Here is a bit more information about some of the grape varietals & special wines.
Beaujolais Nouveau, literally means the first wine from the Beuajolais region of France. A much-ballyhooed cherry-red colored vintage that’s best served chilled and is clearly not for wine snobs. This fresh and fruity red, which is 6 to 8 weeks old, is the result of a quick fermentation process that ends up with a tasty, clean wine that is enjoyed by palates the world over.
The Gamay grapes that go into Beaujolais Nouveau are handpicked in the Beaujolais province of France. The wine actually originated about a century ago as a cheap and cheerful drink produced by locals to celebrate the end of the harvest season.
In 2010, 35 million bottles of the wine were put on the market. Some 7.5 million were sold in French supermarkets and 15.5 million were exported mainly to Japan, Germany and the United States.
Beaujolais Nouveau owes its easy drinkability to a winemaking process called carbonic maceration, also known as whole-berry fermentation. This technique preserves the fresh, fruity quality of the grapes without extracting bitter tannins from the grape skins.
A perfect wine for the Thanksgiving table, light easy drinking and another way to celebrate your own harvest.
Cabernet Franc, aka Cab Franc
Cab Franc is one the the major black grape varieties grown and is one of the Bordeaux grapes. This grape produces a lighter wine than Cabernet Sauvignon and creates a bright pale red wine that imparts aromas of tobacco, raspberry, bell pepper, cassis and violets. It also is less tannic and tends to produce a smoother mouthfeel. New World example emphasize the fruit more by delaying harvesting.
The grape is old and is recorded in journals from the late 18th century. DNA analysis indicates it is a parent of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carmenere. It is believed to have been established in the southwestern region of France, or Basque country sometime in the 17th century. The local name for Cabernet Franc in Loire Valley, France is Breton, named after Abbot Breton of Bourgueil Abbey, the man credited with bringing the variety to the region the the 17th century. The varietal is now planted throughout the world, primarily used as a blending grape, however, there are some amazing single varietal Cab Franc wines now being reintroduced to the market.
Grenache or Garnacha is one of the most widely planted red wine grape varieties in the world.It ripens late, so it needs hot, dry conditions. It is primarily grown in Spain, the Italian isle of Sardinia, the south of France, Australia, and California’s San Joaquin Valley.
It is generally spicy, berry-flavored and soft on the palate and produces wine with a relatively high alcohol content, but it needs careful control of yields for best results. Characteristic flavor profiles of Grenache include red fruit flavors such as raspberry and strawberry with a subtle, white pepper spice note. Grenache wines are highly prone to oxidation with even young examples having the potential to show browning, or “bricking,” coloration that can be noticed around the rim of the glass. Wines made from Grenache tend to lack acid, tannin and color, and it is often blended with other varieties such as Syrah, Carignan, Tempranillo and Cinsaut. The high levels of sugars and lack of harsh tannins, makes Grenache well adapted to the production of fortified wines such as “vin doux naturel” from France.
The grape is also known as Cannonau in Sardinia, where it is claimed to have originated and spread to other Mediterranean lands under Aragon rule. Grenache was one of the first varieties to be introduced to Australia in the 18th century and eventually became the country’s most widely planted red wine grape variety until it was surpassed by Shiraz in the mid 1960s.
The Grenache vine is characterized by its strong wood canopy and upright growth. It has good wind tolerance and has shown itself to be very suited for the dry, warm windy climates. The vine buds early and requires a long growing season in order to fully ripen. Grenache is often one of the last grapes to be harvested, often ripening only weeks after Cabernet Sauvignon. The long ripening process allows the sugars in the grape to reach high levels, making Grenache based wines capable of substantial alcohol levels. While the vine is generally vigorous, it is susceptible to various grape diseases that can affect the yield and quality of the grape production. Marginal and wet climates can increase Grenache’s propensity to develop these viticultural dangers.
Despite its prominence in the industry, the grape is a relatively new variety. A chance crossing between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon blanc during the 17th century in southwestern France has become the Cabernet Sauvignon we now know. Its popularity can be attributed to its ease of cultivation. The grapes have thick skins, the vines are hardy and naturally low yielding, budding late avoiding frost and it is resistant to common grape issues such as rot and insects.It also has a consistent presentation of structure and flavours which express a typical characteristic of the variety.
The classic profile of Cabernet Sauvignon tends to be full-bodied wines with high tannins and noticeable acidity that contributes to the wine's aging potential. A Cabernet Sauvignon from the Old World tastes more like the herbal/floral flavors of graphite, violets and tobacco than fruit. When you smell a Bordeaux, you’ll often get hints of black cherries and licorice along with the earthiness. A Cabernet Sauvignon from New World countries are often a touch fruitier than their Old World cousins. Expect flavors of Black Cherry, Licorice and Black Pepper all wrapped together with a dash of Vanilla. The wines tend to have a little bit less tannin and acidity but also have more alcohol,
The muscat grape family includes over 200 varietals. It is used in wine production, as table grapes and as raisins. The color of the skins varies from white, yellow, pink to almost black. There is not a ‘true’ muscat, but rather many. The oldest and most valued is the Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains (Moscato Bianco in Italy).
Some believe that the ancient Egyptians and Persians were very familiar with the muscat grape. Other say the grape was first propagated by the Greek and Romans. The first documentation of the ‘muscat’ grape was by an English Franciscan in the early 1200’s. Most believe the name was derived from the Persian word muchk. The ‘musky’ odor the grapes produces attracts bees and insects.
There are several grape varieties that have a similar name but are not related to the Muscat family, such as Muscardin, Muscadelle and Muscadet grapes. Wine names can also add to the confusion, such as Lorie Muscadet which is not made from a Muscat family grape. Despite the diversity of the Muscat family, one trait is common, the floral ‘grapey’ aroma. The wines from the muscat grape range from dry, medium, sweet sparkling to dessert wine which is very sweet and heavy.
In general the muscat grape prefers a warm climate, such as the Mediterranean climate. Italy produces more muscat than any other country in the world.
Muscat wines are perfect for fish and sweet foods such as chocolate. The grape is also used to make regional spirits such as Pisco, a brandy found in Chile and Peru, and Metaxa a brandy liqueur from Greece as well as many fortified wines.