Classic Varietal CharacteristicsMarch 2, 2016
Cabernet Sauvignon: the red grape behind many of the world’s finest wines can be mellow or hearty. It tastes primarily of black currant with overtones of blackberry and mint, and is traditionally aged in wood barrels, which gives it an oaky, vanilla note. Cabernet goes with beef, lamb, and goose and is also a great match for Brie, Cheddar and chocolate.
Chardonnay: The most popular white grape can taste semisweet or sour, depending on where it’s grown. Typical flavors are apple, tangerine, lemon, lime and melon. Chardonnay often has a smooth, buttery finish, and goes best with poultry, richer seafood like lobster or scallops and lighter red meat dishes.
Malbec: Is a popular black grape in Argentina and Chile. It makes an intense wine on its own, so it’s often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to soften it. Malbec is delicious with pork, veal and spicy foods.
Merlot: less tannic red grape than Cabernet Sauvignon but still complex, even a bit chewy. It is known for its flavors of plum, black cherry, violet, and orange. A perfect match for beef and pasta dishes, it’s also excellent with chocolate.
Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio: Different names for the same white grape. In Italy it’s Grigio; in France and Oregon, it’s Gris; in California it can be either names both words meaning gray. These fresh, light wines are flowery and fruity- peach, grapefruit and melon predominate- with mineral aroma. They are an ideal pair with fish and chicken.
Sauvignon Blanc: Typically light white, has pronounced herbal flavors that make it a natural with fish and chicken. It also pair well with fiery, spicy foods.
Syrah: Rich red wine known for its peppery, spicy, blackberry and plum flavors; additional notes include licorice, bitter chocolate and mocha. Try it with hearty meats and Mexican cuisine.
Viognier: Traditionally more complex than Chardonnay, Viognier’s popularity is on the rise. Notable for spice, floral, citrus, apricot, apple and peach flavors, it is full-bodied, relatively low in acidity and great with spicy foods.
Zinfandel: Grapes are deep red, bordering on black. Zin is a bold peppery wine; often high in alcohol with a hint of fruity flavor reminiscent of berries or dark cherries. It is a great match for classic American foods like hamburgers and pizza, but hearty enough to hold its own with red sauces.