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Varietals – Reds

There was a request to list out my quick definition of the various varietals that get reviewed on here. This is by no means an industry-defining listing of all the characteristics of every type of wine. Like the reviews, this is the quick and dirty version and far from complete. Hopefully it will help those that prefer a less flowery blurb about what they’re considering pouring into their glass.




Cabernet Sauvignon – A big, bold wine that is full of fruit and flavor. If done right it’s a beautiful thing, oaky spicey fruit that’s great with steaks or on its own. If done wrong it tastes of vinegar and the sweat of the disenfranchised. One of the four “classic” reds (the others being Merlot, Syrah, and Pinot Noir) and likely the most well-known red varietal in the United States (“Red Blend” doesn’t count).

Carmenere – Originally from Bordeaux, France this deep red wine mainly comes from Chile now. The irony is that it’s not allowed to imported into Europe if it bears the Carmenere name but isn’t from France and yet France rarely produces any. If Chile didn’t make it, it might be borderline extinct but let’s go ahead and ban it. This is a medium bodied wine in the Cabernet family of grape. This is often used in blends rather than on its own.

Chianti – This is an Italian regional wine made up of some other Italian varietals (usually a blend of Sangiovese, Canaiolo, and Malvasia blanca). Think of it as the “Italian Red Blend”. A light, slightly fruity wine that goes well with flavorful Italian foods. Many Chiantis seem watery but if done right it’s a nice mellow red to have at the table.

Malbec – If I hadn’t had the amazing Lo Tengo Malbec from Argentina I would have said all affordable Malbecs are horrible, chalky substances worth avoiding. Instead I propose that Malbecs are apparently difficult to get right, but when you do they’re smokey sultry beauties, full bodied and lightly sweet. Tread lightly for your way is fraught with peril.

Merlot – I have described Merlot as weak-willed and bland. The perfect varietal to blend with a too bold Zinfandel or Cabernet grape that needs taming for a red blend. I’m not a fan of it on its own. It’s described by others as softer and fruitier than Cabernet Sauvignon. Meh.

more to follow (under construction so-to-speak…)

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