Merlot is an important wine both as a single varietal and as a blending agent. When combined with Cabernet Sauvignon, it adds softness. The Merlot grape enchants us with flavors of raspberry, plum, cherry and blackberry. Depending on its origin, its flavor can range from velvety to a stronger Cabernet-like spicy flavor.
Recommended pairing: Mild or strong cheese, poultry, heavy pasta dishes, beef, lamb and deli meats
The Cabernet Sauvignon grape is responsible for some of the world’s finest wines. Grown worldwide in a variety of climates it produces wine of great character and diversity. No wonder many refer to it as the king of red grapes.
Cabernet Sauvignon’s flavors range from black currant, cherry, plum, jammy, bell pepper, chocolate, mint, cigar box, chocolate and spice. Most Cabernets need a few years of aging to gain their fine wine quality of layered fruit and firm structure. Tannins—a natural part of grape skins, seeds, and stems—make Cabernet a firm-bodied, substantial wine. Because red wines soak with their skins, they gain color and increased tannins during fermentation. Cabernet pairs well with rich roasted meats such as prime rib with a reduction sauce or with smoky, grilled vegetables.
Recommended pairing: Mild or strong cheese, poultry, heavy pasta dishes, beef, lamb, deli meats, fruit and chocolate desserts
Pinot Noir is a finicky grape filled with contrasts – delicate yet powerful, subtle yet mesmerizing - it only grows in the right climate, with the right soils and the right care. Its contradictory personality is what makes it so loved.
Pinot Noir's home and the classic wines from the grape hail from Burgundy. Outside of Burgundy, Pinot is successfully cultivated in areas like Oregon, California and New Zealand. U.S. Some wines reach a high level of complexity, structure and age. They are wonderfully paired with a myriad of foods.
Recommended pairing: Mild or strong cheese, fish, seafood in light or heavy sauces, poultry, light pasta dishes, Asian or spicy foods, beef, pork, veal, lamb, ham and deli meats
Syrah and Shiraz – same grape different name - is grown in multiple regions of the world creating many different styles of wine. Originally from the Northern Rhone, the Syrah grape is one of Australia’s leading varieties – there it is called Shiraz. Washington State, California, South Africa and South America also make wines from Syrah that have both substance and style.
Typical aromas and flavors from most Syrah-based wines include pepper, blackberry and leather or smoke. Australian Shiraz and Central or Southern California Syrah tend to be more dense in fruit flavors, some even jammy - warmer climates lead to riper fruit flavors. Northern Rhone style typically shows more pepper and leather notes, with less upfront fruit. Washington State, South Africa and South America differ in style but usually show the range of Syrah flavors.
Recommended pairing: Strong cheese, heavy pasta dishes, beef, lamb and deli meats
While Zinfandel is known as the “American Grape”, its origins can be traced back to Croatia. Zinfandels American roots run deep, however and it is a grape that is very much at home in the warm and sunny vineyards of California. Zinfandel stands out with its very berry intensity, packed with jammy flavors of blueberries and blackberries. It's not short on tannins either, although the fruit and alcohol adds balance.
Recommended pairing: Strong cheese, heavy pasta dishes, beef, pork, veal, lamb and deli meats
Malbec could be called the richer, lusher brother of Merlot. Originating from the Bordeaux region of France, this grape is among the "big six" for red wine grapes. However, its fame and fortune often end there. In France and in California, it is generally a grape used for blending, with very little vine being devoted to its improvement or success.
The story in Argentina is quite the opposite. Malbec has found renewed acclaim and initial glory in the sun-drenched climate of Argentina. This is Argentina's signature grape and it is quickly making a new name for itself with red wine lovers.
Malbec is typically a medium to full-bodied red wine. Ripe fruit flavors of plums and blackberry give it a jammy characteristic. The tannins are typically a bit tight and the earthy, wood-like appeal makes for a rustic wine.
Recommended pairing: It’s definitely a red meat wine, but able to stand up and be paired with Mexican, Cajun, Indian or Italian dishes.
Chardonnay grapes are hardy and grow anywhere, adapting to different soils and climates. Burgundy, France is the native home of this grape, however may famous Chardonnays come from California. Oregon, Washington State, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and South America produce noteworthy Chardonnay.
Recommended pairing: Mild or strong cheese, fish, shellfish, seafood in either heavy or light sauces, poultry, pasta dishes, pork, lamb, veal, deli meats and ham
Sauvignon Blanc is a highly aromatic variety of grape that does will in a range of climates and soil – from France to New Zealand. Depending on the locale, Sauvignon Blanc may display flavors of grass, lemon, grapefruit and/or passion fruit. California, Chile and Italy are also successful in growing this tenacious grape.
Recommended pairing: Mild cheese, fish, shellfish, oysters, seafood in either heavy or light sauces, poultry, light pasta dishes, pork, veal, deli meats and ham
Pinot Gris is the Italian version of Pinot Grigio – same grape, different name. However, the variations in wine between the two can be immense.
Pinot Gris from Alsace, France is rich with fruit flavors and is typically dry with medium acidity. The Italian version, Pinot Grigio is a light crisp, high-acid wine with citrus flavors. Wines from Pinot Gris are normally well rounded and have more body than Pinot Grigio – which is lighter-bodied. Oregon and California successfully grow the Pinot Gris/Grigio grape.
Recommended pairing: Mild cheese, fish, shellfish, seafood in light sauces, poultry, Asian dishes and spicy foods, pork, veal, deli meats and ham
Grown in steep, sun-facing slopes, the Riesling grape can be made into either dry or sweet styles. Riesling favors cooler climates – making areas like Germany or New York State popular growing locals. Floral and fruit aromas abound; and each variety reflects the characteristics of the region where the grapes are grown.
Recommended pairing: Mild cheese, poultry, Asian dishes and spicy foods, fruit and desserts
*Last updated: 5/25/09*Last updated 5/25/09