The king of whites, Chardonnay is a consistently excellent, rich and complex white wine. Of unknown origin, this amazingly versatile grape has adapted very well around the world, producing good results from the cold weather of the Champagne region to the hottest temperatures of Australia. When well made, Chardonnay offers bold ripe, rich and intense fruit flavors of apple, fig, melon, pear, peach, lemon, pineapple, and grapefruit, along with spice, honey, butter, butterscotch and hazelnut flavors.
This variety, used in some Bordeaux blends, originates from the Cahors region of France, but it is primarily found grown throughout Argentina. French Malbec is typically a medium- to full-bodied red wine with ripe fruit flavors of dark red fruits and berry. The structural tannins are usually a bit tighter than those of Merlot. Quite the opposite is true in Argentina where Malbec has established a worldwide reputation and recognition. These wines can bring very deep color, intense dark fruit flavors and ample, silky tannins. Compared to their French counterpart, Argentine Malbec has shown greater potential for bottle aging.
The main white grape from Bordeaux and Loire Valley, France, Sauvignon Blanc has adapted very well to different viticultural regions in the world, such as New Zealand, the Northeast of Italy, Chile and the coastal valleys of California, Australia, and Argentina. Sauvignon Blanc tends to be a medium-bodied white with tropical fruit flavors and often has notable grassy or musky aromas. Very crisp and refreshing, and matching well with foods, this wine drinks best in its youth, but sometimes will benefit from short-term cellaring.
Just as Malbec is considered Argentina’s unique, great red wine, Torrontés is considered its best white. Of unclear origin, it is thought to come from the Mediterranean. Related to the muscatels, it is currently mainly grown in Argentina. Torrontés has a very particular aromatic essence of peach and flowers, such as rose or jasmine. It is crisp, with tons of character and notes of tropical fruits, such as pineapple and guava. Excellent examples of this wine come from the Salta and La Rioja regions of Argentina. More recently, San Juan, Mendoza and Neuquén regions of Argentina are also beginning to produce Torrontés with remarkable results.
Both Cabernet varieties are among the five major grapes of Bordeaux, France. As compared to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc vines can ripen a bit earlier. This, combined with high altitude growing conditions in Argentina, allows this varietal to achieve optimal ripeness and additional complexity and color extraction. Vineyard practices can have a dramatic affect on the finished wine. Excessive crop and poor fruit exposure tends to emphasize the vegetative aroma and flavor elements. Other characteristics include: blackcurrants, laurel leaves, green peppers, ash and spice.
Worldwide, Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most dominant and well-known red grape varieties. The varietal evolved from crossing the red grape Cabernet Franc and the white grape Sauvignon Blanc. Cabernet Sauvignons were first used in winemaking in Bordeaux. Wines made from this variety have strong tannins, high acidity and powerful dark red fruit flavors. The style of wine produced from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes varies considerably from one geographic region to another. Major variables include the climate, soil and winemaker’s touch. Because of their potentially high level of tannins, Cabernet wines my require years of cellaring prior to consumption.
The Merlot grape, a classic French varietal, originated from the Bordeaux region. It produces a soft, medium-bodied red wine with juicy fruit flavors. Merlot often is used to blend with other varietals, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Merlot wine can be used as a blending component to soften and mellow the Cabernets. In turn, by blending with a small amount of the Cabernets, the structure of Merlot can be improved. This highly versatile wine has a range of fruitful aromas such as plums, black currant and dark berries. Along with the fruit characteristics, there are tendencies for chocolate, herbaceous and peppery aromas and flavors.
This is another traditional classic black grape varietal approved for blending in Bordeaux. Petit Verdot is more commonly used as an element of spice by blending small amounts to improve a wine’s dense fruit aroma, dark color, powerful flavors, acidity and tannins. Although the historical origin of this grape has yet to be determined, it is likely that the Petit Verdot variety was planted in Bordeaux earlier than was Cabernet Sauvignon. Late ripening limits its usefulness in the coolest grape growing areas. Petit Verdot is occasionally, but rarely, bottled as a single vine variety.
This varietal is thought to have originated about two thousand years ago and is the dominant red grape variety of the world-famous Burgundy region of eastern France. Pinot Noir is a finicky grape. It only grows in a particular climate, with the right soils and the right care. The grape can make marvelously aromatic, flavorful wines boasting a seductive perfume of strawberry, raspberry, black cherry, tea, mint, violets and oriental spices with silky, delicate flavors.
Syrah is thought to have originated in the northern part of the Rhône Valley of eastern France. In France, it is known and grown as Syrah and is responsible for some of the Northern Rhone's big, bold red wines. However, in Australia and South Africa it is known as "Shiraz." Syrah wines display firm tannins, a medium to full body and the rich round flavors of black cherry, blackberry, plum, bell pepper, black pepper, clove, licorice, dark chocolate and smoked meat.
The most famous grape used in the Spanish Riojas, Tempranillo is well-known for expressing ripe red fruit, cherries, strawberries, tannins and tobacco in its wines. Tempranillo clones develop highly colored, structured wines and they also have long-term aging potential in oak barrels.