Red wines are produced using around 40 red grape varietals grown all around the world. The following list is of the major varietals used today.
Pinot Noir grapes produce some of the best wines that are rich and complex, with hints of cherries, berries, earth and spice. The aromatics of these wines have been said to smell like everything from herbs and cola to bacon and roses. Pinot Noirs are most often high in alcohol content, light in color and low in tannin (although oak aging can increase tannin levels).
Recent developments in the world of wine include the production of top-notch Pinot Noirs in the Northwest Coastal region of the United States. These new wines have been respectably compared to French Burgundies, offering a budding rivalry between the two. Most Pinot Noirs pale in comparison to the Burgundy of France because they lack the subtle depth, richness, and texture that most great wines should possess. No other wine in the world can offer a more complex flavor than a fine Pinot Noir, which is why most wine makers go through the trouble of bothering with such a hard-to-grow, enigmatic grape.
Increasing in popularity over the last few decades, Merlots offer a wide variety of tastes and body that anyone can enjoy: from light, simple wines to full-bodied, complex ones. Generally less tannic and more lush than Cabernets, Merlots are full-bodied, deep in color and fairly high in alcohol with flavors of cherry, plum and chocolate.
The famous wine estates in France’s Bordeaux region blend Merlot with Cabernet Sauvignon to broaden the flavor spectrum for better overall taste. Areas like northern Italy, California, Washington and Oregon successfully grow their own Merlots, and they also frequently blend them with Cabernets for a more complex wine.
Zinfandels, while having been around for a long time, are considered one of the very few “New World” varietals that some say is indigenous to California. In it’s long history, Zinfandels were once considered much lower-scale than some of the more noble grapes. However, in recent years, winemakers have been paying closer attention to the potential of this long-lived grape, and it’s consumers have responded with a cult following.
Zinfandels from Napa Valley, Amador, and the Sierra Foothills are some of the most high-quality (and high quantity) wines that would be worth looking for. Wines like Zinfandels have depth, color, concentration and balance, as well as exotic spices that are unique to this wine type. These wines are especially great for storage, as they won’t go bad for a while in the wine cellar.
This grape is responsible for some of the finest red wines in the world, astonishing tasters with a wine that is rich and complex. Used in wines from Bourdeaux’s Medoc region in France, this wine sells very well all around the world, and it’s classic flavor has hints of dark fruits, is medium- to full-bodied, and has a very intense taste. This is due to the Cabernets being aged in oak for over a year, giving it that oaky taste. Great Cabernets should be aged for several years in the bottle, and most great ones in France are aged for well over 15 years.
Produced and alive in the Rhone region of France, Syrah (sometimes called Shiraz) is a rich, full-bodied wine with complex and spicy notes. Its popularity is growing: it is currently the most popular wine in Australia and is rapidly growing in popularity in California. Syrah is unique in the fact that it can easily be blended with many other wine grapes for unique flavors, while it can also be made into a variety of styles from soft- and medium-bodied to deeply colored and powerfully flavored.
American Syrahs can be made into full-bodied wines, but they often contain more spice and less fruit-like flavors than Zinfandels.
White wines can be made from 50 different major white grapes grown throughout the world (where 24 are from California). While there are many different grapes, the three most important varietals are Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay grapes.
Able to create both light- and full-bodied wines to pair with various world cuisines, Riesling grapes generally need cooler climates to be stored. Riesling has a high natural acidity, which serves to balance the sweetness of the wine and help preserve it during the aging process.
Rieslings tend to be floral and fruity in taste, and it can be subtle and low in alcohol, which makes it perfect to drink during the summer months. While most Rieslings may be though of as a sweet wine, many are fairly dry and bitter due to the high acidity. The dryness of the wine shows better with age and Rieslings pair the best with rich foods like pork and foie gras.
The Sauvignon Blanc is a versatile grape that responds well to oak aging, can be served young or old, and can grow well in a number of different climates. The wine is known for it’s grassy, herbaceous flavor and smell, while the taste is crisp and high in acidity. The light- to medium-bodied Sauvignon Blanc is used as a blending grape in the Loire Valley and Bordeaux regions of France, and when grown in warmer climates, it typically takes on a fruity, melon-like flavor.
Used as the main grape in Champagne, France, Chardonnay helps to produce France’s popular white Burgandies. Chardonnay is rapidly increasing in popularity, with it being the world’s most purchased dry white wine in the last few decades. Chardonnay grapes are incredibly adaptable and, because of that, it is grown in nearly every wine-producing region around the world. These wines are bold and rich, with hints of figs and peaches, honey, or hazelnuts and spice. Chardonnays are perfect when aged in oak, and the best ones are medium-bodied, fairly dry, and high in acidity.
Evolving from the Pinot Noir grape of the Northwest region of the United States, Pinot Gris (also known as Pinot Grigio) was originally a popular wine from the Alsace region of France and northeastern Italy. Pinot Gris has become one of the most successful wines grown in the Northwest U.S. and most versions are dry, but can range from light and delicate to fairly full-bodied. The dry and crisp taste to this wine makes it a perfect complement to salmon and seafood. The best examples of the taste of Pinto Gris are hints of almond and peaches, but it can also be rather subtle in both flavor and aroma.