Pinot Noir

La bête noire As a wine grape, Pinot Noir is the bête noire of its family, Les Pinots—Blanc, Meunier, Gris and Noir. Pinot Blanc makes respectable wines from Alsace and Northern Italy; Pinot Gris, from the same places. Pinot Meunier is a mainstay in Champagne. But while Pinot Noir grows more widely, it does so much more unsteadily. In a sense, it is the Mae West of the famille Pinot. When it's good, it's very, very good. But when it's bad, it's as bad as bad gets. Pinot Noir mutates capriciously (over 230 strains exist, some polar opposites). It benefits [...]

By | 2020-09-28T21:48:36+00:00 February 4th, 2019|

Merlot

In this country, the role that Chardonnay plays for white wine, Merlot plays for red. That is, it’s what’s asked for first. And it isn’t merely because Merlot is easier to pronounce than Cabernet Sauvignon—the wine not so long ago unseated by Merlot as America’s most commonly requested red. It’s because Merlot is just so appealing—plush, round, low in tannin, loaded with juicy tastes of black cherry, chocolate, ripe plums and licorice (or, if from Bordeaux, even an acceptable turn on the flavors of fruitcake). Merlot is the “wine without tears,” while, contrariwise, it often may seem that Cabernet Sauvignon [...]

By | 2020-09-28T21:52:26+00:00 January 27th, 2019|

Nebbiolo

Not only do Italian grape varieties frequently make for some of the world’s tastiest wines, but they also have some of the coolest names. Sangiovese, for example, comes from the Latin words sanguis Jovis, “the blood of Jove (Zeus).” Not at all a bad name for a red grape. The name Nebbiolo is thought to derive from the Italian word nebbia or “fog.” In the Langhe, a hilly area in Italy’s Piedmont, milk-white mists and vapors settle into the valleys during harvest time—hence, the name (made even more endearing because the diminutive suffix “-olo” makes Nebbiolo mean “little fog.”) Not [...]

By | 2020-09-28T21:53:44+00:00 January 27th, 2019|

Cabernet Sauvignon

Like Chardonnay—but far more dependably—you’ll find Cabernet Sauvignon nearly everywhere wine grapes grow. Because it can. Stick some Cabernet Sauvignon wood in the ground and out pop leaves—in Bordeaux, famously; in California and Italy, famously and infamously; and in Washington State, Australia, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Spain, even Uruguay and Mexico. (And many other places, too.) What Cabernet Likes About the only thing that Cabernet Sauvignon needs is warmth. Too cool a soil or climate and the wines it makes are vegetal-tasting and green, with flavors such as bell pepper or asparagus. (Too warm, and it comes off jammy and [...]

By | 2020-09-28T21:58:01+00:00 January 26th, 2019|

Cabernet Franc

One night, many hundreds of years ago, the grapevines cabernet franc and sauvignon blanc nuzzled up to each other, somewhere in the Bordeaux region of France, and made a baby. They took the first halves of each of their names and called the kid “cabernet sauvignon.” As with so many children, cabernet sauvignon has mightily outshone its parents. It is the most sought-after red wine grape on the globe and, unlike either of its parents, is planted in nearly every country that grows grapes into wine. It ripens later than either of its parents, developing more color, structure and flavor. [...]

By | 2020-09-28T21:59:08+00:00 January 26th, 2019|