Welcome to Wine 102! In Wine 101, we covered the 6 noble grapes, the one’s you’re most likely to see on any restaurant menu or in any place that sells wine. For Wine 102, we’ll focus on eight more grapes that will help you to decipher the wine list or that bottle in your local shop, and make more confident decisions!
Wine 102: The Grapes
|Pinot Grigio||Cabernet Franc|
As a reminder, here’s the template we’ll use to look at each grape:
- Color – White or Red
- Style – Dry or Sweet
- Body – Is the wine full-bodied, like cream, or light, similar to skim milk? Or somewhere in between?
- General Characteristics – This section describes what a typical or textbook example of the wine will normally be like. For example, if it has soaring acidity and lots of gooseberry and green notes, then it’s probably a sauvignon blanc.
- Notable Regions – Where does it grow best?
Wine 102: The Whites
Pinot Grigio offers everything from gentle innocuous fruit bombs from the new world, to zippy, highly pungent wines that sparkle with citrus and minerality.
Body: Light to Medium
General Characteristics: Medium to High Acidity (Italy), Lime, Lemon, Nectarine, Peach
Notable Regions: California, Italy (Friuli), France (Alsace)
Also Known As: Pinot Gris
Recommended Bottle: Kirkland Signature Pinot Grigio 2014
Again, acidity is the name of the game with Chenin Blanc, with the best coming from the Loire and offering a richness in the honey, apple, and minerality they bring to the table.
Style: Dry or Sweet (Loire, France)
Body: Light when dry, can be heavier with sugar
General Characteristics: High Acidity, France: Honey, Apple, Minerality / South Africa: Minerality, Citrus, Honey, Floral
Notable Regions: Loire (France), South Africa, California
Recommended Bottle: Lacheteau Vouvray 2014
Lively, with plenty of aromatics and acidity, Albariño has a penchant for being fruit forward with stonefruit, citrus, and floral elements.
Body: Light to Medium
General Characteristics: Peach, Citrus, Honeysuckle, Kiwi
Notable Regions: Rías Baixas (Spain), Portugal
Also Known As: Alvarinho (Portugal)
Recommended Bottle: Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Albariño 2014
Undeniably floral and aromatic, Gewürztraminer is lives large with a penchant for perfumed smells like lychee, roses, and marmalade.
Style: Dry to Sweet
General Characteristics: Lychee, Roses, Floral, Tangerine, Perfume
Notable Regions: Alsace (France), New York, Trentino-Alto Adige (Italy)
Recommended Bottle: Chateau Ste Michelle Gewürztraminer 2014
Wine 102: The Reds
Cabernet Franc has a penchant for being ‘green’ when underripe (green bell peppers being noteworthy), but can pick up beautiful red fruits, floral notes, and hints of chocolate when fully developed.
General Characteristics: Strawberry, Bell Pepper, Minerality, Floral, Chocolate
Notable Regions: Liore (France), California, New York / Niagara Canada
Recommended Bottle: Lazy Bones Cabernet Franc 2013
Malbec produces a soft, dark fruit forward wine (plums, blackberries, etc) with a penchant for chocolate and earth notes.
General Characteristics: Plum, Vanilla, Cherry, Chocolate
Notable Regions: Argentina, Cahors (France)
Also Known As: Côt
Recommended Bottle: Kirkland Signature Malbec 2013
More focused on acidity than tannins, Sangiovese has a definite bend toward spices, earth, and baked cherries, and is a good next step for Pinot Noir fans.
General Characteristics: Baked Cherries, Mocha, Dried Herbs, Red Currant
Notable Regions: Tuscany (Italy)
Recommended Bottle: Ruffino Chianti Superiore 2012
Old world Syrah tends to be leaner, with elements of leather, plum, and spice, while new world Shiraz tends to be a drop down, knock out set up of jammy fruits, spices, chocolate, and vanilla.
Body: Medium – Large
General Characteristics: Jammy Berries, Plum, Tobacco, Chocolate
Notable Regions: Northern Rhône (France), Australia, California, Walla Walla (Washington State)
Also Known As: Shiraz
Recommended Bottle: Jacob’s Creek Reserve Shiraz 2013