing fermentation takes place inside each individual bottle. Made in a variety of sweetness levels, Champagnes range from bone-dry to sweet. The most popular of these is Brut.
The classic red grape of the Beaujolais region of France, and also grown in California, gamay possesses a super fruity, grapey flavor not unlike melted black cherry Jello. The wine is often at its best served slightly chilled.
The most widely planted grape in Bordeaux, merlot, a red grape, is also grown in most of the same places as cabernet sauvignon. And in fact, the two are often blended. Because merlot in general has somewhat less tannin than cabernet sauvignon, it often feels softer on the palate. Its flavors often run to mocha and boysenberry.
One of the white grapes of the pinot family that includes pinot grigio (also white) and the red grapes pinot noir and pinot meunier. While some pinot blanc can be found interspersed with chardonnay in the vineyards of Burgundy, the grape is more renowned in Alsace. In North America, California boasts several top producers of pinot blanc, though the grape is not widely grown. Pinot blanc often has flavors similar to chardonnay, though the wine is generally lighter in body and somewhat more delicate.
PINOT GRIGIO (PINOT GRIS)
Like pinot blanc, one of the white grapes of the pinot family, and like riesling and gewürztraminer, pinot grigio loves cold climates. The most renowned pinot grigios come from the northernmost regions of Italy, especially those regions that border the Alps, as well as Alsace, where it is known as pinot gris or, confusingly, as “tokay.” In the U.S., Oregon is emerging as the top state for delicious lively pinot gris’ with light almond, lemon and vanilla flavors.
One of the most renowned red grapes in the world for its supple silky texture and mesmerizingly earthy flavors. Pinot noir, like riesling, requires a cold climate and in fact, its ancestral home is the cool Burgundy region of France. The grape, which is very difficult to grow and make into wine, is also grown in Oregon and California, but rarely elsewhere.
The famous fortified sweet wine from the Duoro Valley of Portugal. Port, a blended wine, is made with up to five red grape varieties: Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cão, Touriga Francesa, and the most highly regarded: Touriga Nacional. All Port can be divided into two main categories: wood-aged Ports and bottle-aged Ports. Predominantly wood-aged Ports are ready to drink right after they’re bottled and shipped. They should be consumed within a year and a half to two years after bottling. These Ports do not need to be decanted. Predominantly bottle-aged Ports, on the other hand, start out in barrels for a brief period of time but then mature and age for a longer, and sometimes very long, period inside a bottle. As a result these Ports usually throw a sediment. Vintage Port, for example, always needs to be decanted. Port-style wines are also made in California from a variety of grapes including zinfandel, petite sirah, and cabernet sauvignon.
The renowned white grape of Germany, Austria and the Alsace region of France, though it is also popular in Washington state, New York state, and certain parts of California and Australia. The grape loves to grow in cold climates and when it does, it can exhibit exquisite delicacy and elegance with light peachy/minerally flavors.
A pink wine which can be made from any number of red grape varieties. In southern France where rosés are extremely popular, rosés are often made from grenache. Rosés can be made in numerous ways, the most common of which is simply to draw the wine off the red grape skins before the skins have fully tinted the wine red. Rosé wines, like white wines, taste best served chilled.
The famous white grape of the Sancerre region of France as well as New Zealand. Sauvignon blanc also grows in Bordeaux (where it is usually blended with semillon), South Africa, and in California and Washington state. Its wonderfully wild, untamed flavors are often reminiscent of grass, herbs, green tea and limes, often overlaid with a smokiness. In California, sauvignon blanc can also take on green fig and white melon flavors.
The famous fortified wine from the Jerez region of southern Spain. Sherry is made by an extremely complex method of fractional blending called the solera system. The grape variety used is principally Palomino, though small amounts of Pedro Ximenez may also be included. Like Champagne and Port, Sherry is made in a variety of styles and at a variety of sweetness levels. From driest and lightest to sweetest and fullest, the styles of Sherry include manzanilla, fino, amontillado, palo cortado, oloroso, and cream Sherry. The unique flavor of all of these styles is due in part to the fact that the wine is partially intentionally oxidized (exposed to oxygen). Sherry-style wines are also made in California though they usually do not go through a solera system and most are sweet.
The classic red grape of the northern Rhone Valley of France and also grown throughout southern France, syrah is also the leading grape of Australia (where it is known as shiraz). In the late 1980s and 1990s, California vintners also became increasingly fascinated by the grape which is now grown in many parts of California. The wine often has an unmistakable whiff of white pepper along with wild gamey, boysenberry flavors.
The classic (though rare) white grape of the northern Rhone Valley of France where it makes the expensive wine known as Condrieu. In the early 1990s, more than thirty top California producers began making viognier to much acclaim. The wine has an opulent, lush body and dramatic honeysuckle, white melon and jasmine flavors.
The much loved red grape of California, Zinfandel is grown in few areas of the world. In fact, its history has been mysterious. Zinfandel has recently been established as being identical to the Italian grape Primitivo. Zinfandel has a mouth-filling, thick berryness that is sometimes described as being jammy or chewy. White zinfandel (not a separate grape variety) is made when zinfandel grapes are fermented without their dark purple skins.
WINES OF NAPA