This week we will talk a bit about my favourite grape varietals. There are hundreds of different varietals around the world. As you can imagine, the same grape works in different ways according to where it grows. We can love the Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa and it will be different from a Cab planted in Lebanon. Of course, each varietal has a soul that reflects its own nature but the soil will give the grape its particular character.
Isn’t it good that each varietal has a particular wine region where it gives the best of it? Cabernet Sauvignon in Bordeaux and Napa Valley, Merlot in Bordeaux, Chenin Blanc in the Loire Valley, Tempranillo in Rioja, Tinta Fina in Ribera de Duero, Pinot Noir in Bourgogne and Oregon/Washington, Carmenere in Chile, Cabernet Franc in Argentina, Nebbiolo in Barolo, Sangiovese in Toscana, Sauvignon Blanc in Australia, Riesling in Mosel and Alsace, Chardonnay in Champagne, Syrah in Rhone just to name a few. Does this mean we cannot find a good Tempranillo somewhere else? Absolutely not. But one great thing about wine is that producers find the best varietal for their soil and they explore all its characteristics to make superb wines.
As you go tasting and discovering new wines, you will adjust your palate to it. You will discover which wines you appreciate more and which ones best adapt to your taste. In an ideal world you would be able to find your favorite wines in the same shop at a similar price, but unfortunately this place doesn’t exist. I know there are many websites for you to get those wines, but shipping costs and custom taxes make a bit hard to buy wine in distant countries.
In this ideal world, I would buy my Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. In the Left Bank of the Garonne River in Bordeaux they make some of the best and most expensive Cabs in the world. Still, I love the Californian ones. The truth is I’ve tasted more from Napa rather than from Bordeaux, and I love the body the Americans give to their wines. One of my favorites comes from Beringer Vineyards. The 1997 was an extremely delicious wine. I still treasure one bottle of that vintage. Some other ones that I love are the Ridge Monte Bello, the Caymus Special Selection and Mayacamas.
Napa also offers a great Zinfandel. And with this varietal there is one king and one king only for me: Turley Vineyards. They produce different Zinfandels across California, but the Dusi Zinfandel is perfection in a bottle for me.
If we talk about Merlot, we can talk about the Right Bank of Bordeaux. The small village of St. Emilion has almost more wineries around than population. Merlot here is found in single varietals or assembled with Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc. I recently discovered a good one at an affordable rate, Château Carteau. If you want to invest your long working hours on wineries in the surroundings, you will find Château Le Pin, Château Cheval Blanc or Château Petrus to name a few. But there are more wineries with great wines without needing to assault our bank account.
Outside France I love one Spanish Merlot. Jean Leon Merlot, in Penedès. This is probably the wine I have tasted more different vintages and it is always great. I still remember 2001 as a perfect year. 2004 was also an incredibly great wine.
Being Spanish, I cannot neglect some of the best Spanish wines. We have here 65 different Denominations (DOs). We have so many excellent wines in every one of them. Still, for the wines that I love, I will talk about two of them: Ribera De Duero and Priorat. In both DOs you can find great wines ranging from 6 euro to 1000 euro. But you can enjoy superb wines at affordable prices. In Ribera, I love Pago de los Capellanes, Emilio Moro and Viña Sastre, every wine they produce. There are so many wineries producing highly rated wines that I can recite here, such as Vega Sicilia, Pingus, Hacienda Monasterio or Pago de Carraovejas, and lesser known winemakers such as Teófilo Reyes or Ascension Repiso to mention a few, but the ones I mentioned first offer incredibly sublime wines ranging 15-40 euro. Any of those wines make me look in awe at my glass while I drink them.
In Priorat we can find high-end wines like L’Ermita by Álvaro Palacios, ranging around 800-1000 euro, but also great affordable wines such Finca La Planeta by Pasanau Germans and Les Terrases also by Álvaro Palacios, for less than 30 euro. Clos Martinet or Clos Dominic’s Vinyes Vielles for around 40 or Clos Mogador around 60 euro. Great wines produced with coupages using Grenache, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot.
In France, besides the ever popular Bordeaux wines assembling Cabernet Sauvignon in the Left Bank and Merlot in the Right Bank with some Cabernet Franc, I’ve become in love with Pinot Noir from Burgundy. I am still beginning exploring the region, but the smoothness of their wines is absolutely great. Again, we can find bottles of wine more expensive than a sports car like the Domaine de la Romanèe Conti, but also great wines for less than 50 euro that will delight our palates. Paul Jaboulet, M. Chapoutier, Bouchard Père e Fills or Louis Jadot produce many different wines from the ample array of Denominations we can find in Bourgogne.
Finally, what to say about Italy? This country deserves many entries in this blog and we will discuss Italian wines in the future. But for now we will mention Nebbiolo from Northern Barolos and Barbarescos, and Sangiovese from Central Tuscan DOs as Brunello Di Montalcino, Super Toscanos and Chianti. I love Italian wines and there are so many of them we can enjoy along with our meals or on their own.
Next week we will talk about white varietals.