People have been enjoying wine for thousands of years. In the past, wine has been used for ceremonial purposes and as medicine. Today, as in the past, wines are used for religious purposes. Many of us also like to enjoy a nice glass of wine with a good meal or just for the delicious taste.
Why Wine is Red
The color of the wine is not determined by the color of the grapes. The color of wine is actually a result of whether the grape skins are included in the fermentation process. Red wine colors would be clear if skins were not added during fermentation.
Types of Red Wines: Varietals
Varietals are wines that are made primarily from one type of grape. In the United States, Australia, South America and New Zealand, a wine is classified as a varietal if the wine consists of at least 75 percent of one given grape and if the wine can be labeled with the grape”s name. So, for example, if you purchase a bottle that is labeled Cabernet Sauvignon that was produced in the United States, you will know that Cabernet Sauvignon grapes were used to produce at least 75 percent of the wine.
In most of Europe, however, varietals must include at least 85 percent of one kind of grape.
Below is a table of red wine varietals:
|Type of Wine||Grape Used||Flavor||Region|
|Cabernet Sauvignon||Cabernet Sauvignon||Black cherry, bell pepper, ginger||Bordeaux region, France; California; Argentina; Chile; Italy; New Zealand|
|Grenache||Grenache||Blackberry, smoke, fleshy||California; Southern France; Spain; Australia|
|Pinot Noir||Pinot Noir||Raspberry, rosemary, oregano, cinnamon||Burgundy, France; Australia; Austria; Brazil; Canada; California; New Zealand|
|Merlot||Merlot||Plum, rose, bay leaf, bell pepper||California; Argentina; New Zealand; Bordeaux, France|
|Nebbiolo||Nebbiolo||Smoke, truffle, cherry, tar||Italy; California; South Africa; Australia; New Zealand|
|Sangiovese||Sangiovese||Berry, plum, cinnamon, thyme||Tuscany, Italy; California|
|Syrah*||Syrah||Black currant, clove, black pepper, cedar||France; California; South Africa; Australia|
|Zinfandel||Zinfandel||Blackberry, cranberry, licorice, black pepper||California|
*Syrah is also referred to as Shiraz.
Other Types of Red Wines
A wine does not have to be a varietal to be an interesting drink. Take Meritage, for instance. A red Meritage is a blend of at least two of the following grape varietals:
- Cabernet Franc
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Gros Verdot
- Petit Verdot
- St. Macaire.
In order to be a Meritage, a single varietal cannot make up more than 90 percent of the mix of the wine. The attributes of the wine will vary according to the varietals used.
Types of Wines: Bordeaux and Burgundy
In the past, Burgundy was used as a generic name for a blend of varietals. Burgundy, or Bourgogne in French, specifically refers to the famous wine region in France. The primary grape grown in Burgundy is Pinot Noir, although some Gamay grapes as well as other varietals are grown there as well.
Like Burgundy, Bordeaux refers to another famous wine region in France. Grapes grown in Bordeaux that are used to produce red wines include:
- Cabernet Franc
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Petit Verdot.
Both the Burgundy and Bordeaux regions have strict classification systems to separate table wines from top-of-the-line wines.
Other countries also produce wines in the Burgundy and Bordeaux styles.
Top-Rated Red Wines
When looking at top-rated wines, keep in mind that everyone has their own personal favorites. In addition, as you taste more and more wines, your palate will change. What you liked two years ago may not be as appealing to you today. Here is a list of recent top-rated red wines:
- De Loach 2004 30th Anniversary Cuvee Pinot Noir Russian River Valley, California: This wine tastes of cherries with subtle notes of raspberries and vanilla.
- Domaine Joseph Drouhin 2004 Chorey-les-Beaune Burgandy France: This wine offers a Pinot Noir with strawberry, sweet spices and just the right amount of acidity.
- Meerlust 2001 Rubicon Stellenbosch, South Africa: This is a Bordeaux blend that delivers.
- Pascal Granger 2004 Chenas Beaujolais, France: This wine is a smooth combination of Gamay and Beaujolais with cherry and blueberry attributes and a hint of orange.
- Sandrone 2001 Cannubi Boschis Barolo, Italy: This wine is multi-layered, with an intensity that does not overwhelm.