Essential Guide to Grenache Wine

Gigondas Grenache Moulin de la Gardette 2009
Tuck Beckstoffer Grenache California 2010

Grenache Wine Guide

Would it surprise you to know that Grenache is responsible for some of the most delicious and expensive wine in the world? From exalted regions like Châteauneuf-du-Pape to cult California wines, Grenache is just as important in the wine world as Cabernet Sauvignon.

Grenache Wine Glass and Grapes - Garnacha Wine Folly

Grenache Red Wine Profile

MAJOR REGIONS: About 456,000 acres worldwide

  • France (~250,000 acres)  Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
  • Spain (~170,000 acres)  Priorat, Calatayud
  • Italy (~55,300 acres)  Sardinia, Sicily, Calabria
  • United States (~10,000 acres)  California, Washington
  • Australia (~8,000 acres)  South Australia

Grenache Characteristics

FRUIT: Strawberry, Black Cherry, Raspberry
OTHER: Anise, Tobacco, Citrus Rind, Cinnamon
OAK: Yes. Usually Medium Oak Aging
TANNIN: Medium
ABV: Medium-plus alcohol (13.5-16%)
COMMON SYNONYMS: Cannonau (Italy), Garnacha (Spain), Garnatxa (Spain), Grenache Noir, Alicante (Rare)

What does Grenache Taste Like?

the color of grenache wine compared to other wine

The unmistakable candied fruit roll-up and cinnamon flavor is what gives Grenache away to expert blind tasters. It has a medium-bodied taste due to its higher alcohol, but has a deceptively lighter color and is semi-translucent. Depending on where it’s grown, Grenache often has subtle aromas of orange rinds and ruby-red grapefruit. When Grenache is grown in Old World regions such as Côtes du Rhône and Sardinia, it can have herbal notes of dried oregano and tobacco.

3 Very Different Tasting Grenache-Based Wines

Las Rocas 2009 Spanish Garnacha Catalayud
Spanish Garnacha

The Calatayud is a warmer growing region in Northern Spain where late-ripening Garnacha grapes can get very high sugar levels. The ripe grapes usually ferment to alcohol levels above 15%, which adds both body and spice. Garnacha from this area often smell slightly of ruby-red grapefruit with lots of cherry and licorice flavor.

French Grenache

The Southern Rhône is known for Grenache-based wines. The region’s wine varies year-to-year based on vintage variation. Along with cherry fruit expect more smoky herbal notes including oregano, lavender, and tobacco. The Rhône is a slightly cooler region often making wines with more finesse and slightly less alcohol.

US Grenache

American Grenache is both fruit-forward and aromatic with crisp acidity. Instead of herbal aromas like many Old World Grenache, the American versions smell more like licorice and flowers. American Grenache is often blended with a touch of Syrah to add tannin and smooth out the flavor.

The spice in Grenache makes it a perfect pairing with spiced and herb-heavy dishes including roasted meats, vegetables, and a variety of ethnic foods. Alcohol is a solvent to capsaicin, which is the heat unit in spicy foods. A lighter-alcohol Grenache served slightly chilled can help reduce the burn of spicy food.
The official #GrenacheDay occurs annually on the 3rd Friday of September. It was started by the Grenache Symposium in 2010.

First Published On: Wine Folly

Amazing Pinot Noir Wine Facts

Pinot Noir wine is the most highly prized wine in the world. But why? It’s not as rich or big as its noble cousins, in fact it’s quite the opposite.

Pinot Noir wines are pale in color, translucent and their flavors are very subtle. The grape itself is weak, suffering from a variety of diseases and its genetics make it highly susceptible to mutation.

Despite the difficulty in growing the grape, prices for a bottle of Pinot Noir are generally more than a similar quality red wine. Find out the basics to Pinot Noir wine as well as some interesting facts that make it so unique.


Pinot Noir grape clusters are usually small and difficult to ripen evenly.


Pinot Noir Wine Profile

FRUIT: Cranberry, Cherry, Raspberry
OTHER: vanilla, clove, licorice, mushroom, wet leaves, tobacco, cola, caramel
OAK: Yes. French Oak Barrels.
TANNIN: Medium Low
ACIDITY: Medium High
AGEABILITY: Yes. 2-18 years depending on the style.
SERVING TEMP: Cool to touch (63 °F | 17 °C)
Savagnin Noir (FR SZ), Bourguignon (FR), Pinot Nero (IT), Pignola (IT), Spätburgunder (GR), Blauburgunder (GR), Klevner (AS), Nagyburgundi (HG), Modri Pinot (SV), Bourgogne, Côte de Nuits, Gevrey-Chambertin, Morey-St-Denis, Chambolle-Musigny, Vougeot, Flagney-Echezeaux, Nuits-St-Georges, Vosne-Romanee, Aloxe-Corton, Côte Challonaise

Pinot Noir Wine Regions

~290,000 acres worldwide (117,000 hectares)

  • France (75,760 acres) Nuits-St-Georges, Gevrey-Chambertin, Morey-St-Denis, Chambolle-Musigny, Vougeot, Flagney-Echezeaux, Vosne-Romanee, Aloxe-Corton
  • United States (73,600 acres)  Sonoma, Sta Rita Hills, Santa Lucia Highlands, Willamette Valley
  • Germany (29,049 acres)  Baden, Pfalz, Rheinhessen, Württemberg
  • New Zealand (10,648 acres) Martinborough, Marlborough, Central Otago
  • Italy (10,082 acres) Veneto, Alto Adige, Fruili
  • Australia (8,693 acres) Victoria
  • Chile (7,127 acres) Central Valley, Limari Valley, Maipu Valley, Casablanca Valley
  • Argentina (4,450 acres) Rio Negro
  • South Africa (2,520 acres) Western Cape, Stellenbosch, Walker Bay

 Pinot Noir Food Pairing

I like to think of Pinot Noir as a catch-all food pairing wine. Pinot Noir is light enough for salmon but complex enough to hold up to some richer meat including duck. In a pinch, when everyone orders a vastly different entree at a restaurant, you can usually win by picking Pinot Noir; it will make everyone happy.

Soft Cheeses

Perfect Wine and Cheese Pairing: Comté

It’s only fitting that the wine that goes with everything matches perfectly with the cheese that goes with everything. Comté (also called Gruyère de Comté) is made just 50 miles east of the most prestigous Pinot Noir vineyards in Burgundy.

7 Classic Recommended Pinot Noir Food Pairings

Spiced Duck with Confit RagùDuck is a classic dish to pair with Pinot Noir. The acidity in Pinot will cut through the fat and gamey flavors of duck. If you spice the duck, it will bring out all the nuanced flavors in Pinot Noir.Mushroom RisottoAny time you can have an earthy-fatty dish using mushrooms it will always highlight the fruitiness of Pinot Noir. This dish is especially good with Old World style Pinot Noir.Chicken w/ Beurre RougeChicken usually loves a rich white wine such as Chardonnay, however, a Beurre rouge sauce (you can make it with Pinot Noir!) will match it fantastically!Grilled Trout with Bacon, Green Beans and FarroFish and red wine is tricky because the aftertaste of sea and the aftertaste of tannin in red wine is atrocious. However, if you use a very fresh river fish such as trout or salmon served in a hearty style, you can get away with a little red wine.White PizzaHigh acidity and aromatic red wines go very well with cheese and bread. For those of you who eat pizza at least 2 times a week try adding fresh herbs to accentuate the floral notes in the Pinot NoirLobster Pea Ravioli w/ CreamA rich fish like lobster can pair with Pinot Noir as long as it’s a component within the dish.Wild mushrooms and Polenta with Goat cheese and HerbsVegetarians will love Pinot Noir because it goes with most roasted vegetable dishes, herbs and of course… mushroom!

Vineyards in Burgundy
Pinot Noir in Côte d’Or. credit

Rising Prices for French Pinot Noir!

The most famous region for Pinot Noir is around Dijon, France. Cistercian Monks cultivated the grape in Burgundy since antiquity and many of the oldest monasteries still stand. Today, demand for Pinot Noir from this region has grown more than in any other.

In particular, the Chinese have become obsessed with the wine. A Chinese gambling tycoon manage to snag a Gevrey-Chambertin Chateau and prices at auction for older bottles of top Grand Crus go for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Pinot Noir Taste by Region

Pinot Noir is very fickle and can have quite a range of flavors depending on the vintage and where it’s grown. So instead of generalizing, here are some tips for the differences between the major Pinot Noir production areas below.


French Pinot Noir
In Burgundy, Pinot Noir is usually very herbaceous and light (except for pristine vintages). Earthy aromas dominate including smells similar to a brown paper bag full of mushrooms or wet leaves. Along with the earth are faint floral smells of roses, violet and a smell of fruit that leans towards raw, freshly picked cherries.

German Pinot Noir
Germany produces Pinot Noir right next to the border of France in a wine region called Ahr. These wines tend to offer more raspberry and sweet cherry aromas along with a healthy portion of earthiness.

Italian Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir grows best across northern Italy where the climate is much cooler. The fruit flavors of Italian Pinot Noir are similar to that of France, but the earthy flavors lean toward smoke, tobacco, white pepper and clove. Pinot Nero, as the Italians call it, tend to have more color extraction and higher alcohol.


California Pinot Noir
A giant leap in flavor and intensity from the Pinot Noir in France and Germany, California Pinot Noirs are bigger, lush and more fruit-forward. Look for flavors ranging from sweet black cherry to black raspberry and secondary aromas of vanilla, clove, coca-cola, and caramel.

Oregon Pinot Noir
Oregon Pinot Noir is usually a few steps lighter in color and texture than California Pinot Noir; and it’s usually more tart. Expect cranberry, bing cherry fruit flavors with secondary aromas of truffle mushrooms and sometimes even a green dandelion stem flavor.

New Zealand Pinot Noir
On the southern island in New Zealand there is a plateau called Central Otago that gets enough sunshine throughout the season to produce rich Pinot Noir in a style similar to California. What makes New Zealand Pinot Noir unique from California Pinot is stronger spice and gamey-meaty aromas along with loads of fruit.

Australian Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir doesn’t grow very well in Australia except for some locations in Western Australia and around Mornington Peninsula in Victoria. Expect sweeter fruit notes leaning towards blueberry and even blackberry but in a spicy-gamey tinge similar to New Zealand in the aroma.

Chilean Pinot Noir
South American Pinot Noir has a lot of similarities to Oregon or California Pinot Noir. The aromas lean more towards flowers like violets, roses and vanilla than fruit.

First Published On: Wine Folly

How Sparkling Wine is Made

Learn the primary methods used for sparkling wine production including the traditional Champagne method and the tank method (used for Prosecco).

Sparkling wine might just be the most technical of all wines in the world–even if it is so easy to drink! The reason most sparkling wine is so complex is because of the need for two fermentations; one to make wine and the other to make bubbles. Since sparkling wines were first introduced (starting in the mid 1500’s), several processes have been developed and each result in a unique sub-style of sparkling wine. Take a look at the major sparkling wine production methods and which wines are made with each technique.

How Sparkling Wine is Made

There are 6 major methods by which sparkling wines are produced, each resulting in a different carbonation level and, ultimately, a different style of bubbly! We’ll discuss all the styles, but the two worth paying attention to the most are Traditional Method (used for Champagne, etc) and Tank Method (used for Prosecco, etc).

  • Traditional Method
  • Tank Method
  • Transfer Method
  • Ancestral Method
  • Continuous Method
  • Carbonation
Disgorgement Champagne Lees
Champagne crud a.k.a. “lees” source 

Under Pressure

Sparkling wines have different pressure levels which affect our perception of their taste. The higher the pressure, the more fine the bubbles. Here are some accepted terms for sparkling wine in terms of bubble pressure:

  • Beady: a wine bottled with <1 additional atmosphere of pressure (14.7 psi). Bubbles appear on the sides of the bottle (or glass) when the wine is opened.
  • Semi-Sparkling: (a.k.a. Frizzante, Spritzig, Pétillant, Pearl) a wine with 1–2.5 atmospheres (14.7–37 psi) of pressure that is slightly sparkling.
  • Sparkling: (a.k.a. Mousseux, Crémant, Espumoso, Sekt, Spumante) The EU has deemed that bubbly wines with 3 or more atmospheres can be labeled as sparkling.
Wine Learning Accessories

Wine Learning Accessories

No matter your wine knowledge, we’ve got the accessories to improve your wine journey.

Traditional Method

a.k.a. Méthode Champenoise, méthode traditionnelle, Methode Cap Classique, Metodo Classico, klassische flaschengärung
Examples: Cava, Champagne, Crémant, some Sekt, Italian Metodo Classico wines (including Franciacorta and Trento)
Bottle Pressure: 5–7 atmospheres or ~75–99 psi

The traditional method of sparkling winemaking was awarded a UNESCO heritage in Champagne in 2015. It is–arguably–the most appreciated method for sparkling wine production in terms of quality, and at the same time it is also the most costly in terms of production. The most important facet of the traditional method is that the transformation from a still to a sparkling wine occurs entirely inside the bottle.

  1. Base Wine or “Cuvée”: grapes are picked (usually just a tinsy bit younger to preserve acidity) and fermented into a dry wine. The winemaker then takes the various base wines and blends them together into what the French call a “cuvée”, which is the final sparkling wine blend.
  2. Tirage: Yeast and sugars are added to the cuvée to start the second fermentation and wines are bottled (and topped with crown caps).
  3. 2nd Fermentation: (inside the bottle) The second fermentation adds about 1.3% more alcohol and the process creates CO2 which is trapped inside the bottle thus carbonating the wine. The yeast dies in a process called autolysis and remain in the bottle.
  4. Aging: Wines are aged on their lees (the autolytic yeast particles) for a period of time to develop texture in the wine. Champagne requires a minimum of 15 months of aging (36 mos for vintage Champage). Cava requires a minimum of 9 months of aging but requires up to 30 months for Gran Reserva Cava. Most believe the longer the wine ages on its lees, the better.
  5. Riddling: Clarification occurs by settling the bottle upside down and the dead yeast cells collect in the neck of the bottle.
  6. Disgorging: Removing sediment from bottle. The bottles are placed upside down into freezing liquid which causes the yeast bits to freeze in the neck of the bottle. The crown cap is then popped off momentarily which allows the frozen chunk of lees to shoot out of the pressurized bottle.
  7. Dosage: A mixture of wine and sugar (called Exposition liqueur) is added to fill bottles and then bottles are corked, wired and labeled.


Tank Method

a.k.a. Charmat Method, Metodo Italiano, Cuvée Close, autoclave
Examples: Prosecco, Lambrusco
Bottle Pressure: 2–4 atmospheres (ATM) 30–60 psi

The tank method came about during the industrial advancements made in the early 20th century and is the main process used for Prosecco and Lambrusco wines. The major difference between the tank method and the traditional method is the removal of the individual bottle as the vessel used to turn a still wine into a sparkling one. Instead, base wines are added together with the sugar and yeast mixture (Tirage) into a large tank. As the wine has a second fermentation, the CO2 released from the fermentation causes the tank to pressurize, whereafter wines are then filtered, dosed (with Expedition liqueur) and bottled without aging.

Tank method sparkling wines have a much more freshly made character with stronger secondary (yeasty) flavors. Some may argue that the tank method is not as high-quality of a production method as the traditional method of sparkling wine. While the process is more affordable (and thus is popular with lower quality wines), it is still used for fine sparkling winemaking.


Transfer Method

a.k.a. Transversage
Examples: Small format (187 ml) and large format (3L+) Traditional Method sparkling wines
Bottle Pressure: 5–7 atmospheres (ATM) or ~75–99 psi

This method is identical to the Traditional method except that wines need not be riddled and disgorged in the same manner. Instead, the bottles are emptied into a pressurized tank and sent through pressurized filters to remove the dead yeast bits. Then, the wines are bottled using pressurized fillers. You’ll find this method used most commonly for non-standard sized bottles (splits or jerobaum and above). TIP: Transversage method is slightly different than transfer method in that wines are riddled and disgorged into tanks and do not require the filtration step.


Ancestral Method

a.k.a. Méthode Ancestrale, Méthode Rurale, Pétillant Naturel (a.k.a. “Pet-nat”)
Examples: Loire, Jura,
Bottle Pressure: 2–4 atmospheres (ATM) or 30–60 psi

This method of sparkling wine production uses icy temperatures (and filteration) to pause the fermentation mid-way for a period of months and then wines are bottled and the fermentation finishes, trapping the CO2 in the bottle. When the desired level of CO2 is reached, wines are chilled again, riddled and disgorged just like the traditional method, but no expedition liqueur (sugar) is added. The technique is referred to as the Ancestral Method because it’s assumed that this is one of the earliest forms of sparkling winemaking.

Méthode Diose Ancestrale: This variant of the Ancestral Method empties the wines into a pressurized tank and filters instead of riddling and disgorging. TIP: Several producers of Pétillant Naturel wines opt to close their wines with a crown cap.


a.k.a. Gas Injection, Industrial Method
Examples: NewAge 
Bottle Pressure: 3 atmospheres (ATM) 45 psi

The carbonation method simply takes a still wine and carbonates in a pressurized tank. While it’s possible that this method has benefits, at the moment the only carbonated wines are lower quality bulk wines. Still, if you’ve ever drank New Age on the rocks, while sitting outside in the sun, you might feel it was quite alright after all (BTW, New Age is a carbonated sweet white wine blend of Torrontés and Sauvignon Blanc).

Continuous Method

a.k.a. Russian Method
Examples: Lancers 
Bottle Pressure: 4–5 atmospheres (ATM) or 60–75 psi

The Russians may have it with the strangest sparkling wine production method yet! The process gets the name from a continual addition of yeast into pressurized tanks thereby making it possible to increase the total pressure to 5 atmospheres (or as much as most Champagne). Wines are then moved into another tank with yeast enrichments (sometimes wood shavings) which the dead yeast bits attach to and float around in the wine. This gives the wines a similar-tasting autolytic character to the traditional method. Finally, the wines move into the last set of pressurized tanks where the yeasts and enrichments are settled out, leaving the wine relatively clear.

All in all, the process takes about a month. At the moment, there aren’t many producers who use the continual method save for a couple of large companies in Germany and Portugal (and Russia).

First Published On: Wine Folly

Many Different Shades of Rosé Wine

The Many Shades of Rose wine in a glass
Pink Glasses Rose Wine by LUKSEMBURK
Rose wine many shades pink

What is Rosé Wine?

When a wine isn’t quite red, it’s rosé. Technically speaking, this pinkish beverage is produced differently than red wine but with the same grapes. For example, White Zinfandel is produced with the same grapes as Red Zinfandel but the two wines are stunningly different.
Learn all about Rosé wine, from the different styles and grapes to the varied flavors. Rosé wine is serious business –Seriously pink–

Unlikely Origins: Bordeaux

The development of Rosé wine perhaps started with the popularity of Claret (“klar- ETT”)–a common style of red Bordeaux during the 1800’s. Back then, the Brits fawned over pale wines made with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Nowadays, Bordeaux wines have become bolder and darker to fit today’s red wine flavor profile. Rosé has earned a category of its own.

Common Rosé Wine Descriptions from Light to Dark

From beginner to professional, the right wine tools make for the best drinking experience.

  • Mint
  • Grapefruit*
  • Strawberry*
  • Tart Cherry
  • Red Currant
  • Sweet Cherry
  • Strawberry Sauce
  • Raspberry*
  • Wild Strawberry*
  • Blood Orange
  • Raspberry Sauce
  • Tomato
  • Red Bell Pepper
  • Black Currant
  • Blackberry*
  • Berry Jam

* Commonl flavors in Rosé Wine

What Varieties Are Used to Make Rosé Wine?

Grenache, Cinsault, Tempranillo, Pinot Noir… nearly every wine grape has been used to make Rosé wine. Since the category has grown in popularity, there are more options than ever to choose from. So where do you begin and what styles are the most popular? Traditional? The best?Need some more inspiration? See a visual chart to the different Types of Wine 

Dry Rosé Wine

(aka “Not Sweet”) This style of Rosé wine is the most common style produced today around the world. France and Spain lead the way in Rosé wine production and it’s typical to see a blend of 2-3 different grape varieties. Here are the most common dry Rosé wine varieties used either alone or in a blend:

Traditionally Dry Rosé Wines
  • Grenache
  • Sangiovese
  • Syrah
  • Mourvedre
  • Carignan
  • Cinsault
  • Pinot Noir

 Cellaring Rosé Besides a few rare examples such as Rosé from Bandol, France, you should expect to drink Rosé within a year of its release.

Sweet Rosé Wine

Any Rosé wine can be produced in a sweet style by simply not fermenting all the sugar into alcohol. However, it is not as common and mostly reserved for bulk wine production. If you are on the search for a sweet rosé wine, the following wines will fit the bill:

Traditionally Sweet Rosé Wines
  • White Zinfandel
  • White Merlot
  • Pink Moscato
French Rose Wine from the Languedoc

French Rosé Wine

The epicenter of the Rosé wine world is in the South of France. There, along the Mediterranean, regional varieties like Grenache, Carignan and Syrah are blended together to make refreshingly dry Rosé.


The south of France is Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon or sometimes just labeled “Pays d’Oc”. Wines from here smell of strawberries and raspberries and are refreshing with zesty acidity. If you are looking for quality, seek out wines with a high percentage of Grenache, Syrah or Mourvedre versus Carignan or Cinsault. Most Carignan and Cinsault are not as complex.


Expect to find even drier and zippier Rosé wines from the Loire Valley. Flavors of grapefruit, mint and even red bell pepper are common. In Bordeaux, Rosé made from Merlot can lean towards the sweet side with aromatics of strawberry sauce and peaches.

How to Make Rosé Wine

How Time Affects the Color of Rose Wine

There are two major differences between making White wine and Rosé wine. First, Rosé wines use both white and red grape varieties. Second, standard Rosé winemaking looks a lot more like how white wine is made with an additional maceration time added in the beginning.

“It’s all about timing.”

Maceration Method

The maceration method is most commonly used for commercial Rosé. Maceration is when the grapes are pressed and sit in their skins. In red wine making, maceration usually lasts throughout the fermentation. For Rosé, the juice is separated from the skins before it gets too dark. For lighter varieties, like Grenache, it can take 24 hours. For darker red-wine varieties, like Mourvedre, the process sometimes only lasts a few hours.

Vin Gris Method

Vin Gris, translates to “Gray Wine” and is when red grapes are used to make a nearly-white wine. Vin Gris uses an extremely short maceration time. This style of Rosé winemaking is popular for the lighter red wine varieties such as Pinot Noir in the United States and Gamay or Cinsault in France.

The Saignée Method

The Saignée method is capable of producing some of the longest lasting Rosé wines. It is actually a by-product of red winemaking. During the fermentation of a red wine about 10% of the juice is bled off. This process leaves a higher ratio of skin contact on the remaining juice, making the resulting red wine richer and bolder. The leftover bled wine or “Saignée” is then fermented into Rosé. Wines made from the Saignée method are typically much darker than Maceration Method wines and also much more savory.

Clos Pegase Saignee Method Rose Napa Valley

Many Cabernet Sauvignon producers in Napa valley use the Saignée method to increase the richness of their red wines. If you travel there, you’ll find an abundance of Rosé wines available at wineries, but usually nowhere else. A Napa Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé is very rich, almost like a Pinot Noir, but with more savory notes of bell pepper, black pepper and cherry.

First Published On: Wine Folly

How Port Wine is Made and Why It’s Amazing

Micro History of Port Wine

The people of Portugal have been growing grapes along the Douro River since the time of Jesus. The wines of the region were officially demarcated in 1756. While the term demarcation sounds confusing, it basically means the quality of Port wine is protected. Port became wildly popular when English merchants started adding brandy to preserve the wine for export.

Testing the Sugar level of Port Wine Grapes
Farmers are paid by quality. Grape quality is measured by sugar level with this core sample.

There are 2 major factors that make Port wine unique:

  • a.) Port is a sweet red wine  this seems rudimentary, but it’s actually very rare.
  • b.) Port has added spirits (77% ABV brandy) to stabilize the wine for long term aging.

How Port is Made

While there are many newer methods to make Port wine, we’ll be discussing the classic method of making Port wine. This method includes the use of lagars which are shallow open vats used to crush the grapes and intensify the extraction of color from the grape skins. The use of lagars is an ancient method that is rarely used anywhere else in the world.

While all Port wines start out in the same manner, each style (ie Tawny vs Ruby) have different aging methods.

Madeline Puckette holding Touriga Franca vines
These are Touriga Franca grape leaves.
Picking is Still Done By Hand

Over the last 2000 years, most of the Port winemaking process has been mechanized: from automated lagars to destemming grapes. The one thing that machines can’t do is pick the grapes. The ancient terraces are protected by UNESCO and are too narrow for tractors.

Even though there are many unique grape varietals in the Douro, most are picked together, destemmed together and fermented together. The only thing that really matters is that they are picked at the right moment.

From beginner to professional, the right wine tools make for the best drinking experience.

Before it was fashionable, Portuguese wine cellars had to use gravity to make wine. It was the only way to transfer crushed juice from the lagars into barrels.

Crushing Grapes in a Lagar

The wine grapes go into lagars where they are crushed. Lagars are wide, open-top wine fermenting tanks made from stone or neutral concrete. In the Douro, lagars are made of granite.

The process of crushing the grapes is either by mechanization or foot treading. This process takes up to 3 days and then the wine is transferred into fermentation tanks where they continue to ferment until the optimal sugar level is reached. The measure of sugar level is called Baumé.

Adding Brandy To Make Port

Port wine doesn’t go through a complete fermentation. Instead, the fermentation is stopped when the ideal sugar level is reached.

The addition of spirits stops the fermentation by creating an environment where the wine yeasts can’t survive. Winemakers add the brandy evenly into the Port wine so the yeasts “go to sleep” calmly. Most Port producers use about 30% brandy to reach the legal minimum of 17.5 ABV.

Did you know? Almost all of the brandy used in Portugal is imported from South Africa.

Aging Taylors Vintage Port in Balseiros (barrels)
Taylors vintage port aging in Balseiros (large oak barrels)

Aging Port Wines

Port is stable after the brandy is added but it still needs time to develop. Legally, all Port wines must be aged for a minimum of 2 years before release. Even then, it’s illegal for a Port producer to sell more than 30% of their vintage. This means that Port wine producers are legally “encouraged” to age their wines for extended periods of time. Crazy.

Age Port in Large Oak “Balseiros” or Small Oak “Pipas”?

Aging Port in large oak balseiros or steel containers maintains the initial winey (or ‘vinus’) flavor of Port. Aging in smaller oak barrels called ‘pipas’ makes Port taste more nutty. The Pipas do this by increasing the amount of oxygen exposure to the wine. Winemakers rotate their wines to achieve their ideal balance of character.

Oscar Quevedo pulls vintage port from Balseiros

Tawny ports all typically go through longer periods aging in pipas.

List of Port Styles

After visiting the IVDP in Portugal we realized that guaranteeing all the Port in the world is not an easy task. The styles of Port are a bit more nebulous than you’d think.

For instance, if a producer doesn’t release their wine in time to be a Vintage Port, then that same wine will get released as a Late Bottled Vintage (LBV). LBVs are considered a lower-valued product, even though that’s not always the case.

  • Vintage Port Single vintage aged for 2 years in barrel. Bottled. Meant to age for 10-50 years in bottle.
  • Late Bottled Vintage Port Single vintage aged for 4-6 years in barrel. Bottled. Usually meant to drink young, although some are as long lived as Vintage.
  • Tawny Port Multiple vintages aged for 3 years in barrels, but usually 10-40+ years. Bottled. Meant to be drunk soon after bottling.
  • Colheita Port Single vintage aged for many years in barrels. Bottled. Meant to be drunk soon after bottling
  • White Port Same as other ports, but made with white grapes.
  • Rose Port Same as other ports, but made in a rosé style.
  • Crusted Port Blended Vintage Port. Not as popular these days.
  • Garrafeira I’m guessing a producer accidentally left their port outside in jars under the sun later called it “Garrafeira.” Good problem solving. I’ve never loved one…yet.

First Published On: Wine Folly

Do You Know All 13 Light Red Wine Varieties?

Everyone has heard of Pinot Noir, but did you know there are at least 13 common light red wine varieties?


Do You Know All 13 Light Red Wine Varieties?

Light red wines are awesome because they pair well with a wide variety of foods. Plus, they tend to have lower tannin. It makes this style of wine a great choice for those just getting into red wine.

I’ve listed them for you from lightest to richest (keep in mind that every wine is a bit different, so results will vary!).

Lambrusco is a bubbly Italian red.


The common winemaking method for Lambrusco makes it the lightest red wine on our list. In fact, if you want to nit-pick, Lambrusco di Sorbara is the lightest of them all.

Lambrusco is the name of several wine grapes native to Emilia-Romagna in Northern Italy (Same region as Parmigiano-Reggiano). There are about 15 kinds of Lambrusco grapes, but about 6 are commonly known. If you’re looking for great quality, start with Lambrusco di Grasparossa and Lambrusco di Sorbara.

From beginner to professional, the right wine tools make for the best drinking experience.

What does Lambrusco taste like? Typically a little bubbly, Lambrusco ranges from strawberries to blueberries with a pleasant hint of bitterness.
Lambrusco Serving Temperature: 49°F – 54°F Medium chilled, making it a refreshing summer wine.


Gamay (aka Gamay Noir) is better known as Beaujolais, which is the region in France where Gamay originates. Family wineries like Pasquier-Desvignes have been producing Gamay in Beaujolais since the 1400s.

Gamay is a “drink now” wine, meaning it should be consumed within a year or two after being bottled. In fact, Beaujolais Nouveau is designed to be enjoyed as soon as a month or two after its release, between Late October and January.

What does Gamay taste like? Gamay can taste quite similar to Pinot Noir, falling more on the earthy side with flavors of cherry, herbs, and sometimes banana. The banana flavor in Gamay is a result of a winemaking process called carbonic maceration.
Gamay Serving Temperature: 54°F – 59°F Slightly chilled.


Zweigelt was created during the age of viticulture experimentation in the 1900s, which also brought us Pinotage and Müller-Thurgau. Zweigelt is a hybrid of St. Laurent and Blaufrankish made in Austria.

Winemakers may use oak or blend Zweigelt with other indigenous varieties, such as St. Laurent, to make the wine less “juicy” and more complex. Because of its lack of tannin and often acidity, you’ll want to drink it young.

What does Zweigelt taste like? With a purple hue it has flavors of fresh berries with somewhat crunchy tannins.
Zweigelt Serving Temperature: 54°F – 59°F Slightly chilled.


Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir sets the benchmark for light red wine. It is the most widely grown wine variety, originally cultivated by Cistertian monks in Burgundy, France. Pinot Noir’s high acidity and low alcohol make it a great wine for long term aging.

What does Pinot Noir taste like? Since Pinot Noir is so widely cultivated, each of the major regions have very different taste profiles ranging from bitter cranberry to black raspberry cola. Pinot Noir is a highly aromatic, lower tannin wine.

Pinot Noir Serving Temperature: 59°F – 64°F Just cool.

St. Laurent

This special Austrian grape is in the same family as Pinot Noir! Wines are typically darker and richer than Pinot Noir. In fact, I might wager to say that St. Laurent may be the most underrated light red wine on this list.

What does St. Laurent taste like? Tasting very similar to Pinot Noir but darker, St. Laurent packs black raspberry flavors with a pleasant earthy note. St. Laurent is often aged in oak making this wine very lush.
St. Laurent Serving Temperature: 59°F – 64°F Just cool.

Cinsaut (cinsault)

Cinsault is one of the 17 sanctioned varieties used in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and is found mostly in the South of France. Cinsault has long been used in low quality wines because of the vine’s ability to produce high yields of 6 tons per acre (versus pinot noir at 3 tons/acre). However, reducing the yields has produced richer wines which showcase Cinsault’s distinct savory characteristics.

What does Cinsault taste like? Meaty aromas that could be described as “hotdog” but mostly Cinsault is savory with hints of pepper and cherry.
Cinsault Serving Temperature: 63°F – 67°F Cool room temperature.


Championed in the early 1900’s as South Africa’s grape, it is actually a cross between Cinsaut and Pinot noir. Pinotage developed a bad reputation from years of use as a value wine. Poor examples were noted as smelling like nail polish remover, hardly even drinkable. Since those dark years it’s seen some much deserved appreciation from higher quality producers.

What does Pinotage taste like? Brambly like wild blackberries with a meaty flavor.
Pinotage Serving Temperature: 64°F – 69°F Cool room temperature.


Southern Italy’s Primitivo is identical to Zinfandel. That said, the Primitivo wines from Puglia can be a bit lighter in style. A fruit-forward wine, most Primitivo wines are aged in American oak to add spice and vanilla.

What does Primitivo taste like? Raspberry jam with earthy hints of clay.
Primitivo Serving Temperature: 63°F – 67°F Cool room temperature.



Grenache is a grape variety made popular by producers from the Rhône in France and all over Spain (where it’s known as Garnacha).

It’s used as the primary blending grape in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and is also the “G” in GSM blends. When blended, it adds a very desirable spice and aromatic characteristics to the wine. On its own, Grenache is lighter bodied with higher acidity.

What does Grenache taste like? Grenache is floral with slight hints of citrus. The berry flavors in Grenache are cherry, raisin and red currant.
Grenache Serving Temperature: 60°F – 65°F Room temperature.


Counoise is one of the sanctioned varieties used in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and is a low-yield, high quality grape. It is often used in blends to add complexity, spice, and anise.

What does Counoise taste like? Light plum, strawberry, pepper and licorice. Counoise has higher acidity with a medium length finish.
Counoise Serving Temperature: 60°F – 65°F Room temperature.

Zinfandel is the same grape as Primitivo!


America’s sweetheart grape, zinfandel is known for its intense jammy fruit flavors while still being very light bodied. Read why Your Next Bottle Will be a Zinfandel.

What does Zinfandel taste like? Ranging from black raspberry and mocha to spicy strawberry jam. Zinfandel is typically a higher alcohol wine.
Zinfandel Serving Temperature: 65°F – 69°F Room temperature.

Blaufränkisch (Lemberger)

A German grape variety that has a dark purple hue with higher tannins than you’d expect in a light red wine.

What does Blaufränkisch taste like? American Lemberger producers make wines similar to that of a very rich Pinot Noir. While in Germany the flavor of Blaufränkisch tastes of blackberries with a green earthy finish.

Blaufränkish Serving Temperature: 62°F – 65°F Cool room temperature.



Nebbiolo is one of Italy’s most famous grapes, known for its use in Barolo and Barbaresco. It’s a high tannin, light red wine that will dry out the front and insides of your cheeks. Nebbiolo smells like roses, clay and cherries.

What does Nebbiolo taste like? Intense tannins, pepper, rose and savory red currant flavors.
Nebbiolo Serving Temperature: 62°F – 65°F Cool room temperature.

Round out your red wine learning with the “How Wine is Made” poster set – it breaks down how delicious Reds and Whites go from ground to table.

First Published On: Wine Folly

6 Essential Basics to Food and Wine Pairing

It turns out there are 6 main basic flavor profiles that you can experiment with to develop a great food and wine pairing. In this article, we take a look at the fundamental flavor profiles for food and wine pairing, as well as the regional pairing example and why it works. Learn to match food and wine like a professional chef or sommelier.

Bitter, Fat, Acid, Salt, Sweetness and Alcohol balance together to make a perfect pairing
Bitter, fat, acid, salt, sweetness, and alcohol balance together to make a perfect pairing.

The 6 Basics to Food and Wine Pairing

I was half asleep in the morning in a dark Michael Mina Restaurant until Chef Mike boomed in his signature snide-but-charismatic voice, [superquote]”Cooking is simply a balance of fat, acid, salt and sweet.”[/superquote] At the time, I was not a glorious writer of hedonism (aka wine), but part of the service staff gleaning knowledge on how to sell food. What Mina touched on struck a chord and helped me to isolate what I need to go about constructing a food and wine pairing. The basics of flavor-matching are actually quite simple (although not always easy to pull off). These are the 6 basic profiles to work with when thinking about matching food and wine:

  1. Acidity in wine pairs well with fatty and sweet foods.
  2. Fatty foods need either an acidic or high alcohol wine. Otherwise, the wine will taste flabby.
  3. Bitter (aka Tannic) wine can be balanced with sweet food.
  4. Salty shouldn’t compete with acidity in a wine. Use sparingly as necessary to keep sharpness in the meal.
  5. Sweet food/wine benefits from a little acidity.
  6. Alcohol can be used to cut through fatty foods or balance a sweet dish.
A regional match is almost always your best match for food and wine pairing
A regional match is almost always your best match for food and wine pairing

Common Food and Wine Pairing Techniques

Regional Pairing

The idea of a regional pairing is pretty fundamental. Imagine Italian wine and Italian food or an Oregon pinot noir with a cows milk cheese from the Willamette Valley. Regional matches aren’t always the perfect pairing. However, they provide a template for us to understand more about what’s going on structurally with wine & food pairings.

Acid + Acid

Unlike bitter, acidity can be added together with food and wine and will create the basis of what wine people think about when selecting a wine with dinner. If the wine has less acidity than the food, the wine will taste flat. An easy visualization for acids out-of-balance is a glass of oaked warm climate chardonnay with a vinaigrette salad. When pairing a dish with wine, consider the acid balance between the food and the wine.

Sweet + Salty

If you love maple bacon, candied pecans and salted caramels, a wine and food pairing of a sweet wine with a salty food will probably delight you. Pair Riesling with Asian foods such as fried rice or Pad Thai, or try one of my favorite “low calorie” desserts of pretzels and tawny port.

Bitter + Bitter = No

Bitter does not go well with more bitter, which is the primary reason why I loath red wine and chocolate pairings. When we feel fat in the middle of our tongues, it helps to alleviate bitterness.

Bitter + Fat

Grab a big thick piece of fatty something-or-other and pair it with a wine with lots of tannin. This is the classic steak with red wine food pairing, and I think we can do better than that. Take a red wine such as an Italian Sangiovese with lots of cherry flavors and pair the wine with an herbed potato croquette, roasted red tomatoes, and rocket (a classic Tuscan Secondi). Suddenly you have a dish that has the tannin balanced with the fat in the croquette and a harmonious flavor in the dish and wine (tomato and cherry) that elevate each other. I’m already drooling.

Acid + Fat

Nothing like a glass of champagne to cut the fat. A high acid drink will add a range of interesting flavors to a heavy lipid dish. This is why white wine butter sauce is popular (you can watch a video of How to Make Buerre Blanc if you’d like) The white wine in the butter sauce livens up the whole dish. So when you are in a situation where there is something fatty like cheesecake, get a glass of something bubbly and zippy.

Alcohol + Fat

The alcohol category is a bit of a strange one. The alcohol taste comes across as acidity, so a lot of the same ideologies of the Acid + Fat category pass over into Alcohol + Fat. The primary difference is that a high alcohol drink should not be used as a palate-cleanser because that will eff you up. Instead, look at an alcohol + fat category as a way to mitigate high-speed food consumption. A glass of 17% ABV zinfandel will greatly slow down the rate at which you consume your pepper steak. I use the alcohol + fat category often for dessert pairing, but I’d like to see it more in dining as we learn to eat slower and enjoy longer.

First Published On: Wine Folly

The 18 Noble Grapes Wine Challenge

Want to experience the entire range of wine? Try the noble grapes.

It’s time to ditch the same ol’ wine you’ve been drinking and expand your palate.

Why? Well, by doing so you’ll be on the fast track to becoming a wine expert. Make a list of the grapes below and challenge yourself to try every one of them.


A Spectrum of Wine in Just 18 Noble Grapes

What Are The Noble Grapes? There are 18 red and white noble grapes (listed below) that define the complete range of wine flavors –from clear, zesty white to deep dark red wine.

Here is the list of the 18 major grapes that are readily available and define a unique flavor of wine. Once you master this list, you will intuitively understand the major flavor profiles of most red and white wines in the world. This list is missing a few sections such as Dessert wineRosé Wine and Sparkling wine.

Wine Learning Accessories

Red Noble Grapes

The wines below are organized from lightest to darkest.

1. Pinot Noir

The lightest red grape, trying Pinot Noir will help you to understand acidity and aromatics in red wine. Pinot Noir Guide 
Similar Varieties
Gamay, Schiava, Nerello Mascalese, St. Laurent

2. Grenache

The candied red wine grape, Grenache shows how red wines can be light and fruit forward at the same time. Grenache Wine Guide 
Similar Varieties
Zinfandel, Primitivo, Carignan

3. Merlot

Merlot is can be lighter or bolder depending on how it’s made. Usually it’s fruit forward with smooth tannins.
Similar Varieties
Corvina, Negroamaro, Cinsault

4. Sangiovese

Sangiovese is aromatic like Pinot Noir, but has bigger tannins and is cherry fruit driven. 
Similar Varieties
Touriga Franca, Counoise, Nebbiolo

5. Nebbiolo

A savory high tannin/acid wine that is also very light in color –very few wines are like Nebbiolo.
Similar Varieties

6. Tempranillo

Tempranillo is earthy with rustic tobacco notes and high tannin. 
Similar Varieties

7. Cabernet Sauvignon

One of the most balanced full-bodied wines of the world. Cabernet is savory with a very long finish.
Similar Varieties
Cabernet Franc, Lagrein, Montepulciano

8. Syrah

Syrah offers big, bold, dark fruit flavors up front with a subtle finish and lighter tannin. Flavors from olive to blackberry and tobacco.
Similar Varieties
Barbera, Dolcetto, Mencía

9. Malbec

Candied similar to Grenache but instead of strawberry and cherry flavors it’s more in the blueberry/blackberry realm.
Similar Varieties
Monastrell, Nero d’Avola, Touriga Nacional

Noble White Grapes

The wines below are organized from lightest to richest.

1. Pinot Grigio

Light and zesty high acid white wines.
Similar Varieties
Garganega, Assyrtiko, Albariño, Pinot Blanc, Grenache Blanc

2. Riesling

Dry to sweet white wines that smell like lime, honey and apricots with high acidity.
Similar Varieties
Furmint, Silvaner, Loureiro

3. Sauvignon Blanc

Green and herbacious. 
Similar Varieties
Vermentino, Friulano, Grüner Veltliner, Verdicchio, Colombard

4. Chenin Blanc

Zesty white wines that smell like flowers and lemon.
Similar Varieties
Albariño, white Vinho Verde (a regional blend)

5. Moscato

Sweet wines that taste like peaches and orange blossom. 
Similar Varieties
Müller Thurgau, Torrontés

6. Gewürztraminer

Off-dry to sweet white wines that taste of ginger and honey.
Similar Varieties
Malvasia, Torrontés,

7. Sémillon

Dry medium bodied wines with lemon notes.
Similar Varieties
Fiano, Grillo, Encruzado, Trebbiano (aka Ugni Blanc), Falanghina

8. Viognier

Medium bodied white wines that smell like flowers.
Similar Varieties

9. Chardonnay

Full bodied dry white wines. 
Similar Varieties
Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Trebbiano Toscano (aka Ugni Blanc)

First Published On: Wine Folly

Red & Dark Fruit Flavors in Wine

Red Fruit Flavors in Wine

light red wines have red fruit characteristics such as cranberry, cherry, strawberry, raspberry and jam

How do I buy a wine when I don’t know what it tastes like? Refer to the guide below to discover what wines have dominant red fruit flavors vs. dark fruit flavors. For example a Pinot Noir often has cherry flavors and a Cabernet Sauvignon often tastes like black currants.

Dark Fruit Flavors in Wine

Wines with dark fruit flavors such as plum, currant, blackberry and blueberry

Red Fruit Flavors in Wine Varieties


Gamay is better known as Beaujoulais. Most Beaujoulais are meant to be drunk within the year after they are produced and are light cherry with sometimes a banana-like flavor. There are finer, more age-worthy Beaujoulais referred to as “cru Beaujoulais,” and these wines often have raspberry aromas and a green stem bitterness. Tart CherryRaspberry

Pinot Noir

When Pinot Noir has a cranberry flavor profile it is from a cooler climate such as Oregon, Marlborough, New Zealand, or Burgundy, France. Cherry is the most common flavor found in Pinot Noir, ranging from red to black cherry. Dark cherry wines indicate a warmer region such as Sonoma, CA; Central Coast, CA; Central Otago, New Zealand; Warm vintages in Oregon and Patagonia, and Argentina. Strawberry aromas are a characteristic often found in New Zealand Pinot Noir. When a Pinot Noir has raspberry flavors and it’s from America, this often means the wine was blended with some Syrah to add extra body. CranberryCherryStrawberryRaspberry

St. Laurent

Widely grown in Czech Republic and Austria, St. Laurent wine is from the same family as Pinot Noir. CranberryCherryRaspberry


This is an Austrian red wine cross between St. Laurent and Gamay. Typically it will have tart cranberry flavors along with a peppery note. CranberryTart Cherry

Lemberger (Blaufränkisch)

Similar in flavor to Carménère with a pronounced spiciness and more tannin than Zwiegelt, this wine can be found grown in America, particularly in Washington State and New York. Because of this, Lemberger will start to become more popular in America. CherryRaspberry


Grenache can range in flavor greatly depending on where it’s grown. American Grenache often takes on strawberry and jam flavors. StrawberryRaspberryJam


Red Cherry


Tempranillo is a Spanish grape used in Rioja. These wines can range from a light Crianza with more cherry notes to a rich dark Grande Reserve, which sometimes even exhibits blueberry flavors because of extended time aging in oak. Red CherryRaspberryBlueberry


From northern Italy, Barbera has a much more pale color and notes of cherry and unripe raspberry. From the US, Barbera is more jam-like with ripe raspberry flavors. CherryRaspberryJam


The primary grape in Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from Italy. This wine also has intense smokiness and big tannins, as well as dark red fruits. Black Cherry


Sangiovese comes from Italy and is grown all over. Traditionally, when it’s from Chianti or Brunello di Montalcino, it has a smokiness with dried cherry or strawberry flavors. When grown in the US, it has little to no smokiness and fresh strawberry and jam-like flavors. Red CherryStrawberryJam


Nebbiolo from northern Italy has very big tannins and is the grape in Barolo and Barbaresco. When it is made under the “Langhe” designation, it has much lighter flavors that remind me more of Pinot Noir (although still with stronger tannins). Tart CherryStrawberryRaspberry


Merlot in its lightest stages tastes of cherry and plum. However, many winemakers in America and France are making very rich styled Merlots with extended oak aging that take on much darker fruit character and are hard to distinguish from Cabernet Sauvignon. PlumBlack CherryJam


Lambrusco is a grape often used and is a pale red sparkling wine from Lambrusco Italy. Currently Lambrusco is growing in popularity because of its light and refreshing character. Many Lambrusco wines are slightly sweet, although many higher end Lambrusco makers are making dry-style wines. StrawberryRaspberry


America’s darling, Zinfandel is actually of Croatian origin. Regardless, America has some of the largest plantings of Zinfandel which range from a lighter style (with about 13.5% alcohol) which exhibits strawberry flavors, to a rich and high alcohol style tasting wine with flavors more like raspberries (and mocha!) StrawberryRaspberryJam


Primitivo is very similar to Zinfandel in many characteristics, but typically is made with less alcohol. It is light, with earthy clay-like notes and strawberry flavors. StrawberryRaspberryJam

Cabernet Franc

Cabernet Franc from France often has stronger notes of bell pepper and black pepper than red berry fruit. Cabernet Franc from the US has more cherry notes as well as hints of bell pepper and sometimes, when grown in California, it has a very jam-like character. Black CherryJam

Corvina (Amarone & Valpolicella)

Corvina is one of three grapes that make up Amarone. Amarone is known for its dried strawberry notes along with dried fruit aromas. Strawberry


This grape is typically found in blends from the Cotes du Rhone. The grape is becoming more widely planted and more popular in the US both in Washington State and California as of late. Besides the red cherry flavor, it also has a meaty character flavor reminiscent of salami. CherryRaspberry

Dark Fruit Flavors in Wine Varieties

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon has a wide range of fruit flavors from raspberry (in cooler climates such as Washington State) to blackberry (from hot climates such as California). The unique flavors in Cabernet Sauvignon are green bell pepper, black pepper with big tannins and tobacco notes. RaspberryPlumBlack CurrantBlackberry


Malbec can be lighter with less oak usage in the value range, giving it more black cherry flavors. As it is exposed to more time in oak though, it develops a candied blueberry note. BlueberrySugar Plum


Mouvedre creates a very dark wine that has blueberry and rich earthy tar-like notes. BlueberryBlackberryPlum

Petite Sirah

Petite Sirah produces wines with high tannins that are very inky. Often having a slight peppery note, Petite Sirah are commonly found in blends where added intensity is desired. PlumBlueberryBlackberry

Nero d’Avola

Traditional style Nero d’Avola (Sicily’s champion red grape) is earthy with dried fruit aromas such as raisins and figs. More and more winemakers in Sicily are experimenting with different winemaking techniques and Nero d’Avola is becoming smoother with more blackberry and spice characteristics. PlumBlack CurrantBlackberry

Syrah / Shiraz

Syrah/Shiraz has a wide range of flavors. In France, it almost takes on a black olive characteristic; whereas in Australia–where Syrah is called Shiraz–it tastes more of blackberry. BlueberryBlackberry

Touriga Nacional

Dark and rustic, this grape is a dominant variety found in Port (Portugal). As a dry wine, it is earthy and rustic, often exhibiting blackberry flavors. Black CurrantBlackberry


Bonarda is often used as a blending grape in Argentina with Malbec. It’s darker in color than Malbec and adds tannic structure and earthiness. Blackberry

Petite Verdot

Petite Verdot is very rarely offered as a single varietal wine. It is opaque with big tannins and when grown in France it smells earthy like tar. In America and Australia, Petite Verdot is much more fruity and smells like violets and blueberries. PlumBlueberry


Dolcetto is a high acid grape that exhibits blackberry aromas and typically has very tart flavors. It is one the the lightest dark fruit flavored wines and has bitterness on the finish. Blackberry


This is a very tannic wine that needs about 10 years of aging to taste more of the rich black currant and blackberry flavors comprising the grapes. Black CurrantBlackberry

First Published On: Wine Folly

How to Develop Your Wine Palate

Develop Your Wine Palate

Have you ever tasted a wine and distinctly remember smelling fruit roll-up or perhaps 5-spice powder? You may have a naturally attuned wine palate that can be developed with 6 simple techniques.

Your palate is composed of a series of taste buds, tongue, the interior of your mouth and the most important sensor of all: your nose. Developing a good palate starts with paying close attention to what’s going on with these aforementioned sensory areas. If you want a truly remarkable palate, you’ll additionally need to take steps to protect and prime your palate. Priming, however, is a thought for another time. In the meantime, try the following 6 techniques to develop your wine palate.

  1. Slow Down
  2. Look and Smell. Then Taste.
  3. Visualize and Isolate Flavors
  4. Identify Flavors and Move On
  5. Pay Attention to Texture and Body
  6. Build a Wine Memory

What Should I Try? Start developing your palate with the 18 Noble Wine Varieties 

Step 1: Take it Slow

Have you ever slowly savored a chocolate truffle? Rich ganache slowly melting on your tongue as the flavors evolve gradually throughout your mouth. This slow savoring where you let your senses take over is how you can bump up your skill at tasting wine. It takes time to determine the nuances of a wine and our own brains achieve a higher level of analytical thinking when we slow down.

Step 2: Look and Smell. Then Taste.

The look is not as important as the smell, however both play a large roll in our perception of a wine before it even touches our lips. You can test this theory by blindfolding a friend and giving them a room temperature white Rioja (a bolder white wine from Spain); you can trick them into thinking it’s a red wine. If you remove your nose from sensing a wine it’s very difficult to taste anything but the texture of a wine.


What is a Supertaster?

A supertaster is someone who has an extreme sensitivity to bitterness, salt and sweet. Since their sensitivities are heightened, bitter flavored foods like brussel sprouts, kale, coffee, some beers and even wine will bother a supertaster. People who are sensitive to flavors are also very sensitive to hot drinks, carbonation and spices

Step 3: Visualize and Isolate.

Sitting with my nose hovering over a glass with my eyes closed I suddenly start identifying the flavors of a wine faster than with my eyes open. I see roses, red cherries, a clay pot and cloves. The rose smell is less pronounced than the red cherry smell and when I close my eyes I imagine that the roses and cherries are in a terra cotta clay pot that’s been rubbed with baking spices. This must be a younger Chianti, a sangiovese from Italy made in a more modern style. By using visualization, I’m able to isolate flavors and paint a picture in my mind that resembles other pictures I’ve recalled when I’ve tried Chianti. This is how I place a wine in style and a region when I blind taste it. When you train your palate, tasting pinot noir is like tasting bacon… you just know it as soon as you smell it!

Step 4: Identify Flavors and Move On.

It’s easy to get held up on a flavor in a wine. I smelled a wine once and all I could smell was anise. I couldn’t get past the smell of anise and identify the wine. Once you identify a flavor or aroma, it’s useful to move past it and ask “what else is here.” The nuances are what make wines unique or particular to where they originate.

Step 5: Pay Attention to Texture and Body.

Fruit flavors in a wine aren’t the only flavors in a wine. Texture adds to the flavor and gives a wine body. For instance a viognier, a white wine, is known for having an oily texture in the middle of the tongue. Oftentimes I’ll rub my tongue on the roof of my mouth to identify features like minerality or tannin. Does the tannin hit you in the side of the mouth, the front or the middle?

Step 6: Build a Wine Tasting Memory.

Picking out the key points of a wine helps to build a taste memory. Your working wine memory is something you can use to refer to when tasting new wines and finding new favorites. For instance, many young Spanish grenaches I’ve tried have a ruby red grapefruit flavor and it helps me identify the wine in a blind tasting. Using taste memory can also help when thinking about food and wine pairings. Find out more about pairing food and wines.
As much as your memory is powerful on the fly, it’s useful to take notes about wines, especially during wine tastings.

First Published On: Wine Folly