Wine is produced all over the world from single varietal grape selections to popular varietal blends to please almost every palate, from the novice to the seasoned wine taster. Red wine happens to be the most popular choice the world over.
Barolo and Barbaresco
Derived from the Nebbiolo grape, Barolo wines are typically deep red with a thick and complex flavor that is sometimes flowery, reminiscent of violets and roses. Other flavors are fruit, licorice or oak. Barolo should be enjoyed at 60F and can age for 5-10 years. Barbaresco is a red wine that is more elegant and aromatic, though still powerful. In a way, Barbaresco is the younger brother of Barolo. Both of these red wines are made in the Piedmont region of Italy and pair well with grilled meats.
A very young, light, fruity wine meant to be served chilled, around 55F, with dominant flavors of strawberry and raspberry along with a grapey appeal that is virtually free of tannins. It is grown from the Gamay grape in the Beaujolais region (part of Burgundy) of France. Beaujolais Nouveau is released annually on the third Thursday of November. In food pairing, it goes well with grilled or roasted meats both light and dark, a variety of pastas, salads and cheeses.
Originally from the Bourdeaux and Loire Valley region, Cabernet Franc enjoys the growing climates of California, Washington State, Australia, Chile, Canada, and South Africa. It is a wonderfully fruity wine, having lower tannin levels and a more distinct flavor reminiscent of berry; mainly blueberry, raspberry and at times plum. Cabernet Franc is more subdued and softer than its cousin Cabernet Sauvignon and is sold as a single varietal. However, it is ideal for blending with its cousin Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Cabernet Franc is best served at 59-64F and pairs well with Mediterranean Greek and Middle Eastern dishes as well as poultry and pasta.
Originally from Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon has a tremendous presence in the California wineries where the grape favors the warmer climate, and enjoys the popularity as the most sought after red wine. Cabernets are medium-bodied to full-bodied and characterized by a high tannin content which provides structure and intrigue to the wine and supporting flavors reminiscent of a rich, ripe berry, tobacco and sometimes green pepper. Cabernet Sauvignon is an ideal wine for aging, with 5-10 years being optimal for peak maturation. The longer maturation process allows the wine’s flavors to mellow, and makes the Cabernets ideal for blending with other grapes, primarily Merlot to add appealing fruit tones, without sacrificing character. Cabernet Sauvignon is best served at 59-64F, and pairs wonderfully with red meats, lamb, cheeses of strong flavor and dark chocolates.
Cotes du Rhone
Southeastern France’s Rhone Valley produces some of that country’s best bargain red wines offering good flavor, generally full-bodied with rich but smooth tanins, with plenty of food pairing options. Grenache, Syrah and Viognier are the primary varietals grown in the region. Red and rosé wines are made from Grenache Noir, Syrah, Cinsault, Carignane, Counoise and Mourvèdre grape varieties. With the exception of Northern wines using a majority of Syrah, product must contain a minimum of 40% Grenache to be blended into the Côtes du Rhône. Best served at 59-64F and pairs well with game and other rich meat dishes.
Originating from Bordeaux France, Malbec is generally a grape used for blending. In the sun-drenched climate of Argentina, Malbec has found renewed appreciation and acclaim and has become Argentina’s signature grape producing a medium to full-bodied red wine. Malbec wine is reminiscent of ripe fruit flavors of plums and blackberry jam. The tannins are typically a bit tight with an earthy, wood appeal making for a fairly rustic wine that is quickly making a new name for itself with red wine lovers. Malbec is best served at 59-64F and pairs well with tomato-based sauces, Italian fare, red meat, Mexican, Cajun, and Indian dishes.
A soft, medium-bodied red wine with juicy fruit flavors reminiscent of plums, cherries, blueberries and blackberries mixed with black pepper tones. Tannin levels are fairly low. Merlot is a prime wine for consumers just getting into red wines. Merlot originated from the Bordeaux region of France and is often blended with other varietals, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Blending Merlot with these wines mellows and softens the Cabernets. Merlot wines are very versatile with food pairings and are best served at 55- 60F degrees and enjoyed with poultry, red meat, pork, pastas, and salads.
Pinot Noir is a lighter flavored and colored red wine with flavors reminiscent of plums, tomatoes, cherries and red berries and, depending on the varietal’s growing conditions, an earthy or wood flavor. Pinot Noir is planted in California, Oregon, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Australia, and other regions around the world. You are likely to pay a little more for Pinot Noir because it is produced in smaller quantities than most of the other popular red wine types. Pinot Noir is a versatile food wine best served at 55-60F, pairing well with spicy seasonings, creamy sauces, beef, ham, lamb, pork, poultry and fish.
Italy’s most commonly planted red grape varietal predominantly producing the popular wines Chianti and Chianti Classico, wines of medium- to full-body with a tannin structure range from medium-soft to firm, and a medium to high acidity content. Flavors associated with Sangiovese wines are reminiscent of cherry, plum, strawberry, cinnamon and vanilla with a finish that can range from elegant to bitter. Best served at 59-64F, Sangiovese varietal wine pairs well with chicken, red meat, fish, lamb, pork, pastas, stews or well-aged cheeses
Australia and South Africa call it Shiraz. In France, it is known and grown as Syrah, but it happens to be the same grape varietal that produces a deep-purple color and bold, spicy, red, medium- to full-bodied wines with firm tannins with rich flavors reminiscent of black cherry, blackberry, plum, bell pepper, black pepper, clove, licorice, dark chocolate and smoked meat. Best served at 59-64F, Shiraz/Syrah pairs wonderfully with spicy Mexican, Cajun and barbeque dishes, grilled fare, beef stews, red meats, even pizza and meat lasagna.
California’s #2 most widely planted red wine grape. Originating in Croatia, not southern Italy as previously thought, where it is a kin to the Primitivo grape . DNA “fingerprinting” recently proved that both Zinfandel and Primitivo are clones of the same grape. California is the largest grower of Zinfandel and produces various styles, ranging from a blackberry and black pepper, to light and juicy-fruity, to rich, elegant, oaked red with medium to high tannin levels and higher alcohol content. “Zin” is frequently blended with other grapes. Best served at 59F, Zinfandel pairs well with grilled red or white meat, fish, lamb, gorgonzola cheese and dark chocolate. Lighter Zinfandels can also pair well with rich, creamy pastas, rotisserie chicken, duck, baked Italian dishes like lasagna, cannelloni and Cajun to Asian fare.