Choosing a wine: Part 2
January 25, 2007
Last weeks column contained some tips on selecting a wine by deciphering some of the descriptive terms wine critics use. But not every wine has been critiqued, and not every store will have knowledgeable staff that can describe a wine for you. Or maybe, like most of us, you would prefer to explore different wines, ultimately discovering a great wine yourself. Generally, somewhere on the label the varieties of grapes used to produce that wine will be listed. Having an idea of what those grapes should taste like will help you in selecting a wine with the flavor profile you enjoy. Remember, the amount of water, sunlight, heat and all other cultivating incidences will affect the flavor of that grape.The following is a list of the flavors and aromas each grape varietal should exhibit to assist you in your exploration. Happy hunting.
Barbera: Sweet-sour flavors of sour cherries, low in tannins and high in acids, medium- to full-bodied. Cabernet sauvignon: Intense black currants, bell peppers, aromas of cedar, mint or eucalyptus. Medium to high acidity, with distinct cassis fruit character, with strong tannins that mellow with aging.Gamay: Refreshing and light, with raspberry, sweet cherry, and fruit punch flavors, with low tannins. Enjoy these wines while they are young and fresh.Grenache: Raspberry, strawberry, red plum flavors with a hint of pepper. This grape produces smooth, soft wines that can be high in alcohol from high sugar levels.Merlot: Juicy black currants, black cherry and mint. Lower in tannins than cabernet sauvignon. Wines are smooth, soft and fruity.Pinot noir: Silky textured, sweet summer fruit aromas and flavors. Aging will produce bouquets of earthiness.Pinot age: This South African clone shows flavors of plums, bananas, and red currants.Sangiovese: Floral and herbal aromas, sour cherry, and plum flavors, with a black tea finish.Syrah/Shiraz: This intense wine has flavors of sweet blackberry, and raspberries. It is deep dark-colored, tannic with a smooth velvety texture with aromas of dark plum and a hint of smoke, with a peppery-smoky flavor.Tempranillo: Flavors range from strawberry to plums and blackberry, with spice and vanilla.Zinfandel: This dry red wine can show flavors of ripe berries, pepper, and spice and be tannic with a rich mouth feel.Cabernet Franc: Earthy with blackberry and strawberry flavors. High acidity, with a mineral aroma.Malbec: Rich ripe plum flavors and aromas, with a firm acidity with smoothness. Mourvedr: Rich, plumy fruit flavors, with leather and smoke aromas, and strong tannins.
Chardonnay: Ripe apple flavors, buttery and lemony. The flavors are affected by the amount of time this wine spends in oak. Unoaked chards will be lean with lemon flavors, lightly oaked will have flavors of nuts, heavy oaking will produce buttery, tropical fruits and butterscotch flavors.Chenin blanc: Rich flavors of honey, guava, minerals and a strong acidity. Light bodied and delicately flavored with aromas of melons.Gewurtztraminer: Fragrant floral aromas with a hint of lychee nuts, with an oily texture, and spiciness. Sweet and dry styles are produced.Muscat: Rich, sweet, with a grapey and orange peel aroma. You can find dry and sweet versions of this wine; all the fruity character of this grape is evident.Pinot gris/Pinot grigio: This grape can produce bone-dry to rich spicy wines. Alsace can produce rich dry and smoky full-bodied wines. The grape can also produce lighter bodied, crisp and spicy wines from the USA, and floral and slightly honeyed from Italy. The grape produces a slight nutty flavor and aroma.Riesling: High in acids, wines can be very dry to richly sweet. Flavors of apples, limes, peaches and honey. These are usually light to medium bodied wines, with a floral fruity character, with a slight sweetness. Aged Rieslings acquire an aroma of petroleum.Sauvignon blanc: Aromas and flavors of grass, gooseberries, tropical fruits, just ripe green fruit with a crisp clean acidity. These fresh clean fruity wines are medium-bodied.Viognier: Floral, and ripe fruit aromas, with flavors of apricots, peaches, mangos and papayas. This is an aromatic dry white wine, with low acidity and are best when enjoyed young.Smillon: This wine is produced in two styles, dry or sweet. Dry styles show toasty flavors with hints of lemon, peach, ripe apricots, figs, and are medium- to full-bodied. French wines have a crisp acidity to them, with flavors of nectarines and sweet cream. Sweet Semillons have been affected by the noble rot, and have flavors of canned peaches.Albarino: This Spanish grape tastes of apricots, peach, and grapefruit, with a high acidity and aromas of orange blossoms.Marsanne: Can produce fruity, medium-bodied wines with low acidity. Aromas of nuts, earthiness and truffles. Aged Marsanne exhibit an orange marmalade bouquet.Roussane: Aromatic, moderate- to high-acidic wine. Flavors of nectarines and peaches, used mostly as a blending wine to red and white wines.