The Noble Reds
There are four red-wine grapes that are considered noble grape varieties: Pinot Noir, Syrah/Shiraz, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Like their white counterparts, they are known for their adaptability, quality, popularity and sense of place. Being highly adaptable reds, they also age well. But despite these common features, there is a huge variation in the wines they produce—in body, aromatics and tannins.
For this lesson we had to purchase a Bourgogne Rouge (or a new world Pinot Noir, but Bourgogne Rouge is preferred), a Northern Rhône Syrah, a basic Bordeaux or California Merlot and a Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon.
We couldn’t find the Bourgogne Rouge so we bought a 2009 Nelson Bay Pinot Noir (New Zealand $12.99), a 2009 Fat Bastard Syrah/Shiraz (Languedoc, France $9.27), a 2008 Red Rock Merlot (Modesto, CA $10.37) and a 2008 Lapostolle Casa Cabernet Sauvignon (Rapel Valley, Chile $11.97).
We also did a blind taste test: one red, one white. We chose a 2009 Frontera Merlot (Central Valley, Chile $8.49) and a 2009 Yellow Tail Sauvignon Blanc (Australia $4.97). Of course Dave and I knew what the wines were but the rest of the group had to use their new knowledge (aroma, color, acid/sweet, body and finish) to discern what type of grape was used to make the wine.
I should note here that I generally do not like red wine. I don’t like the dry, cotton-y feeling that the tannins produce and almost invariably, I get immediate heartburn. So, I know I am not the best red wine reviewer but I did try to be objective. Please feel free to comment.
The Nelson Bay Pinot Noir was a pale ruby, smelled of raspberries, high acid but doesn’t seem that dry, taste disappears quickly in the mouth and I didn’t get any heartburn from this wine. Yea!
The Fat Bastard Shiraz was a deep ruby plum color, seemed fairly dry, a bit bitter, warming finish and only a tiny bit of heartburn. This is going better than I expected.
The Red Rock Merlot was ruby colored, smelled of fermented straw, was drying but quite smooth and no heartburn. What the heck is going on?
The Lapostolle Casa Cabernet Sauvignon was a deep ruby, very dry, instant heartburn for me. For some in our group this was their favorite.
The Frontera Merlot was ruby with a hints of pink and orange, smelled of vanilla, a bit acid and a bit drying, not too much heartburn.
The Yellow Tail Sauvignon Blanc was light peach/gold in color (which is weird since Sav Blanc usually looks a bit greenish), it smelled a bit metallic – like canned pineapple, compared to the reds it was sweet and the finish was quick. Naturally this was my #1 for tonight (being a white wine) but since I should choose a red I’ll pick the Nelson Bay Pinot Noir.