Red wine is usually a wonderful idea, but it’s especially great on August 28, National Red Wine Day.
There are hundreds of different red wine grape varietals, and there is just as much information to be learned about red wine as there are red grapes planted all over the world. We discuss the geographies and flavor profiles of the most popular red wine grapes.
Flavors: Bell pepper, green olive, herb, cassis, black cherry
Cabernet Sauvignon is grown all over the world and is the defining grape of the Napa Valley. The Napa type has a flavor of currants and black cherries and is rich, purple-black, jammy, and sweet. It has almost entirely been responsible for creating the phenomenon of cult wineries because it is thick and ripe and is covered with pricey new oak smells and flavors. In areas with a cooler climate, like Chile, it ripens slowly and can be rather weedy or even vegetal. To lessen its extremely astringent tannins, it is almost always blended with other varietals in Tuscany and Bordeaux. The best Cabernet in Washington is a cross between California-style ripeness with the complex herb, leaf, and olive flavors of excellent Bordeaux.
Flavors: Sour cherry, spice
Malbec, a Bordeaux blending grape, has gained popularity in Argentina where it produces fiery, acidic red wines that age nicely in brand-new oak barrels. Very few varietally labeled Malbecs are produced in California and Washington.
Flavors: Watermelon, strawberry, cherry, plum
The Chardonnay of red wines, Merlot is a likeable, adaptable, and generally devoid of any distinguishing fundamental characteristics. Chateau Pétrus is a notable exception, as it makes up 95% of the mix. The popularity of varietal Merlot increased in the 1990s, but too many bland, watery, and expensive Merlots have snuffed out the bloom. It thrives outside of Bordeaux in Washington State, where it ripens exquisitely and produces rich, robust wines that can age for a decade or more.
Flavors: Tomato leaf, beetroot, pale cherry, blackberry, cola, plum
Because it is the prettiest, sexiest, most demanding, and least predictable of all the grapes, Pinot Noir is the one that winemakers love to hate. Burgundy is the model for superb Pinot Noir, yet the grape is flimsy, delicate, and prone to stubbornly weedy notes. It can be allowed to ripen in warm locations in Oregon, California, and New Zealand to produce wines with surprising depth and even jamminess. Pinot Noir is best expressed as a pure varietal, and in Oregon and California, single-vineyard wines are frequently promoted, imitating the hundreds of small Burgundian appellations. Pinot, which is most famously referred to as “the iron fist in the velvet glove,” has an ethereal delicacy when it is at its best and can mature for decades.
A five-ounce glass of red wine has just 100 calories and no fat or cholesterol. Red wine also helps to keep your mind bright in addition to keeping you thin and trim. Beta-amyloid, a peptide linked to Alzheimer’s disease, is the sworn enemy of resveratrol, which is found in the skin of red grapes.