Know Your Malbec From Your Merlot? Finding Your Favourite Wines
If you are anything like me you might get a little bored of having the same options to choose from when you are out and up for a nice glass of wine. To be honest, in a lot of places there are very limited options to choose from when you are out. Obviously, there are exceptions to this, we are very lucky to have lots of great wine spots here in Ireland.
When it comes to choosing a wine the first big question, and for lots of people the question, is ‘red or white?’. The colour of a wine isn’t the reason why we love a wine. We love a wine for its flavour, its aroma, its texture and we can get those characteristics that we love from both a red wine and a white wine. Don’t limit yourself to being simply Team Red or Team White. So instead of focusing on what colour of wine you want to sip it from, you should first think about what you like about your favourite wine and what style you are up for today.
Generally, once you have picked your preferred colour of wine, let us use white as an example, you will probably then be asked to choose between Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay. This limits our choices and forces us to not be adventures with our wine choices.
The wine world is so vast that boiling it down to the colour of wine and six or seven grape varieties would be doing it a great disservice. There is so much more out there; it’s time to see what’s out there. You won’t be disappointed.
I am sure, at least once, you’ve heard someone saying ‘I don’t like sweet wines’, ‘I don’t like Chardonnay’ or ‘I like Pinot Grigio’. Of course, there is nothing wrong saying any of these things but we should be questioning why we don’t like sweet wines, Chardonnay and why we like Pinot Grigio. Here is my suggestion, start asking yourself what do you like or if it is difficult to find out what you like, you can start with what you don’t like.
Questioning yourself and asking; why do/don’t I like this wine, is it about the aroma profile, the texture? Know what you like/don’t like about a wine, or wine, in general, is the biggest step on the path to discovering a new favourite. Here are some alternatives to the tried and tested classics.
If you like the herbaceous flavours of Sauvignon Blanc such as nettles, crushed blackcurrant leaves or aromas like gooseberries and its high acidity which gives you a crisp and refreshing sensation, then you might also like wines such as Vinho Verde wines from the north-west of Portugal, Verdejo from Rueda in Spain, Grüner Veltliner from Austria, trocken (dry) Riesling from Rheingau in Germany and Moschofilero from Peloponnese in Greece.
Pinot Grigio, also known as Pinot Gris in France, and Grauburgunder in Germany are actually the same grape variety which shows a big difference the style of wine makes. The lower alcohol Grauburgunder is often more acidic than the Pinot Gris from Alsace.
Pinot Gris wines, from France, are fuller, creamier, richer and spicier than Pinot Grigio and Grauburgunder even though there are all from the variety of grape. You can find Pinot Grigios that are overly acidic but lacking in flavour. That said there are also examples of Pinot Grigios which have vibrant stone fruit, floral and citrus flavour while still retaining enough acidity to keep them crisp and fresh.
So, if you are into Pinot Grigio, I suggest you try to look out for Assyrtiko from Greece, white Txakoli wines from Basque Country in Spain, Picpoul Blanc from Languedoc in France, Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) from Sachsen in Germany and Pinot Bianco (Pinot Blanc) from Italy.
Chardonnay produces different flavours and styles depending on where it’s grown and how it’s made (aging in oak barrels, malolactic fermentation, bâtonnage etc). Some show earthy, lean, apple-crisp characteristics with higher acidity and lighter bodied while some others would provide creamy, toasty, buttery, nutty characteristics or more tropical fruit styles with flavours of peach, mango, pineapple and lime.
South African or Loire Chenin Blanc would contribute the richness, creaminess and buttery texture that you can also get it from Chardonnay. Grenache Blanc from Southern Rhone and some varieties grown in the south of Italy such as Fiano and Catarratto would be the other options worth to try if you like Chardonnay.
When you are looking for something velvety, plummy, juicy and fruity with mouth-filling sensation and soft tannins, Merlot is not the only choice out there for you. Some grape varieties from southern Italy such as Nero d’Avola and Negroamaro, Malbec from Argentina, wines made of Aragonês (Tempranillo) and Castelão grapes from Alentejo region of Portugal, Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre (aka GSM) blends from Côtes du Rhône and Languedoc in France would be right up your street if you are a big fan of Merlot.
If you are a Cabernet Sauvignon lover who adores its full-body, deep purple colour when it’s young, dark fruit flavours such as blackcurrant and sometimes its herbaceous characteristic, then the good news is that there are lots of wines out there for you.
Touriga Nacional from Duoro in Portugal, Tannat from Uruguay, Carménère from Chile, Mourvèdre (Monastrell) from south-eastern wine regions of Spain such as Yecla and Jumilla would be appealing to any lover of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Pinot Noir (aka Spätburgunder in Germany) is one of the most delicate varieties that express the impact of its terroir (the sense of place that includes climate, soil, vine, habitats and history) in a very significant way. It has a red berry-forward character such as strawberry, raspberry, cherry along with earthiness and cloves, liquorice flavours which are some of the common threads of Pinot Noirs.
If you like less tannic and crispy wines with red berries, spiciness and earthiness like Burgundy-style Pinot Noir, then you might like Zweigelt and Blaufränkisch from Austria, Gamay from Beaujolais-villages.
Syrah (Shiraz in Australia) is a favourite of people who love full-bodied wines that are rich in flavour and slightly higher in alcohol. The flavours of Syrah might vary depending on where it’s grown but black pepper for France and dark chocolate for Australia would be the signature flavours. Blueberry, blackberry, black cherry are some of the most common flavours that you can get from Syrah. So, if Syrah is also your go-to then it might worth trying Grenache (Garnacha) from Spain, Pinotage from South Africa.
Your favourites will always be there waiting for you. While you are off being adventurous and trying new wines, they are not going to go anywhere. So keep your eyes open for different wines and don’t be afraid to try something which might be slightly outside our comfort zone. After all, variety is the spice of life.
Bodegas Filus “Lazos Terra” Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina
€19.95 – Available at Greenman Wines, La Rousse Wines.
This Argentinean Malbec from Mendoza delivers flavours of plum, red cherry and violets with a very elegant and soft finish. A great alternative for Merlot.
Mandrarossa Nero d’Avola Costadune 2017
€14.99 – Available at Mackenway Wines, DrinkStore.ie, DrinkStore, Stoneybatter, Redmonds Ranelagh, The Vintry Rathgar, Sweeney’s & Lilac Wines, O’Donovan’s Cork, Morton’s of Salthill in Galway.
The soft and juicy palate of this Nero d’Avola from Sicily presents the fruity sensation of black cherry and plum with a hint of cloves.
Famille Perrin Côtes du Rhône Rouge 2016
€19.95 – Available at – La Rousse Wines, 64 Wines
This blend of Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre from Southern Rhône Valley with an intense fruity character has blackberry and blueberry flavours together with notes of black pepper and cloves.
Calmel & Joseph Villa Blanche Picpoul de Pinet, Picpoul Blanc, Languedoc, France
€15.50 – Available at Celtic Whiskey Shop, Fishbone
This lively Picpoul from Languedoc-Roussillon’s Picpoul de Pinet AOC in southwest France has a lovely fresh hit of green apple and passion fruit comes with a slight saline character.
Cantina Tramin Weissburgunder 2017
€17.99 – Available at Celtic Whiskey, Shop, 64 wines.
This Weissburgunder (aka Pinot Blanc) from Alto Adige in Italy has a harmonious balance of delicate fruit and fine acidity along with green apple, pear and hazelnut notes.
Bodega Garzón Reserva Reserve Carmenere 2016, Tannat, Garzón, Uraguay
€19.99 – DrinkStore.ie, DrinkStore, Stoneybatter, Redmonds Ranelagh, The Vintry Rathgar, Sweeney’s & Lilac Wines, O’Donovan’s Cork, Morton’s of Salthill, Galway
Blackberry and plum aromas jump from the glass in this Tannat from Uruguay. Chocolate and black pepper flavours with its fruity notes all come together on this elegantly structured red.
Enrique Mendoza “La Tremenda”
€17.99 – Available at Solera Wine Merchants, Shanahan’s on the Green, FX Buckley, L’Ecrivain, Le Pastis Bistro, Peploe’s wine bistro, Knox Restaurant Sligo, Blackrock Cellar, Lilac Wines, The GrapeVine Glasnevin, Lotts and Co, The Vintry.
Juicy and fruity, this splendid Mourvèdre (Monastrell) from Alicante in Spain offers rich raspberry, red cherry and plum aromas with a chocolate and slight saline character.
Evodia Garnacha 2017, Aragon, Spain
14.5% ABV 14.5%
€15.99 – DrinkStore.ie; DrinkStore, Stoneybatter; Redmonds Ranelagh; The Vintry Rathgar; Sweeney’s & Lilac Wines, O’Donovan’s Cork; Morton’s of Salthill, Galway.
Rich, velvety and silky, this Grenache (Garnacha) from Aragon in Spain has flavours of blackberry, blueberry and black cherry with vanilla and roasted hazelnut notes.
Feudi di San Gregorio, Fiano di Avellino 2016, Campania, Italy
€19.99 – Available at Celtic Whiskey Shop
The palate of this fragrant Fiano from Campania in Italy offers flavours of pear and peach alongside notes of earthiness, honey and white flowers.
Sevgi’s passion for wine has begun while she was studying food engineering in one of the wine-producing regions of her native Turkey. Following her graduation, she chased her dreams and started to work as a winemaker in her home country.
Sevgi then moved to study for her Master’s degree in Oenology & Viticulture in France and Germany. Mosel in Germany, one of the most respected wine regions, is where she experienced how to grow grapes in the extreme steep-slope vineyards. Sevgi is currently conducting research for her postgraduate study about the Irish wine market at NUI Galway. She is also working on some projects which should come to fruition soon such as organising wine tasting sessions and wine appreciation courses.