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This week’s winners are; Ivy Scoles and Urban Bear Don’t Walk
Fall is coming to an end and winter is near. The days are getting shorter and the nights are getting longer. Change is in the air, our daily habits are changing and so it goes for the way we eat and what we want to drink.
In the summer we are on the go from morning to night and the days are warm and our eating habits are dictated by the heat and our activity level. We are so busy we tend to eat much lighter food in the summertime. Fall arrives and our bodies are slowing down and the next thing we know it is wintertime and we become much more sluggish do to short days and much less sunshine. The foods we crave to eat are heavier and comforting, hence the name “comfort foods”.
I believe our palettes desires change seasonally as well. Have you noticed in the summer when it’s hot you might prefer a nice crisp white wine to relax with even though your preference may be a full bodied red wine. Now fall is turning to winter and you’re starting to drink the red wines that you love again. Just as our eating habits turn from light summer fare to winter comfort foods so do our palettes. If we are white wine drinkers you my desire a heavier white blend or a varietal like Chardonnay instead of the light, crisp Sauvignon Blanc you turned to during the dog days of summer. Likewise if you are a wine drinker like me I turned to white wines this summer or I may have had a nice Rose. Now that the cold weather is arriving I’m back enjoying the luscious full bodied red wines that I love again.
This week I will be discussing wine types or grape varietals. I think this is important because we tend to get stuck drinking 1 or 2 wines rather than being adventurous and trying other wines. I refer to this as “Single Label Syndrome”. Having knowledge is power and that’s why I want to share this grape varietal information with you. You may have a strong sense of what it is that you like characteristically in a wine or you might be a new wine drinker and trying to find your way with wine but you are still searching for your personal approach to wine, and remember there are no rules on the WineGuyMike Show, it’s all about what you love.
I have put together a list of Classic and Major red and white grape varietals to share with you so that you have something to compare when you decide to make a wine purchase. I’m going to start with the red wines.
Red wines are rich, robust, and flavorful. Tannin is foremost in creating flavor in red wines. Stems, skins, and seeds is what tannin comes from. The wine color comes from the grape skins. According to medical research drinking two four ounce glasses of red wine a day may reduce coronary disease by as much as 50 percent.
Cabernet Sauvignon – This varietal is a big, powerful red wine that is full in body, rich, and very flavorful. Cabernet sauvignon is a wine that imparts flavors of fruits, berries, currants, and plums. This wine may also exhibit slight spicy nuances.
Pinot Noir is the medium bodied grape variety of red burgundian wines; it can produce wines that are incredible. When aged in oak, it should have sweetness reminiscent of raspberries, with undertones of vegetation and chocolate. The wine can stand up to aging for many years. Pinot Noir at its best will be smooth, full of flavor, and a beautiful bouquet.
Merlot is the wine type or varietal that is great to drink with or without food. It tends to be soft, smooth, and very fruit forward. Winemakers the world over are creating rich style merlots that are wines full of cherry and oak flavors. This is a medium bodied wine.
Syrah/Shiraz is a big powerful full bodied wine, also known as Shiraz in Australia. Supple, smooth, rich with well mannered mellow tannins describes the syrah wines. Flavor wise a Syrah can be slightly spicy, fruity like black cherries, or some may have a deep nutty flavoring. Long thought of as only blending grape for cabernets or Rhone, France Chateauneuf-du-Pape, the Syrah is creating a reputation of its own as a varietal.
Those were the Classic Red Grape varietals we have just learned about and now we are going to learn about the Major Red Grape varietals.
Cabernet Franc is spicier than its cousin Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Franc has traditionally been used as blending wine. It now is gaining popularity as its own stand alone wine type or varietal. This is a full bodied wine.
Grenache the medium bodied grape is famous for use as a blending grape in both France and Spain. Grenache is full bodied with berry flavors. It lends itself well to nice full reds or roses that produce fruity or berry like flavor.
Cinsaut is a full bodied grape used predominantly as a blending grape in France, but now being coupled with Pinot Noir and known as a Pinotage. These wines are becoming well known in Africa, Australia, and California.
Gamey Beaujolais a wine from France that is made to be drunk very young, right after bottling. This is a light bodied red that has very little tannin and is low in alcohol content. It is a fruity red wine that has berry overtones and is light bodied.
Carignan is one full bodied grape that needs a little help from its friends. Carignan is often blended and softened with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Grenache, or a handful of others. In the hands of a skilled winemaker this can be a very nice selection.
Barbera grapes like warm weather, they’re grown in Italy most predominantly but California also produces Barbera. This medium bodied wine is very fruit forward, mellow in tannin, and well rounded or soft.
Nebbiolo is the grape that is a no nonsense contender from northern Italy. California’s also working with the Nebbiolo grape. Best known for huge, robust, full bodied wines such as the Barbarescos’ and Barolos’. A big wine like this may need a decade to mature properly. These wines tend to be heavy on tannin and high in alcohol content. Aged correctly this wine will be chewy, with hints of berries, herbs, and slightly floral.
Sangiovese one word Chianti, probably the most well known of Italian wines(at least that holds true in the United States). This grape is also the major contributor for many other fantastic Italian reds. This spicy medium bodied red also exhibits cherry and raspberry flavors.
Tempranillo is the medium bodied jewel of Spain is the major player in a couple of Spains finest wines, Rioja and Ribera del Duero. This grape produces very complex wines hinting of plums, vanilla, cassis, and tobacco.
Aleatico an medium bodied Italian red variety that can produce sweet red wines, that are very aromatic wines reminiscent of Muscat and is thought by some to be a red relation of Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains.
Red Zinfandel is a full bodied, fruit forward, and spicy wine is one of Californias favorites, and most plentiful. Berries, cherries, tobacco, oak, and vanilla this wine seems to have it all. This grape is diverse it is used to produce White Zinfandel and is blended with many other wines.
Malbec one of Argentina’s finest! A medium bodied fruit forward, flamboyant red wine. Spicy, tannic at its best this wine can be outstanding.
Mourvedre is Spanish wine’s popularity is on the increase. Fruity, berry flavor, tannins are strong, try this full bodied wine for a little variety.
White wines can be very dry to sweet. The varietals in the very dry wine section have a higher acid content, this is what gives these wines a very crisp, very dry taste and feel. The varietals in the dry white wine section have a high acid content; this is what gives these wines a medium crisp, dry taste and feel. Varietals that are medium dry white wine have a medium acid content; this is what gives these wines a medium crisp, slightly dry, but softer taste and feel. The Sweet or Dessert wine section is a compilation of rich, sweet wines. You will find that these wines are also referred to as “Late Harvest”. These wines are left on the vine longer to enhance sugar levels in the grapes, thus increasing the alcohol content of the individual wines. The Sweet or Dessert wines are rich, sweet wines. You will find that these wines are also referred to as “Late Harvest”. These wines are left on the vine longer to enhance sugar levels in the grapes, thus increasing the alcohol content of the individual wines.
Let’s take a look at the Classic and Major varietals of white wine; very dry and dry wines have a higher acid content, this is what gives these wines a very crisp, very dry taste and feel. Medium dry white wines have a medium acid content, therefore this is what gives these wines a medium crisp, slightly dry, but yet a softer taste and feel.
Chardonnay is one of the most complex white wines, thanks to winemaking techniques, and the grapes ability to draw flavor from the nutrients and minerals in the soil. Chardonnay is aged in new oak barrels, old oak barrels, and steel barrels, all producing varying nuances in the wines. New barrels produce the strongest oaking, old barrels have a slight oak influence, while the steel has no oakiness. This dry wine is rich, bold, and full of fruitiness, vanilla and a certain toastiness, just to name a few characteristics. Complexity is the word that best suits Chardonnay.
At its best Sauvignon Blanc is a very crisp, light bodied, and very dry. They are also known as Fume´Blancs, and are well balanced with citrus and grassy overtones. Most of these wines are not fermented in oak, the high levels of acid balance well with the fruity characteristics of the wine.
The Semillon wines are typically blended with a Sauvignon Blanc. This is a dry yet complex wine with flavor from both pears and figs, also features overtones of honey. Well made this wine is very interesting.
Chenin Blanc is a very versatile grape. It is very crisp, acidic, high in alcohol content, yet is smooth and full bodied. This grape exhibits slight spiciness, hint of honey, and slight fruitiness and is dry. This can be a very special wine, such as Vouvray, an excellent wine exhibiting many different styles.
Riesling is one of the prominent white wine grapes, a pure riesling is complex yet delicate. Some Rieslings are just pretenders made from inferior grapes, the Grey Rieslings, and Sylvaner Rieslings. A Riesling will be light, medium dry, fruity, a mild citrus flavor, with a mellow floral aroma.
Now we will take a look at the Major White Grape varietals.
Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris as it is commonly referred to is a very dry wine. Some characteristics of this wine are a slightly fruity, and mild spiciness.
Pinot Blanc at its best this wine can make a strong statement, it can be complex and spicy with fruit and citrus flavors. This is a dry wine. Not a wine to age, drink now and enjoy this bright fruity wine.
The Gewurztraminer wine is spicy, fruity, floral, and herbal. This is a dry, earthy, aromatic wine that is genuinely refreshing.
Muscat wines have a musky, grapey flavor that is simplistic and enjoyable. It is a very versatile grape that produces delicate dry wines, rich sweet wines and fortified wines. Try one of these for your enjoyment!
Muller-Thurgau variety produces good dry wines with round, floral characteristics.
Viognier is a grape from the Rhone valley in France is also making a name for itself in California. Viognier is a very dry, delicate wine with floral aromas and apricot overtones.
Muscadet the white Melon grape produces dry wines from the Muscadet region of the Loire. Although the wines are somewhat neutral in flavour, they are well balanced. Leaving the wine on the yeast cells after fermentation, sur lie, provides extra body and character.
Trebianno is a grape that is best known as the blending grape for Chianti. It is a dry wine that is light in body, low in sugar and alcohol. This grape produces a rather neutral wine that pairs well with a wide variety of foods.
Malvasia is an important white grape variety in Central Italy where it is a minor contributor of Chianti. It produces dry, sweet, Spumante wines.
Palomino is the white grape variety that is neutral in flavor, low acidity and high yield are well suited to the process used in making sherry.
Sylvaner has a distinct dry, earthy, flinty style wine. Used almost exclusively as a blending type wine.
Aligote is a dry white Burgundian grape grown in the Cote d’Or region on less than favorable sites and consequently can produce rather thin, acidic wine.
Blush and Rose wines are produced by leaving the red grape skins in contact with the juice or by combining the red and white wines during various stages of the wine making process. This wine is light bodied and slightly sweet.
Sparkling Wines and Champagne are still wines that have been infused with carbonation. True Champagne is made in France will be noted by the capital letter “C”on the label. Other sparkling wines called Champagne will by designated as “champagne”, notice no capitalization. Three grapes are used in Champagne, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay. It’s white because only the juice of the grapes are used. Pink Champagne is strained through the Pinot Noir grape skins, truly a delight. M´ethode Champenoise is the true French fermentation process. The wine is fermented twice, once in an oak barrel, and the second time the wine develops carbonation in the bottle while aging a minimum of one year.
Blanc de Blancs this true French Champagne is produced entirely from the Chardonnay grape. Also fermented using the M´ethode Champenoise process, producing a white Champagne.
Today’s wines use the most widely recognized rating system today, the Wine Spectator or Robert Parker rating system. The scale of ratings is as follows;
0-80 are average to good wines
81-86 are very good to above average wines.
87-100 are great to outstanding wines.
This week’s featured “Best Value” wines from our sponsor Grizzly Liquor:
2008 “Naked” Chardonnay $12.80
- Step away from the barrel!
- This Chardonnay was fermented in 100% stainless steel and has not seen any oak, nor does it want to.
- This is crisp, concentrated Chardonnay with all its natural acid.
- Naked exhibits apple, white peach, and pear, finishing long with hints of citrus and mineral.
- Eat oysters and drink “Naked” often!!
- Share with a friend…
Ochoa Tempranillo/Granacha $10.25
- Ochoa Tempranillo is very elegant, beautifully delineated red wine with a dark ruby-purple color, sweet, blackberry and cherry fruit; medium body, some spice with a subtle background.
- Varietal; Tempranillo 70%, Garnacha 30%
- Soil composition; clay and limestone
- Fermentation in stainless steel tanks
- It is a medium-bodied, fleshy, well-structured wine that should drink well for 3 to 4 years.
These wines in this flight receive The WineGuyMike™ Seal of Approval©
WineGuyMike’s Wine Lingo
Astringent – This refers to a drying sensation in the mouth that may make you pucker. It is common in young full bodied red wines such as a Cabernet or a Zinfandel. This is caused by high tannin content in the wine. Tannin is a tactile sensation, not a taste.
Balance – this term is one that would refer to a harmony of fruit, tannin, acid, and alcohol. There may be a nuance of fruit in a wine but it would not be so overwhelming that it would be out of balance or harmony when considering the other characteristics of a wine.
Cheesemonger – this term refers to someone who sells cheese, in this case a specialist or purveyor of artisanal cheeses.
Crisp – Fresh, Bright, Young, and Slightly Acidic. Wine Types are Sauvignon Blanc, Vermentino, and Chablis
Grassy – Refers to Herbal Characteristics often associated with Sauvignon Blanc
Meritage – pronounced just like “Heritage”, is a proprietary term used to denote red and white Bordeaux-style wines without infringing on the Bordeaux region’s legally protected designation of origin. Winemakers must license the Meritage trademark from its owner, the California-based Meritage Alliance. Member wineries are found principally in the United States, though increasingly elsewhere.
Oaky – A reference to a nuance in a wine resulting from wooden oak barrels that wines are aged in. This term is common to Chardonnay’s and Cabernet wines.
Rose - “pinkish”(French). Depending on the grapes and winemakers style the wines can be colored from vivid orange to nearly a purple hue.
Terroir is a French term for the notion that the complex combination of soil, climate, exposition and local tradition define the style of wine, a taste of the earth.
Velvety – This term characterizes a wines texture. This term would be used with a wine that has a rich and supple mouth feel.
Wine Tasting Flight is a term used by wine tasters to describe a selection of wines, usually between three and eight glasses, presented for the purpose of sampling and comparison.
Match the words that you think make sense; these words are descriptors for wine:
Bright = Flinty an epiphany in your mouth
Rich = Subtle mellow, smooth, decadent, just easy and fulfilling
Lively = Crisp the wine is refreshing, a zing, literally comes to life in your mouth
Intense = Juicy big, bold, forward just tastes like fruit you could bite into
Velvety = Aromatic sexy, goes down like silk, fills the room with its aroma