BARBERA – “The essential Italian red wine grape”
Italy’s prolific red wine grape from the Piedmont region is most popular as a light, fruity everyday wine or for use in blending. It is typically high in acid and low in tannin, which makes it food friendly and good for drinking when young (up to 3 years from vintage date). The northwestern part of Piedmont, with a slightly cooler climate and older vines, produces lower yields and more concentrated flavor. The finest and most concentrated wines there are Barbera d’Alba and Barbera d’Asti, both made from 100% Barbera grapes. California and Argentina are seeing increased production due to higher demand and the grape’s affinity for warm climates.
Barbera d’Alba DOC: Located near the town of Alba in Piedmont, it is considered to produce some of the best Barbera – robust, complex and with a deep color.
Barbera d’Asti DOC: Located near the towns of
and Casale Monferrato, it produces wines that are slightly lighter in body,
brighter in color and more elegant than those from Barbera d’Alba. Alexandria
Bright fruit flavors of cherry, raspberry, blueberry, blackberry, currant; vanilla and a hint of smokiness in more concentrated Barberas with some oak aging.
Medium to full-bodied, high acidity and alcohol, often sharp, low in tannins, deep in color.
Great with pizza and pasta (anything with tomato sauce); ham; grilled, roasted or stewed red meat; BBQ; smoked salmon (Barbara d’Asti); stewed octopus; camembert-style and other moderately ripe, fatty cheeses; most Italian/Mediterranean cuisine, including Greek lamb dishes; somewhat spicy Latin American dishes with tomatoes and/or pork, such as carnitas and tamales.
Note. An adaptable, reliable grape that prefers hot climates; generally high in acidity and low in tannins. Heavy pruning gives best flavor and structure.
GRENACHE/GARNACHA- A great summer wine - warm, strong and fruity
Growing in hot and dry climate, drought and heat-resistant, strong stalk suited well for windy condition. Grenache grapes make warm, strong, fruity a pale color red wine and high alcohol content (there is white grenache also).
Smooth mild acidity and supple tannins that Grenache is often blended with many high tannic grapes such as Cabernet, Syrah, Mourvedre and Tempranillo (in Spain), which benefits these varieties to milder and smoother.
The most traditional Grenache wines are famous Châteauneuf-du-pape, Gigondas from France’s southern Rhône Region. Grenache is one of most cultivated wine all around world today (Australia, California, France, Spain). Chilled young Grenache and Grenache rosé can be enjoyed in hot summer. Grenache/Garnacha wine can be enjoyed as every day at your table dinner all year around (e.g., Côtes du Rhône, Côtes du Rhône-Villages).
Ripe blackberry, black current, plums with a hint of smokiness, black cherry, prune. Some present a bit spicines; freshly ground black pepper and olive aromas.
Medium-bodied and fruity with supple tannins, mild acidity with high alcohol content.
Some Grenache wines can be very strong in structure (Châteauneuf-du-pape, Gigondas) good depth and complexity with age. High in tannin, acidity and alcohol
Provence, mediterranean, Catalan, Spanish, California style food. Versatile wine for vegetable, poultry, meat and seafood. Wine is for sun and summer food lovers.
This dark purple grape originates in France, where it historically was used for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon in Bordeaux. Now most is grown in Mendoza, Argentina, one of the largest wine regions in the world, and home of the perfect climate for Malbec – warm, sunny and dry, with plenty of water available from the Andes. There is also production in Chile, the U.S., Australia and other countries. It can be drank relatively young, or after several years of aging, depending on the tannins, as with Merlot.
New World Malbec offers rich, jammy fruit with plum, blackberry and leather, and sometimes spice, herbs and earthiness; French versions typically are more “rustic” with raisin and tobacco notes.
Medium to full-bodied and velvety; silky/softer tannins in the Argentinian wines, tighter in the French wines.
Best with grilled or stewed red meat; but the predominant fruit, lower acid and soft tannins of many Malbecs make them versatile enough to work with a variety of foods, including somewhat spicy Latin American (e.g., empanadas), Indian and Italian dishes, and tomato-based sauces.
NEBBIOLO – “
’s noble red
This thin-skinned, fussy grape makes some of
’s finest and most expensive
red wines. It has been grown in Italy Italy
since at least the 14th century, although currently it makes up only
a small percentage of vineyards, most of them in the Piedmont region of
[Small amounts are also grown in California.] Italy
Young Nebbiolos are high in acid and tannin, especially after the long fermentation for traditional styles, and are often aged at least 4-5 years in large wooden casks to help tame the puckery tannins. Additional aging in bottle improves balance and flavor. Modern production techniques preserve more of the fruit flavors while minimizing tannin extraction, allowing these wines to be drunk sooner.
Two of the best known Nebbiolo wines are Barolo and Barbaresco, named for the localities in
Piedmont around which the grapes
are grown. Under DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) rules, Barolo requires
at least 3 years aging; Barbaresco only 21 months. Most Barolos are full-bodied
and robust; Barbaresco tends to be lighter in color and body, with tannins that
soften more quickly. Both are best with additional aging, and some will be
drinkable 10-20 years past vintage.
Cherry, blackberry, strawberries, prunes, rose, violet, licorice/fennel, oak, vanilla, tobacco, tar, leather, truffles.
Much variability in color and body, depending on the vineyard, style of winemaking, etc. Medium to full-bodied, light to deeply colored (and lighter with age), very dry, velvety. High in tannin, acidity and alcohol (typically 13.5%).
Best with hearty foods such as chicken cacciatore, bollito misto (boiled mixed meats with an anchovy-garlic sauce), roast veal or pheasant, stewed hare, spicy Italian meats, salami, grilled meats, Brasato al Barolo ( beef braised in Barolo), peppered salmon (no lemon), grilled or sautéed porcini mushrooms, white truffles, well-aged Parmesan cheese.
Note. “Nebbiolo” may come from nebbia (“frost” or “fog”), referring to the fog that covers Piedmont vineyards at harvest time, or to the frosty appearance of the grapes when ripe; or it may come from nobile (noble) for the grape’s noble reputation and its popularity among nobility for centuries.
SANGIOVESE – “The Chianti Grape” Chianti, Chianti Classico
Sangiovese has a long history in Italy, where it is the most commonly planted red wine grape and still used primarily as the predominant grape in Chianti from Tuscany. Its reputation is improving as lower-yield practices are employed for a wider range of styles, including blended with Cabernet Sauvignon to soften the acidity and increase body (Super Tuscan). The grape is thin-skinned and takes longer to mature, which contribute to wines with more acidity and tannin. This gives the potential for aging, but most Sangiovese varietals are designed to be drank fairly young (3-4 years after harvest).
Italian versions exhibit spice, herbal, bittersweet cherry and violet notes; from California, expect brighter fruit, including strawberry, raspberry, black currant and plum; with longer barrel aging, can be oaky with hints of cedar, mocha, tar.
Medium to full-bodied with medium to strong tannins and high acidity. Color is typically ruby with an orange tint.
This is a food-friendly wine. Try it with anything in tomato sauce (pizza, pasta, etc.) and with Parmesan or Pecorino cheese. Crisp California versions can be great summer picnic wines to go with grilled sausages, poultry and veggies. Oak-aged Sangiovese works well with grilled, roasted and smoked meats and vegetables, and hearty soups, especially with rosemary or fennel.
Note. Famous premium Tuscan wines such like Bruneello di Montalcino and Noble de Montepulciano are produced from a clone of the Sangiovese grape.
SYRAH/SHIRAZ - Rich full-bodied wine with great longevityThis warm-climate black grape is the origin of France’s northern Cote de Rhone region. Syrah has been cultivated since Roman era. The vines thrives in hot climates and the grapes make a tannic, purple in color, and peppery wine that is full of character and famous for majestic longevity. Some of the best and most distinctive Syrahs comes from Côte-Rotie and Hermitage in Rhône region. Syrah is called Shiraz in Australia and goes by either name in many other regions world wide.
Ripe blackberry, black current, plums with a hint of smokiness, blueberry jam, black cherry, prune, spice/peppery, olive, roasted nut, oak tar, leather. Rich, robst and tannic wine but very delicious.
Medium to full-bodied, the wines are deep purple and tannic when young, with strong tar and peppery. Shrah mature slowly and are long-lived, exhibiting good depth and complexity with age. High in tannin, acidity and alcohol (typically 13.5%).
Traditionally popular wine for game meat and wild birds. Grilled or roast chicken, turkey, meat and vegetables. Beef steak Hearty meat stew with potatoe, carrot, mushroom in cold season.
Tempranillo is an aromatic, black, thick-skinned grape that ripens early (hence the name, which means “little early one”) and makes a dark and rich wine. It is the primary grape of Spain’s Rioja and Ribera del Duero wines. Increasing amounts are grown in Argentina and Mexico at higher elevations (for warm days and cool nights), as well as in California, Oregon and Australia. Newer, younger styles are more fruit-forward; more traditional styles are aged longer, in older oak, and often blended (with Garnacha/Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, etc.) to make up for low acid and lack of complexity. Its resistance to oxidation allows longer aging, but generally not with improvement in flavor, unless blended.
Blackberry, strawberry, black cherry, when young; plum, spice, tobacco, vanilla, cedar, with more time in oak.
Medium to full-bodied; low acid, unless blended. The best examples from Rioja are rich and velvety.
Best with Spanish dishes (tapas, dry-cured ham, grilled/roasted lamb, chorizo and other sausages), Basque piperade stew (most stews or casseroles with bell peppers), roasted chicken, mushrooms (with oaked Tempranillos), aged sheep milk cheeses, ripe Brie.
Note: The grapes are susceptible to disease and pests, prefer cooler climates and ripen early.