Lifestyle

《Wines of the World》On Red Wine Grape Varieties

Last week, we talked about some of the most common white wine grape varieties, let’s talk about those for red wine this time.

There are currently over 1,000 grape varieties in the world. Insane, right? Regardless of the many varieties, only about 50 of them are widely cultivated.

The same variety can acquire different tastes and textures if grown in different regions, it all depends on the climate, soil, terrain, sunlight, rainfall and other environmental factors, which the French call ‘terroir’. Many varieties are terroir specific and will develop distinctive flavours under specific conditions.

Don’t worry, there are only maybe a dozen varieties that are readily available in the market, so just learn about the ones I have listed below and you can easily find a wine that suits your taste.

Here’s a list of the most common red grapes (from light to thick in flavour):
Zinfandel
Pinot Noir
Barbera
Merlot
Shiraz
Cabernet Sauvignon
Malbec

Zinfandel is more common in the United States and a popular variety in California. Having a distinctive sweetness, less tannin and smoothness to the mouth, Zinfandel tastes like vanilla with a cherry syrup aroma and is widely favoured by women.

Chiefly associated with Burgundy of France, Pinot Noir is known to be difficult to cultivate and to produce the world's most expensive and finest wines. Comparatively lighter in body and with a distinctive raspberry and cherry aroma, wines made from Pinot Noir can achieve a wide range of complexity as they age. However, the quality of Pinot Noir can really fluctuate, so I would recommend buying Pinot Noir wines that are more expensive, better to be safe than sorry.

Barbera is an Italian specialty and not available in other countries. It is characterised by low tannin, low acidity and an aroma of black plum and cherry. A good bottle of Barbera possesses a hint of vanilla note and complexity, suitable for any occasion.

Merlot, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon are the most common wine varieties and are grown by almost all wine-producing countries. They have moderate tannin, medium to heavy body and strong fruity flavour. How to distinguish the three? Merlot is comparatively softer with a stronger raspberry and cherry flavour, Shiraz is darker in colour with a black currant flavour and a hint of pepper aroma, while Cabernet Sauvignon is the highest tannin, heaviest in body and most structured with the most complex aroma.

Malbec is common in Argentina. It has high tannin and a raspberry flavour with a hint of vanilla, cloves and smokiness. Malbec is most suitable for people who like rich flavours, but a poorly produced Malbec can taste very coarse.

As the weather gets hotter, people are asking me if red wines can be chilled in the fridge. Next week, I will talk about the proper storage and appropriate drinking temperature for both red and white wines.

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