Thursday, August 15, 2013
Picking a Wine Selection Based on the Wine's Personality or Your Personality: Wine Varietals
Picking the right wine -- particularly for the casual wine drinker -- doesn't usually get much thought. Buyers know the type they like, at the price they'll pay. A Cab for $15? Done. But what if your personality was better suited for a Merlot? Or your meal could've been improved by a Muscadet? You don't need to be an oenophile to make a stellar pick. You just need to know what wine personality fits yours. And that's a lot easier than you might think.
Despite the grape’s delicate nuances, Malbec’s flavor is very masculine. With a pedigree as one of the six noble grapes allowed to be grown in Bordeaux and being partially responsible for some of the world’s finest and most elegant wines, you might expect something more austere and refined than rustic and rugged. For all that, though, the grape seems most at home in Argentina, where its rustic nature makes it a great wine for hearty foods such as brisket and ribs.
Cabernet Sauvignon has an extensive and prized history, becoming one of the most sought-after and often most expensive bottles in the world. Colored in dramatic jewel tones of black and purple, this wine is highly appealing for many reasons. But the two most important traits are its reputation as the king of grapes and its distinctive flavor. Lovers of Cabernet Sauvignon praise its aristocratic and magnificent nature, with flavors ranging from rich, ripe dark fruits to tobacco and leather.
Merlot is like the shy little sister of the more outgoing and energetic Cabernet Sauvignon. Even so, this shy little sister has a bit of a checkered history, with some unfair bad press in recent years. The wine is actually quite delicious, where the right bottle is softer than Cabernet Sauvignon, but often with similar flavors, making it a great grape to blend with its big brother. Merlot from certain Chateaus and estates in the Bordeaux region of France can fetch thousands of dollars per bottle.
Pinot Noir is temperamental in the vineyard and downright bratty in the winery. But for all of its pains, its personality is what makes it stand out. Some Pinot Noirs are delicate and perfumed, while others are rich and jammy, or still others a bit green and raw. These flavors change as the regions change. In warmer climates, the grape can be full of cola, blueberry and strawberry flavors, while in cooler regions it can taste of mushrooms and fig. The beauty of Pinot Noir is that it never really does what is expected of it.
The Riesling grape has a long and dramatic history. Of German origin, the grape’s fate was greatly affected by both world wars — in particular, by Germany’s rise and fall in those conflicts. Like a lady of pedigree, Riesling is particular about where it plants its roots, and its flavor profile shifts accordingly. Although it has perceived sweetness, it is for the most part actually fermented to dryness, leaving no residual sugar in the wine. Its searing acidity balances the sweetness, which gives it a flavor combining sweet and sour. Ethereal on its own; more heavenly when paired with food.
Sauvignon Blanc is often described as crisp, bright and fresh. It is an elegant wine with a lot of personality. Depending on growing region, the wine can have notes of flint, be rich with tropical fruit or, in some of its best expressions, evoke a feeling of drinking liquid diamonds. Sauvignon Blanc is a fantastic wine to pair with everything from sushi to pork. It is a midway point between a rich, buttery Chardonnay and a delicate, flowery Riesling.
Syrah has a romantic and storied history—at different points in time, almost everyone staked a claim to its origin. It is also commonly known as Shiraz, depending on the region in which it is grown. Syrah can taste vastly different depending on the region and winemaker. The wine can be racy and spicy on its own, or rich and meaty when blended with other grapes (as they do in the southern Rhone region of France). Syrah is the temptress of the red wine world, daring you to take another sip. It’s brilliant with food.
Chardonnay is one of the most widely recognized wines in the world—almost like the “Coke” of white wines. There are many things about this grape variety that make its wine so delicious, but two of the most compelling are the ritual and the unique flavor. For Chardonnay lovers there is a certain sense of romance in the mere act of opening the chilled bottle and pouring a perfect glass. The very thought can make the mouth water. With flavors from flinty and steely, to rich and tropical, a glass of perfectly chilled Chardonnay can make any occasion brighter.
A common blend wine, Cab Franc gives other wines attention, keeps their secrets and oftentimes makes them look and feel better. Always giving respect to other wines – like Cabernet Sauvignon, with which it’s often blended – Cab Franc rarely garners respect on its own. When vinted on its own, however, it can be a world-class wine, offering a gentler flavor than Cabernet Sauvignon.
Champagne offers a sense of joy and excitement rarely found in other beverages. Truly, few wines are seen as such a benchmark of celebration. It’s often viewed as a drink that's appropriate only on special occasions. It's important to understand, however, that it can be among the most versatile of wines, pairing beautifully with many flavors and cuisines, from breakfast to dinner. Even if you don't have anything in particular to celebrate, “popping” a cork can quickly turn any day into an occasion.
Chenin Blanc is a white grape full of potential and contradictions. Transformed by a winemaker, it can be very sweet or very dry; good for decades-long aging or good to drink young. It can be a still wine or a sparkling wine; angular with great acidity or round with soft edges. Chenin Blanc can be made into almost every style and quality of wine that can come from white grapes. Most Chenin Blanc you’re probably familiar with, though, will taste and smell slightly sweet – resembling a combination of peaches, honey, ripe melons and citrus.
Not overly complicated, the Gamay grape is most notably grown in the Beaujolais (boh-zhuh-LAY) region of France and is the only grape used to make Beaujolais wines. A little more user-friendly than its red relative, Pinot Noir, the Gamay grape is less difficult to cultivate and ripens earlier. This thin-skinned, easy-to-produce grape that doesn’t need to age before being enjoyed is a flirty reflection of the wine it produces: light-bodied, low in tannin and fruity. It’s a friendly wine, perfect for cocktail hour, picnics or simply drinking solo. It’s a great party wine because it pairs nicely with cheeses, salads and charcuterie or cured meats. Read More
Grenache Noir —known as Garnacha Tinta in Spain — is the “wild, wild woman of wine,” according to grape guru Oz Clarke. It has been one of the least-respected grapes historically due to its pervasive use in fruity bulk wines. But those who love Grenache know it is a chameleon. It can be a big, bold, spicy wine high in alcohol; a light, refreshing, dry rosé wine full of strawberry, raspberry, mineral and white pepper aromas; or a luscious glass fortified into an intense, Port-like dessert wine. In Spain, it is a mainstay, accompanying everything from tapas to cheeses.
You may have heard of Muscadet, the bracing, lively, oyster-loving white wine of France’s Loire Valley, but you might not be familiar with Melon de Bourgogne, the name of the grape that produces this wine. Unlike Chardonnay, which often tastes more of wood than fruit due to extended aging in new oak barrels before bottling, Melon de Bourgogne is more reminiscent of what you would expect to find in a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio. It’s versatile with food, but better suited to seafood – especially shellfish – than nearly any other in the world.
Most table wines in Spain – if not Garnacha (Grenache) – are Tempranillo. The grape ripens earlier than most red grapes – hence its name, which loosely translates to the “little early one.” The resulting wines can be big, full-bodied reds with intense red-purple color and bold plum and cherry fruits, or, when cropped low, grown at higher altitudes and not overly oaked, they can be full of red fruits, with flavors of earth, dried herbs, fresh tobacco leaf and leather notes. These wines pair well with a range of foods, from olives and pickled vegetables to cured pork and grilled meats.
The Moscato grape could be called the “mother of all wine grapes,” as it’s the world’s oldest grape, traced to ancient Greece. Known among aficionados by the French “Muscat,” this aromatic grape — with colors ranging from pale green to almost black — is thought to have the origins of all wine grapes in its DNA. At least 200 types of Moscato grapes thrive in every wine-producing region of the world. Wines made from this versatile variety can be light and frizzante (or fizzy, as in the Italian Moscato d’Asti), to lush and viscous, as in the French Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise.
Few wines have garnered the international attention and fame of Nebbiolo, one of Italy’s best-loved grapes. Although Nebbiolo is particular about where it grows, when it does find success, it's the basis of some of the most celebrated wines worldwide. Robust and tannic, reds made from Nebbiolo almost always need food to showcase their most remarkable aspects. It works particularly well with slow-cooked meats, like game roasts, and rich, high-fat dishes in general. Sometimes requiring decades to reach their true magnificence, Nebbiolo can fetch mind-boggling prices, but there are ways to enjoy these wines without breaking the bank.
Pinot Gris – commonly called Pinot Grigio – might just make the case for blondes having more fun. Chardonnay is Miss Popularity for white wines in the U.S., but Pinot Gris is runner-up. You might think these wines are just light and dry, cheaply served. But Pinot Gris can create impossibly luscious wines. Each region that produces wine from this grape adds a few swatches to its bigger picture. But don’t expect a discussion of sub-regions and vineyard sites and levels of toasted oak. Pinot Gris is all about fruit. And fun.
If grapes and their wines are an expression of the land, no grape presents better bookends of flavor than Viognier. Smelling of a spring tree and fruit blossoms, the beautiful aroma of Viognier can rival that of Riesling, with flavors spanning mint, pine, apricot and peach, through the gamut of tropical fruit. It can be as full-bodied as Chardonnay and as delicate as a Pinot Gris, but always has that exhilarating aroma. Though it’s lesser known, some of the finest wines in the world are Viogniers. Getting a bottle could be considered ahead of the curve.
Like most Californians, Zinfandel is a transplant that has adopted the state as its own. And like some Californians, it has reinvented itself to become America’s signature grape. Unlike other grape varietals, such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, which have a rich, international history and standards, Zinfandel has no long ancestry. This has allowed it to develop its own character and to become one of America’s most recognized grape varietals, creating its own homegrown legacy. Zinfandel ranges from red-purple, rich, robust varieties to syrupy dessert-style wines, sparkling wines and sprightly and fruity “blush” wines.
wine selection, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Chardonnay, Cab Franc, Champagne, Chenin Blanc, Gamay, Grenache Noir, Muscadet, Melon de Bourgogne, Noscato, Nebbiolo, Pinot Gris, Pinot Grigio, Tempranillo, Viognier, Zinfandel,