Whether merlot or cabernet, riesling or pinot noir, the consensus is: wine is good! Despite the familiar flavours encountered in each batch of wine, grape varieties have their own unique and distinct flavours they impart into each bottle that keeps us reaching for our favourites (pinot noir for me please). For example, Merlot wines tend to have red fruit flavours, soft tannins and an easy finish whereas a cabernet sauvignon tend to have more oaky and smoky notes, leading to something fuller bodied. It’s incredible how two grapes that make red wine can create an entirely different drinking experience.
Let’s look at some popular grape varieties and their characteristics:
Cabernet Sauvignon – wood flavours, oak, vanilla, black currants, tobacco, high tannins
Pinot Noir – high acidity, low tannins, roses, fruit, black cherry, currents
Cabernet Franc – savoury, bell peppers, medium acidity, red plum, chilli, strawberry
Riesling – nectarine, apricot, honey crisp apple, pear, highly aromatic
Gewurztraminer – high alcohol content, roses, spices, lychee, passionfruit
You can see how varied the flavours can range from spicy to sweet, and tropical to berry. Now, a lot of this has to do with the grape itself but did you know climate can also have a vast effect on the flavours produced in the grapes as well? Merlot wines are a perfect example of how a region can play a huge factor in the final flavour of the wine.
Cool Climate Merlots
These grapes are mostly grown in Italy, Chile, and France where the climate tends to be a little cooler. The wines have a higher presence of tannins, and earthy flavours (which is why they are sometimes mistaken as Cabernet Sauvignon). A lot of flavours you’ll encounter will be, anise, espresso, charcoal, currants, fig, plum, tar, and limestone. Some of these flavours may seem a little strange but wines are deep, complex creations and the flavours all combine to make something extraordinary. Its why we’ve been making it for centuries!
Warm Climate Merlots
These grapes are mostly grown in California, Australia, and Argentina where the climate tends to be much warmer. The tannins are less prevalent, and the wines tend to be very fruit forward. A lot of flavours you’ll encounter will be, flowers, chocolate, raspberry, cherry, mocha, red cherries, nutmeg, and cloves.
The same variety of grape and yet two contrasting drinking experiences. In fact, so contrasting that a longer oaking period is needed for the warm climate merlots to give them some structure. Which brings us to another game changer in the winemaking world. Oak barrels. A prime example of this magnitude of difference would be the classic Chardonnay.
Oaked vs. Unoaked Chardonnay
Most oaked chardonnays come from warmer climate regions and tend to have a buttery taste. They are full-bodied and full of wonderful flavours like vanilla, butter, caramel (from the oak), and tropical fruits. Unoaked chardonnays come from cooler climate regions and don’t have that same buttery flavour. They lean toward the zesty side with bright flavours like green apple, lemon, citrus, and figs.
Whatever your poison (or should we say elixir?), each grape variety offers a world of flavours to be sipped and savoured any time of year. Be it on a warm patio, a crisp Riesling building condensation on the side of its glass and cutting through the heat of summer with notes of pear and apple, or beside a roaring fire in the dead of winter, cabernet sauvignon warming you from the inside out with its smoky wood flavours.
Ask us about purchasing different grape varietals to make your own wine at Macedo Winery & Macedo U-Vin.