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Red Wine Grape Varieties and Wines

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Merlot
Merlot has many flavors in common with Cabernet Sauvignon—plum, chocolate, berry, cherry, herbs, spices, smoky vanilla from oak, but it is a thinner skinned grape with lower tannin and lower acid levels. Merlot generally produces a softer, smoother, fruitier wine than Cabernet Sauvignon.  It is not as complex and does not require long aging.  Merlot is the most planted grape in Bordeaux. It is often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon. Washington State is producing some great Merlots as well as California and northeast Italy.

  • Chateau Souverain Merlot
  • Rutherford Hill Merlot
  • Woodward Canyon Merlot
  • Sebastiani Merlot

Malbec
A black grape variety once popular in Bordeaux but now more readily associated with Cahors in France where it is called  Cot or Auxerrois and Argentina.  Malbec is full of lush dark berry fruits with some spice and chocolate notes, firm tannins and lively acidity that makes it a wonderful wine with just about any food.

  • Catena Alta Malbec
  • Terrazas De Los Andes Mendoza Reserva Malbec ’04
  • Alamos Malbec

Mourvèdre
A dark, purple grape that thrives in warmer climates such as Spain, the Rhone Valley in France, California and Australia.  It is used in all these regions to add rich, plumy fruit character, color, and extra tannin structure to blended red wines.  It is blended with grenache, syrah, and cinsault to make wonderful Rhone and Rhone style wines such as Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  In Spain it is usually called Monastrell.

  • Clio  Bodegas El Nido  Jumilla Spain
  • Juan Gil

Molinara
One of the grapes used in the blend to make Valpollicella, Amarone, and Bardolino in Northern Italy.

Montepulciano
A vigorous red grape variety planted over much of central Italy (and also the name of a town in Tuscany.) It is most widely planted in Abruzzi where it is responsible for Montepulciano d’Abruzzi and in Marches  where it is the principal ingredient in Rosso Conero and Rosso piceno.  It is a light to medium bodied wine with aromas of ripe red fruit and little tannin.  Easy drinking, great with pizza and red sauced pasta dishes.

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Nebbiolo
The grape responsible for producing Barolo and Barbaresco.  Nebbiolo is native to the Piedmont region in northwest Italy. Here, this fussy grape seems to give us wines that are at their maximum in terms of aromatic complexity. Wines from this grape have very specific aromas and flavors. Roses and tar are two of the most common descriptors used by Italian wine experts along with licorice, violets, leather, tobacco, chocolate, prunes, and figs.  It has a medium black cherry color when young and intense structure. The tannins are serious and can dry your tongue right out depending on the vintage.

Barbaresco is made form 100% Nebbiolo grapes. Bacause the Nebbiolo grapes ripen sooner in Barbaresco they tend to have a little more acidity than the Nebbiolo based wine, Barolo.  Barbaresco may be fuller bodied at times, and more graceful.  The flavors reflect earth, smoke, pure cherry fruit, and maybe a little licorice or chocolate.  Very complex.

  • Bruno Giacosa  Barbaresco Santo Stefano di Neive

Barolo is often referred to as the ”king of wines.”  It is produced in 11 villages, the most famous being Barolo. It is also made form 100% Nebbiolo grapes.   This wine has some serious tannin and needs some aging before it hits its peak.

  • Macarini Barolo Brunate

Nero d’Avola
This red grape variety is one of the best in Sicily and is also known as Calabrese. The wine is medium-bodied and smooth with flavors of ripe red fruit and some spiciness. 

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