Wine Terms...

Excellent red table wine made from the Nebbiolo grape in the Piemonte of Northwestern Italy.

Light, fruity red wine from the region of the same name in Southern Burgandy, France.

Major wine region of Southwestern France, along the Dordogne and Garonne rivers.  Centered around the city of Bordeaux.

The Left Bank is the source of some of the worlds greatest table wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon blended with Merlot, Cabernet Franc and other minor grapes.  Wines from the Right Bank of the river, St. Emilion and Pomerol, often contain higher proportions of Merlot.

Brunello di Montalcino
Fabulous Italian red wine from Southern Tuscany.

Cabernet Sauvignon
One of the noblest red wine grapes, used in Bordeaux , U.S.A., Australia, Chile, Argentina, South Africa and wherever wine grapes grow.  The predominant red grape variety in the world.

Cabernet Franc
Red grape primarily used as a blending wine to add berry scents and taste to Cabernet.

Apple and green-apple aromas are the classic descriptor, although tropical fruit and pineapple show up commonly, especially in America and Australian Chardonnays, and when aged in oak.  And, as New World Chardonnays often are, it may have the vanilla, spice and tropical fruit flavors typical of oak.

The classic dry red wine of Tuscany, made from Sangiovese and other grapes found  between Siena and Florence in North Central Italy.  "Super Tuscan" wines incorporating Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and other non-traditional blends have become world famous and are true collector items.  Chianti Classico is made from grapes grown in the central part of the region and are considered more desirable; Chianti Classico Riserva spends additional time aging in oak barrels.

Coteaux du Languedoc
A dry red table wine from south of France, blended using different combinations of Cinaut, Grenache, and / or Syrah.

Côte Rôtie
Exceptionally fine, age worthy, red wine from the Northern Rhone.  Primarily Syrah-based, and named for the "roasted slopes" on which the vineyards grow.

Refers to both red and white wines from the greater Rhone Valley.  Wines range from jug quality to quite nice, and are usually exceptionally well priced.

Fumé Blanc
A term invented by Robert Mondavi in the 1970's as a marketing tool to sell Sauvignon Blanc.  Fumé Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc are the same wine.

White wine grape best known in Alsace, Germany and the U.S. West Coast.  Grows best where there is morning fog and milder climates.  Can be bone dry to semi-sweet with 3.5 or more sugar.  Marries well with spicy foods.

Red wine grape used as a nominal element of the Bordeaux blend, where its intense color and extract add to the wine's body.  Also used as a primary grape in the inky red wines of Cahors and in some Argentine reds.

Excellent white-wine grape of the Rhone Valley . Planted in California , especially in the Santa Barbara region, it is used alone and as a blending grape.

What was originally used primarily as a blending grape for Cabernet, it has become exceedingly popular as a 100% varietals of it’s own. Since it can be blended very smooth and soft without tannins, Merlot is increasingly popular as an introductory wine to beginning red wine drinkers. Blended more aggressively in the Cabernet style, many Merlots have great aging ability.

Another red grape grown and used as a blending grape for wines in Southern France , the Rhone , Spain (where it is known as Mataro) and California . It is prized for it’s rich extracted taste and color. 

This is the ‘noble’ grape of Italy ’s Piedmont region. It is the basis of some of Italy ’s greatest wines: Barolos and Barbarescos.  Found in the NW, it is known for it’s flavors of violets and intense black fruits. Most Barolos must age for many years and must be decanter several hours before consuming to fully open up.

Petit Verdot
Red wine grape used as one of 5 primary grapes in blended wines.

Petite Sirah
California red grape which produces a dark plumy red wine that can last forever.

Pinot Blanc
A white wine grape which makes a dry, full white wine. A good alternate to Chardonnay. Usually less oak than a Chard, since it is rarely fermented in wood but rather in stainless steel tanks. One often denotes scents of melon in Pinot Blanc.

Pinot Grigio / Pinot Gris
The same white grape. French and American vintners use Gris, while Italian vintners say Grigio. The wines are usually very dry and very crisp with a full acidic backbone. Marries well with seafood and fish. Common in Alsace , Northeastern Italy , and increasingly Oregon.

Pinot Noir
Classic red grape, widely accepted as one of the world's best.  Burgundy is its home, and it has proven difficult to grow and vinify well elsewhere, but California and Oregon increasingly hit the mark. At its peak, it makes wines of incredible complexity, difficult to describe (although cherries and "earthy" qualities are typical).  Known as much for its "velvety" texture as its flavor.  Some of the world’s most collectible and expensive wines are made with the Pinot Noir grape.

Ribera del Duero
Challenging Rioja (below) for the title of Spain 's greatest red wine, these Tempranillo-based reds, particularly the fabled Vega Sicilia, can last and improve for decades.

Perhaps the best red wines of Spain, grown in arid, mountainous in Northern Spain and named for the Rio Oja river. The wines are made from Tempranillo and other grapes, are often aged in oak, and trace some heritage to Bordeaux, from where many wine makers emigrated after the phylloxera scourge of the mid-19th Century.

White Rhone grape, often grown with, and blended with Marsanne.  Increasingly popular grape in the Santa Barbara region.

This red is the predominant grape in Chianti.  Makes a hearty, dry red, with flavors of black cherries.

Sauvignon Blanc
White grape used predominantly in Loire and Bordeaux usually and widely planted in the Western U.S., South America, Australia and New Zealand.  The wine comes in many styles, ranging from grassy to citric.  Makes a wonderful food wine that is often more preferable with food than Chardonnay.

Syrah / Shiraz
The same classic Rhone red grape allegedly brought back from Shiraz in Persia by the 14th-Century crusader Gaspard de Sterimberg.  Blended in Chateauneuf-du-Pape and standing alone in Hermitage, Cote-Rotie and other Rhone reds, it makes tannic, age worthy wines easily identified by a very characteristic floral black-pepper fragrance.

Excellent Spanish red-wine grape.  Like Nebbiolo and Sangiovese in Italy, it historically takes a second place to Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir in the world "noble grape" sweepstakes, but probably shouldn't.  It makes wines in Rioja and Ribera del Duero that are arguably world-class.  Black fruit is the usual descriptor, although most Tempranillo-based wines show spicy oak as an integral component, and are also characterized by the hearty, robust and acidic structure that the grape imparts.

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
Excellent Tuscan red wine made from a blend of Sangiovese and other red grapes; neighboring to Chianti on the south but distinctly different.  Much more elegant, refined and age worthy are the Vino Nobles.

Seldom used outside France, in the production of Condrieu and Chateau-Grillet, this white grape is gaining considerable attention as a varietal in California and Southern France.  It makes a light, lean wine with a very characteristic floral scent, not meant for aging but best consumed early.  Exudes tropical aromas and flavors. Makes an excellent summer sipper.

White Zinfandel
"Blush" wine, usually California , usually simple and often sweet. Made by removing red Zinfandel grape skins from the juice immediately after crush.

A cousin to the Italian Primitivo grape, this increasingly popular American red grape produces black and red berry laden, fruity, big red wines. Great wines and great values. Goes with many foods that Cabernets are too powerful for or Merlots too weak for.

Servings: How many in a bottle?
You can get five generous (5-ounce) pours out of a single (750 ml) bottle.

Tannins: What are they?
Do you get a puckery sensation when tasting a young Cabernet Sauvignon?  What you're tasting is tannic acid or tannin.  Tannin comes from the skins, seeds and stems of some red wine grapes.  Aging wine in oak barrels can also impart that puckery affect. Tannins soften as wine ages and matures.

During the maturation process, wine develops a bit of sediment in the bottle as its flavor evolves from harsh and astringent to mellow and complex. Tannins also act as antioxidants, naturally preserving the wine during its maturing years. For wine to properly age, there must be ample fruit to offset the tannins. If you intend to drink a young tannic Cabernet there are a few steps you can take to soften the wine. First decant it so it can breathe then swirl the wine in the glass to further aerate. Try the wine with a hearty food to offset the astringency of the tannins.