There are many red wine varieties, but do you know what they stand for? In this article, we will go through a few popular varieties.
The most popular of red wine grape varietals, its name Sauvignon derives from the word “Savage.” Cab is grown in just about every major wine making region. It’s produced as a single varietal and as a major blending component. Cabernet Sauvignon is deep in color, like raspberry, virtually impermeable to light. The varietal is often associated with oak, which in barrel is used to soften the tannins to make it more approachable. Good Cabernet Sauvignon benefits from cellaring several years to soften its tannins, which can be harsh in young Cabs, and bring out the complexity and rich flavors of the grape.
Along with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, Cabernet Franc is part of the essential blending triad that makes up the majority of the Bordeaux blend (and Meritage) red wines produced in the United States. On its own, Cabernet Franc is a more tannic, earthy cousin to Cabernet Sauvignon. In warmer sites outside of Europe, its most distinctive attributes are its pure notes of violets and blueberry, and its ripe tannins often carry the scent of fresh roasted coffee. It is made (though rarely labeled) as a varietal in Chinon, Bourgueil, and Saumur-Champigny, where it is hard and tannic and can evoke an austere minerality. In Pomerol and Saint-Émilion it is featured in blends with Merlot, adding a spicy, pungent, sometimes minty note.
Carmenère wine is the signature red of Chile. The Carmenère grape flourishes in Chilean valley vineyards tucked between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes mountains.
Chile’s Carmenère vines came from their native Bordeaux, where they would be wiped out by the phylloxera root louse in the late 1800s. Chilean winemakers originally assumed the vines were Merlot; it was not until 1994 that scientists proved many of them were in fact Carmenère, alive and well in Chile. Chilean winemakers produce Carmenère wines that are fruity, spicy and low in tannins. When aged in oak, Carmenère adopts some earthy, smoky qualities.
Though Carmenère is now made most often as a varietal wine, some winemakers are looking to the grape’s French history and using it once more in Bordeaux-style red wine blends.
One of the lesser blending grapes of Bordeaux, Malbec has risen to prominence in Argentina, where it makes spicy, tart red wines that take well to aging in new oak barrels. Elsewhere it remains a minor player, though a few varietally labeled Malbecs are made in California and Washington.
Once a major component of great Bordeaux blends, Malbec is now best known as the signature red grape of Argentina. High-altitude vineyards around Mendoza, in the Andes mountain range, provide the ideal environment for producing opulent Malbec wines with ripe tannins and black fruit flavors. These rich and full-bodied red wines are the perfect pairing for that other Argentine specialty, grilled beef.
Malbec is not originally from Argentina. Its origin is from France and while it was at one point in time the major component of Bordeaux varietals, it’s typically used in Bordeaux these days to flesh out the edges of Right Bank blends. You’ll also find it grown in Cahors, France but more predominately in Argentina where French and Argentine winemakers have found perfect conditions to grow this fruit forward, rich varietal.
Key descriptors used when talking about Malbec include plum, raspberry, fig, and spice. If you head to Mendoza, Argentina be prepared to consume plenty of Malbec and steak as it’s the perfect pairing to beef and lamb cuisine.
PengWine has Malbec blends available in the King 2010.