Return Home
Subscribe to the RSS Feed Popular Pages:

Glossary

Diabetes and Wine

Everything you need
to know about wine


White Wine Grapes

Red Wine Grapes

How Wine Ages

Investing in Wine

France

Italy

Guest Book





Games to Play

Videos to Watch







Subscribe to
the Newsletter

We never sell or
distribute our email list




Wine Books by
Stephen Reiss
 

Characteristics of Red Wine Grapes

General

Jump to Specific Grape Varieties

Color: From red to purple. The more blue or purple, the younger. CM wines are very purple. Orange or bricky denotes age.

Fruit: From red fruits to dark bramble fruit. Raspberry and cotton candy in CM wines. Older wines tend to be lacking fruit.

Tannins: When they are young they are the rough almost tactile sensation in the mouth. The harsh ones are from the seed and stems. The softer tannins are from oak. Harsh tannins can be softened with careful winemaking during the maceration period (skin contact).

Leather flavors in aged red wine is are to be expected. TANnin is used to TAN leather, so the smell is from the tannins. Leather tends to be more pronounced once the fruit has faded.

Tobacco - along with cedar and leather a product of well aged tannins.

Astringency: Different than tannins, this is the drying out of the mouth. It is due to the acidity in general.

Off Flavors and Smells:

Wet cardboard - Corked wine.

Wet horse blanket - Brett, a common bacterial spoilage, in smaller concentrations it is more like dirt than merde.

Slight sparkle - if it is slight it is dissolved CO2, if it is accompanied by a wet forest floor smell, than it is Malo-Lactic fermentation in the bottle.

Wine Making Flavors:

Malo-Lactic Fermentation - The process of changing the sharp malic acid (in apples) into the softer lactic acid (in milk). The process also leaves the by product DIACETYL, the taste of butter.

Carbonic Maceration (CM) - This is a quick way of making wine that results in fruity wines with no tannin and only slight varietal character. Strawberries, bananas and raspberries, as well as a cotton candy sweetness in the nose, are typical.

Oak - If it is complex with cloves and woody spices, it is French oak. If it is forward with vanilla, it is American oak. If it is musty it is from old barrels.

Oxidation - Caramel and a dark, plum smell (Port). Light orange hues in the wine are another hint.

Blending - While not always obvious, a wine that tastes complex may have been blended with several grape varieties.

Climatic Characteristics:

Hot weather - A deep rich flavor lacking in acidity or bright fruit. The hotter the region the more flabby (less acidic) the wines tend to be. Because of the overripe fruit, and the propensity to oxidize hot fruit, the color tends towards brown shades of red.

Cool weather - Long cool growing condition pronounce the fruit and the acidity. Tannins and color are low.

Temperate weather - If it is not too hot nor too cool, the ideal grape variety are those with long growing seasons, but thick skins to protect the fruit. Tannin and color are products of the grape skin.

 

Specific Varieties

 

CLASSIC VARIETIES

 

Grape Variety

Cabernet Sauvignon

Use in Old World

Bordeaux, primary in Haut-Medoc

Use in New World

Pervasive

Color

Dark red with blue hints when young.

Aroma

Bramble fruit, cassis. Often mint or even green pepper.

Body

Heavy

Wine Making Flavors

Heavy use of oak, but incorporates well into the wine.

Blended with:

Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Syrah (Australia).

Other

Increasingly being planted in Italy where it only recently has an official status

Grape Variety

Merlot

Use in Old World

Bordeaux, primary in St.-Emilion and Pomerol

Use in New World

US and South America

Color

Tends towards medium dark and very blue.

Aroma

Red bramble fruit, chocolate, straw

Body

Moderate

Wine Making Flavors

Diacetyl and vanillic acid from American oak come through well and are often prevalent. Brett is common in the Old World, but it is the light dirt variety.

Blended with:

Usually with Cabernet Sauvignon.

Other

Increasingly being sold as a varietal wine even in the Old world.

Grape Variety

Pinot Noir

Use in Old World

Burgundy. Also Germany and Switzerland.

Use in New World

US, Australia

Color

Light red, sometimes with a slight hint of blue.

Aroma

Dark cherries and linden (to some a 'Band-aid' smell).

Body

Light to medium.

Wine Making Flavors

Brett (horse blanket), sometimes strongly, especially in Burgundy.

Blended with:

Rarely blended, except with Chardonnay in Champagne.

Other

The hardest of all wines to make, and often the most rewarding when it is successful.

Grape Variety

Syrah

Use in Old World

Rhone, France

Use in New World

Australia (called Shiraz), US esp. CA

Color

Deep red with a good deal of blue.

Aroma

Violets and sometimes black pepper. Very Berry.

Body

Medium to heavy.

Wine Making Flavors

Minimal flavors intrude, even when much is done to the wine.

Blended with:

Grenache and in Chateauneuf du Pape, 11 other grapes. The white grape Viognier is used very well in the Cote-Rotie (Rhone). In Australia it is a very important grape and is often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon.

Other

The Syrah of Australia is an older clone than in the Rhone. The clone was taken before phylloxera.

 

MAJOR VARIETIES

Grape Variety

Cabernet Franc

Use in Old World

Chinon in the Loire, as a blending grape in Bordeaux

Use in New World

US

Color

Light to medium, bright red

Aroma

Raspberry

Body

Light to medium

Wine Making Flavors

Often made in whole or partial CM style.

Blended with:

Alone or as part of a Cabernet Sauvignon blend.

Other

Just starting to catch on in the US.

Grape Variety

Grenache

Use in Old World

Rhone and Southern France. Rioja, Spain.

Use in New World

Some US

Color

Light red to orange.

Aroma

Spicy black pepper. Light red fruits

Body

Light to heavy

Wine Making Flavors

CM style in Southern France and Cote du Rhone. Much blended in the rest of the Rhone. Often oxidized with a strong vanilla aroma (from American Oak) in the wines of the Rioja.

Blended with:

Extensively with Syrah in the Rhone and a zillion other grapes in the south of France. In Rioja it is blended with Tempranillo.

Other

Also used to make the excellent roses of Tavel and Lirac.

Grape Variety

Nebbiolo

Use in Old World

Piedmont, Italy.

Use in New World

Small amounts in US.

Color

Solid red.

Aroma

Light fruit, sometimes bitter

Body

Medium to heavy

Wine Making Flavors

Often old musty oak and oxidation in these wines

Blended with:

None

Other

The grape of Barolo and Barberesco. A difficult grape that is often overlooked.

Grape Variety

Sangiovese

Use in Old World

Tuscany, Italy

Use in New World

Rare, but increasing in CA.

Color

From very light to very dark.

Aroma

Dark red fruits.

Body

From very light to very heavy.

Wine Making Flavors

Often heavily oaked and slightly oxidized.

Blended with:

In Chianti it is blended with red and white wines. In the 'Super-Tuscans' it is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon.

Other

There are huge differences in the various clones of this grape. There is the Grosso clone which is the more common, and the Piccolo clone which is smaller in size and plantings. The Brunello grape is a Sangiovese Grosso clone and yet still shows as the finest example of Sangiovese.

Grape Variety

Zinfandel

Use in Old World

Now known to be the Crljenak Kastelanski, of Croatia. All but extinct.

Use in New World

The only vinifera grape almost completely exclusive to the US.

Color

Deep purple, often inky.

Aroma

Blackberries and dark fruit.

Body

Light to very heavy.

Wine Making Flavors

Sometimes made in a CM style. Increasingly it is made in a partial CM style (blended with traditionally made wine) which preserves its character while adding complexity.

Blended with:

Any number of things, but Petite Syrah and Grenache are the most successful.

Other

Often made into a rose wine this exceptional grape has earned an undeserved reputation based on these insipid pink wines.

  Sponsored Links:

  

Buyers & Cellars(tm) and B&C Unravelling the Wine Knot are registered trademarks of
Buyers & Cellars Wine Consultants, Aspen, Colorado.
All Worldwide Rights Reserved.
All information in this site is copyrighted
Buyers & Cellars 1995 - 2009

Please do not use in any form without permission