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Red Wine Grape Varieties and Wines

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Pinot Noir
The classic red grape of Burgundy but also grows well in North America and New Zealand.  Typically Pinot Noir produces wines with a core of juicy fruit flavors; red, black and wild cherry, strawberry, raspberry, blackberry and black currant notes abound.  Floral notes such as violet in young bottles and rose aromas in mature bottles are found. Pinot Noir tends to be more restrained with tastes and aromas that you have to stop for a minute to appreciate.  They do not have big, bold tastes like Cabernat or Zinfandel.  If you are buying Pinot Noir from Burgundy it is extremely important to but from a good producer such as Joseph Drouhin or Louis Jadot.  Look for the finest vineyards such as Gevry-Chambertin, Chambolle-Musigny, Clos Des Mouches, Volnay or Romanee St. Vivant.

Pinto Noir complements a wide range of cuisines, but goes especially well with game and dishes with mushrooms, truffles or other earthy flavors.  Some versions are light enough to match with fish; in Oregon, Pinot is a favorite pairing with the region’s abundant salmon.  Young fruity versions can stand up to Asian dishes as long as there is not too much heat.

  • Mac Murray Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
  • Castlerock Monterey Pinot Noir
  • Domaine Serene Pinto Noir from Oregon

Pinotage
A South African cross between Pinot noir and Cinsault. Pintoage makes light reds with soft tannins.

Pinot Meunier
Part of the classic Champagne blend, adding fruit intensity to the wine.

Petite Sirah
What Californians call petite sirah is not the same as syrah.  Its true identity is obscure but most likely it is a grape called Durif, a cross between Peloursin and syrah created in southern France in the 1880s.  There is nothing petite about this wine!  It makes a massive, dark and brooding, peppery, spicy, tannic wine that is a match made in heaven with a grilled steak.

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Sagrantino
In Italy, this delicious, bold tasting grape is used for one of Umbria’s top wines, Sagrantino di Montefalco.

Sangiovese
Makes some of Italy’s most famous wines such as Chianti, Vino Nobile di Montelpulciano, and Brunello di Montalcino.  Often blended with other grapes, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, it is found in many Super Tuscan wines. In flavor and structure, sangiovese is closer to pinot noir than cabernet sauvignon. When the wine is young it can have the appeal of cherries and other ripe fruit.  As it ages it takes on dried leaf, dried orange peel, tea, mocha, and earthy flavors. Depending on where the grape is planted, the wines can vary in quality and style.

Brunello, made from a clone of the Sangiovese grape called Sangiovese Grosso, means “the nice dark one”.  This is Tuscany’s most revered wine as well as the rarest, and most expensive and longest lived.  It is made form a special clone of Sangiovese called Brunello.  The climate in Brunello is a little warmer than Chianti making the grapes more likely to ripen and produce wine of more complexity. On tasting, your nose will feel the vapors of the alcohol.  The spiciness is quite prominent and the fruit leans more towards dried fruits like prunes or dried figs.  The tannins and body are dominant so it does benefit from some aging.  Decant this wine or let it sit in your glass for a while if it is young. The wine’s deep fig fruit and firm tannin are suited to slow braised and roasted meats such as a pot roast, or osso bucco, as well as rich cheeses.

  • Casa Nova Di Neri Brunello Di Montalcino Tenuta Nuova
  • Poggio Antico Brunello di Montalcino

Syrah/Shiraz
One of the finest red grapes in the world: In France’s Northern Rhone Valley its tiny berries make the world class wines of Hermitage, and Côte-Rôtie which have firm tannins, good acidity, balanced alcohol and fruit and great aging potential. In the southern part of the Rhone, it is used in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas and Vacqueyras as part of a blend with mourvedre, grenache, and cinsault. In Australia, South Africa and the US, it  is known as Shiraz, and  makes world-class wines that are rich and opulent, high in alcohol, soft and syrupy with a characteristic ‘jamminess’.  With its primal, peppery and earthy flavors Syrah begs to be paired with lamb or duck.

Spatburgunder
German name for Pinot Noir.

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