The Grape Guide - Red Wines

The Grape Guide - Red Wines

RED GRAPE VARIETIES 

Understanding more about individual grape varieties, will help you discover and  understand more about why a specific wine tastes the way it does and the typical flavour profiles to expect. 

Here's our Grape Guide to the most popular red grape varieties...

SHIRAZ/ SYRAH

Grape: Shiraz / Syrah
Typical Flavours: Blackberries, blueberries, cassis, plum, brambles, black pepper, spice, leather and chocolate
Typical Style: Full bodied, dry, medium (+) to high tannins, deep/dark colour along with medium acidity levels
Growing Regions:
Old world: Northern Rhone & Southern Rhone
New world: Australia, NZ, South Africa, Chile

Shiraz / Syrah is a small thick skinned grape variety and requires lots of sunshine to ripen fully. This grape produces a variety of styles; warmer climates produce more fruit forward and spice flavours, whereas cooler climates can show more herbaceous flavours. Both the Northern Rhone and Australia are producing iconic wines with this variety.

 

CABERNET SAUVIGNON

Grape: Cabernet Sauvignon
Typical Flavour:
Blackberry, black cherry, cedar, bell pepper, violet, vanilla and tobacco 
Typical Style: Full bodied, dry, medium (+) tannins 
Growing Regions:
France, USA, Chile, Australia, Italy, South Africa and Argentina

It's one of the most popular grape varieties and producing some of the world's finest red wines. Cabernet Sauvignon is grown in many different countries, all with different climate and growing conditions. 

In France, Cabernet Sauvignon is predominantly used in Bordeaux blends, along with Merlot or Cabernet Franc. In warmer climates such as Australia, USA and South Africa, the grapes can fully ripen to produce powerful single varietal wines. In Coonawarra (South Australia), mint / menthol and liquorice are unique flavour characteristics for the region. The Cape is also producing outstanding wines with this variety with Stellenbosch home to some of the oldest and most famous wine Estates. 

 

MERLOT

Grape: Merlot
Typical Flavour: Black cherry, plum and raspberry. Notes of vanilla, tobacco and mocha (from the oak)
Typical Style: Medium bodied with soft and velvety tannins
Growing Regions:
France, USA, Italy, South Africa, Australia and NZ

As an early ripening grape variety, Merlot is the perfect partner to blend with Cabernet Sauvignon, especially when it comes to Bordeaux wines. It's fruit forward character adds softness and balance to a wine. 

Both California (USA) and the Margaret River (Western Australia) are producing world class Merlot and Cab Sauvignon blends.

 

PINOT NOIR

Grape: Pinot Noir
Typical Flavour: Cherry, raspberry, strawberry, blackberry, violets, gamey, forest floor, mushroom and leather
Typical Style: Medium body, dry, low tannins and medium - high acidity levels
Growing Regions:
France, USA, Australia, NZ, South Africa, Germany, Italy, Chile and others.

Pinot Noir is a cool climate grape variety with very specific growing conditions. As a thin skinned grape, it is prone to disease and a spring frost can be devastating during it's early flowering. The cooler temperatures are required to retain the fruits high levels of acidity and vibrant fresh fruit flavours.

It's the classic red grape variety of Burgundy and producing some of the greatest and world famous Pinot Noirs. With the help of altitude and coastal influences, warmer growing origins are also producing world class Pinot Noirs, such as Oregon and Sonoma (USA), Elgin in South Africa and many regions in Australia and Chile. In Germany, Pinot Noir is known as Spätburgunder and is becoming increasingly popular and producing incredible wines. 

 Producers using higher quantities of new French oak, creates a fuller bodied style wine with notes of vanilla and baking spice. The silky and elegant tannins, along with bright fruit flavours are what makes this variety so special. 

 

GRENACHE

Grape: Grenache
Typical Flavour:
Raspberry, strawberry, cherry, plum, candied fruit, orange rind, baking spices and tobacco 
Typical Style:
Medium to full bodied, dry, medium tannins & acidity
Growing Regions:
France (Southern Rhone, Languedoc, Roussillon), Spain and Australia

Known for its juicy and rich red fruit flavours, the grapes enjoy a long growing season and the style of wine depends on the climate. In the Southern Rhone, Grenache is incredibly important in producing the premium Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines. In the warmer Spanish climate, the Grenache (known in Spain as Garnacha) berries develop higher sugar levels and consequently, produce higher alcohol wines. Grenache old vines are producing low yielding, high concentrated fruit and exceptional wines. 

In South Australia, Grenache has successfully become a leading premium grape variety. Particularly the McLaren Vale and Barossa Valley are producing rich and aromatic single varietal wines. 

 

NEBBIOLO

Grape: Nebbiolo
Typical Flavour:
Cherry, raspberry, rose, violet, anise, truffle, leather, fennel
Typical Style:
Full bodied with high tannins and acidity levels. 
Growing Regions:
Italy, USA and Australia

 Nebbiolo is grown in the famous Piemonte wine region, producing the world class Barolo and Barberesco wines. As an early flowering variety, the site selection is very important in order to avoid spring frost damage- the Langhe hills provide the perfect slopes to hep protect the vines.

Visually, the wine looks pale and light in colour with soft nose of bright red fruits and perfume. It's  brick orange tinge can help the wine differ visually from Pinot Noir. 
On the palate, the extraordinarily intense flavours of rose and red fruits is quickly followed by 'grippy tannins'. The elegant oak influences, such as wood smoke, earthiness, leather and often tar make this unique wine so interesting and complex.

 

BARBERA

Grape: Barbera
Typical Flavour: Blackberry, sour cherry, plum, strawberry, violet, lavender and dried leaves
Typical Style: Deep colour, medium to full bodied, low tannins and medium acidity
Growing Regions: Italy, USA, Australia and Argentina

 It might not be the most complex grape variety, but it is the everyday, easy drinking variety becoming increasingly popular.

Famously grown in Northern Italy on the lower slope regions, the Barbera grapes are producing more affordable wines compared to the Nebbiolo wines. Wines from this region are typically fresher in style, when compared with new world producers. 

 

Red grapes on vine

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