Red Wine VarietalsThese choices of red wines represent the five most common varieties sold in restaurants today. These wines were chosen to give a broad overview of different grape varieties as well as different countries, from an introductory point of view. Each wine in it self has significant characteristics, such as, different varieties of fruit, tannins, colors, finishes, and bodies.
Each of these different wines have been paired with a different food (served appetizer fashion) slightly complimenting its body of essence. Each food was chosen because of its unique flavor, whether it be strong or delicate, not to over power the wine, but to add something to it. Most wines do not stand-alone well, like a Cabernet for example.
This French Bordeaux grape variety tends to be full bodied with a long finish, and thus is typically blended in a Bordeaux style. AOC doctrine dictates that a Cabernet-Sauvignon contain at least 75% Cabernet, the finishing couvie is up to the Estwte (or whom ever the harvester might be) but is commonly blended with Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot, or a Malbec. A lighter flavored, yet full bodied featured on our wine list is the Australian Shiraz.
This grape variety is a descendant of the French Syrah, found in the northern Rhone region of France. Characteristically high in alcohol and full bodied, the Shiraz is of the same vine, just spelled differently. Working our way around the globe we find ourselves in Tuscany, Italy. Chianti, over the years, has developed a tarnished image of being a cheap table wine. Most of us have melted candles at one time or another, in a Chianti bottle covered in a reed woven basket. There are three types of quality levels of Chianti, the lowest being Chianti, a step up would be Chianti Classico (from inner Chianti), and the highest Chianti Classico Riserva (from classico region, aged three years).
Chianti is a commonly blended using Sangiouese (50-80% for body and character), Canaiolo (10-30% for a fruity flavor). Some times the addition of Trebbiano and Malvasia (10-30%) is added to soften the wine. As the wines continue to soften we find ourselves back in the Bordeaux region of France. The Merlot is a somewhat lighter colored grape, as compared to the Cabernet, is not as heavy, and tends to be somewhat fruitier. When discussing red wines of Bordeaux, there are three quality levels we must examine, proprietary, regional, and chateau.
Proprietary tends to refer to table wines that have been given specific names and marked such. They are relatively inexpensive and are considered consistent drinking wines. Regional wines come from a defined area.
Only grapes and wines made in that region can be called by its regional name. An example of this would be Medoc or St-Emilion. Finally, Chateau wines are products of individual vineyards. These grapes are harvested, made and bottled at a particular chateau. Chateau wines are considered the best quality of the wines in Bordeaux.
Without leaving France, we head east into the Burgundy region, to examine the lightest of our wines on the list, the Pinot Noir. Of all the wines we have discussed so far have been a couvie of some sort. Yet, red wines produced in the Burgundy region are mostly 100% Pinot Noir, with the exception of the Beaujolais gamay variety which suprisingly is 100% Gamay.
These wines tend to be light in color and flavor, standing alone quite nicely. Pinot Noirs tend to make an excellent late night drinking wine with out the accompaniment of food.