Long known as the everyday wine of the Piedmont region in Italy, Barbera is also grown in California and makes for a deliciously fruity wine that is very food-friendly. Barberas are dry, medium- to full-bodied, high in acid and low in tannins, with notes of cherry, raspberry, strawberry, cinnamon and vanilla. Serve at room temperature with hamburgers, pizza, root vegetables and tomato-based sauces.
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Bordeaux is famous for Cabernet-based blendspowerful wines with ripe, dark fruit flavorswhile California's and Chile’s Cabernets have become stars in their own right. These wines make good candidates for aging, since their flavors soften and develop over time.
In a region that is too cool, Cabernet can take on vegetal characteristics. When grown in a place that is warm enough, the wine can have extraordinary flavors that are very rich and vibrant. Young versions showcase dark, red berry fruits like blackberries, black cherries and black currants, while aging in oak barrels adds spicy nuances to the wine, such as pepper and ginger. The complex flavor combined with its tannins allows this wine to pair well with blue cheese, grilled steaks, pepper steak, rack of lamb or roast beef. Serve at room temperature (5964 degrees).
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Originally from France, this grape has become the signature grape of Chile. Carménère has soft, round tannins and low acids, with flavors of herbs, blackberry, plum, smoke and sweet spice. Serve this medium-bodied wine at room temperature with baked ham, burritos, pizza or sausage.
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Popular in the Rhône Valley and southern France, Grenache is the principal grape in the famed Châteauneuf-du-Pape and in Banyuls, a dessert wine from Roussillon. As a table wine, it is dry and full-bodied, with low acidity and low tannins. Tasting of black cherry, strawberry, cranberry, leather and dry earth, it should be served at room temperature with full-flavored soups, grilled lamb, red meats, roasted chicken or sausage.
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Centuries ago in Bordeaux, Malbec was a dominant part of many blends. Today, this Old World grape is reborn as Argentina’s young and exciting export. Most of the châteaux in France that still use this grape do so only sparingly, due to its reputation for sparse yields and lack of fruit on the tongue. However, those who still rely on Malbec find that it provides texturethat mouth-filling characteristic that makes a good wine almost chewy.
In one area of France, Malbec is still the dominant player. The sleepy, rustic appellation of Cahors, approximately 110 miles east and slightly south of Bordeaux, has a long history with this grape. Recently, more approachable younger Malbecs from Argentina have been gaining a following. These wines are vibrant, succulent, lip-smacking and fruit-driven. When produced from older vines with lower yields and exposed to more wood and bottle aging, they can be more serious, contemplative and ageworthy.
Expect a dry, medium- to full-bodied wine with lower acidity and high tannins. There may be hints of plum, tobacco, blackberry and cherry, with an earthy and rustic feel.
Serve Malbec at room temperature (5964 degrees) and pair with beef, hamburgers, meatloaf or Mexican food.
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Softer than Cabernet Sauvignon, with medium tannins and acids, Merlot is a popular stand-alone varietal as well as a central blending grape in Bordeaux. Cool climates will highlight vegetal flavors, while warmer climates showcase ripe fruit. The right bank of Bordeaux is famous for Merlot-based blends. California and Washington are well known for Merlot bottled as a single varietal.
Dry, medium- to full-bodied, with lower acidity and medium tannins, Merlot has hints of mulberry, cherry, strawberry, raspberry, cedar, vanilla, sage and mint. It should be served at room temperature (5964 degrees) and pairs well with chicken, duck, turkey, full-flavored cheese, game hens, lamb chops or roast beef.
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Wines from Burgundy use this grape, but New Zealand, Oregon and California have also had great success with Pinot Noir. The styles and flavors of a wine made from Pinot Noir are largely determined by where the grapes are grown. The finest examples are renowned for their elegance and subtle complexity.
These wines are dry and medium-bodied, and have medium to high acidity with low to medium tannins. Tasting notes often include rhubarb, cherry, coffee, lavender, violets, tree bark and mushrooms. Serve at room temperature (5964 degrees) alongside duck, pork, roasted poultry, salmon or tuna.
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Proprietary Red Blend
Blending different varieties of grapes can round out harsh notes and allow the winemaker great latitude. American wineries often call their blends of Bordeaux-style grapes “Meritage” (a combination of the words “merit” and “heritage”).
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The most widely planted red grape in Italy, Sangiovese is the backbone of Chianti and the source of Italy’s famous Brunello. Tuscan winemakers are also blending Sangiovese with nontraditional varieties to produce wines that have become known as “Super Tuscans.” Sangiovese wines are dry, medium-bodied and highly acidic, with low to medium tannins. They have notes of sour cherry, dried orange peel, licorice, spice, caper and tobacco. There are many clones of this variety, including Prugnolo and Brunello. Brunello di Montalcino is one of the most aged and revered wines in Italy. The town of Montalicina, where Brunello is grown, lies south of Sienna. Serve Sangiovese at room temperature (5964 degrees) with Italian cheeses, lasagna, pizza, sausage, or tomato-based dishes and sauces.
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Grown worldwide, these wines are loved for their abundance of spice and fruit flavors. Syrah, a grape native to France, was initially misidentified in Australia, where they gave it the name Shiraz. Research proved that they are the exact same grape, but by then the Australians had already become famous for their Shiraz, and the name stuck. These wines are dry, medium- to full-bodied, with medium acidity and high tannin. They have notes of blackberry, black raspberry, loganberry, pepper, cinnamon, plums, violets, leather and salami. Serve at room temperature (59–64 degrees) with aged or hard cheese, barbecue, duck, sausage or venison.
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Widely grown in California, this grape varies from fruity to full-bodied, and produces wines that range from structured reds to somewhat sweet pink wines, depending on the way it is vinified.
This grape is almost unique to California, and its wine varies greatly according to the style in which it is produced. Zinfandels can range from young and extremely fruity to tannic, full-bodied and full of gusto. Generally, Zinfandel is dry, medium- to full-bodied, and has medium to high acidity with medium tannins. Notes of blackberry, raspberry, jam, raisins, plum, tomato, chocolate and cloves are common.
Serve at room temperature (59–64 degrees) with barbecued meat, particularly chicken or ribs, or duck, beef, lamb or hamburgers.
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