This Is the Real Difference Between Pinot Noir, Cabernet, and Other Red Wines
A glass of smooth red wine is a relaxing experience. Wouldn't it be great if you could learn more about the different types of red wine and choose a better bottle for an even better experience? In addition to sommeliers, wine lovers are one of the few people who are familiar with the taste profiles of red wine varieties and their best dishes. Cameron D. Lincoln, sommelier at Fisk & Co. in Chicago, Illinois, says that a layperson shouldn't be afraid to delve deeper into the differences and origins of red wine varieties.
"Wine shouldn't be disheartening or incompatible in the way it's presented. Like anything else worth liking, it has history, origin stories, and even laws that govern the way, how he should be made, "he says.
City Wine Tours Chief Wine Ambassador Wes Narron says red wine can be paired with anything from high-end cuisine to fast food - if you pick the right variety.
"Red wine can bring so many different properties into play, from lively acidity to playful fruitiness to a more robust and rigorous experience," says Lincoln. "Wine changes how we experience food and how we experience the dynamics of a meal based on its profile."
Get to know the different types of red wine here and prepare yourself for even better dishes and dinner parties. For more tricks, don't miss out on these 15 clever ways to use leftover red wine.
Cabernet Sauvignon grapes
Cabernet Sauvignon is made from a special grape variety: the mixture of a red Cabernet Franc grape and a white Sauvignon Blanc grape, which occurs naturally in the French region of Bordeaux.
"Cab Sauv can be made in as many ways as a winemaker can dream, but a lot of the cab we drink looks a bit oak, and the best have been bottle-aged," says Lincoln.
Goes best with: steak and grilled food
Narron says that Cabernet Sauvignon is often paired with steak or other fine (expensive) beef cuts. However, the Wine Ambassador says that you shouldn't be deterred from pouring a glass with your Burger King Whopper or a Shake Shack Double Cheeseburger.
"Cabernet Sauvignon, with its high tannins - the naturally occurring preservatives that give the wine body and structure - is the best accompaniment to anything that is grilled," he says.
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Merlot means the little black bird in French. The Merlot grape is also a sibling of the Cabernet Franc grape.
"Merlot tends to have more purple and red fruits, however, where the profile in Cabernet is generally more focused on the spice and mineral notes," says Lincoln. This is precisely why the combination of the two grapes results in a balanced wine blend.
Goes best with: Seafood
"Try a Merlot with tuna tartare. Fresh, raw fish with sesame seeds and ginger soy sauce goes great with the smooth, fruity elements of Merlot," says Narron.
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Pinot Noir grapes
"Pinot Noir is one of the most difficult wines to brew because it is thin-skinned and therefore prone to many types of disease or minor natural disasters," says Lincoln.
Pinot Noir is one of the most versatile grapes with which the winemaker has the freedom to create different types of wine.
"Pinot can be whimsical and bright like newer generation wines in the Loire region of France, or austere and thought-provoking like more traditional Burgundian wines," says Lincoln.
Goes best with: BBQ chips
Narron suggests combining Pinot Noir with high-quality grill chips like Cape Cod Kettle-Cooked Sweet Mesquite, Lay's Mesquite Kettle Cooked BBQ or Kettle Backyard BBQ.
"The earthy flavor of Pinot Noir and the umami-like BBQ spice are the most classic wine and junk food combinations," he says. "Almost as good as fried chicken and champagne!"
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Malbec grapes in Argentina
Similar to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, Malbec has its origins in the French region of Bordeaux. Today, according to Lincoln, malbec is mostly harvested in Argentina because the roots of the grapevine did not respond well to the French climate.
"Traditionally, French Malbec has excellent acidity and moderate, prickly tannins. However, the Argentine style that we see more often now is quite luscious and full and bristling with dark purple [and] red fruits," he says. "Most of these wines will also have moderate oak aging, which is good for more nuanced flavors like tobacco and vanilla."
Goes Best With: Chocolate Cake
"Melted chocolate cake, chocolate lava cake, flourless chocolate fondant cake ... call it what you want, but get yourself a Malbec to join in," says Narron. "Malbec shows plump aromas of coffee, spices and smoke, the core of all good pralines. The darker the better."
"Syrah is another wine with a split personality that has immensely different structures and taste profiles [and] aromas depending on the region in which it was made," says Lincoln. "Regardless of the region, this personality is a bit of a tyrant. Syrah is an extremely bold, robust wine, most commonly known as Shiraz from Australia."
The wine comes from its birthplace in France and is known as Syrah.
Goes best with: short ribs
“I recently had short ribs of beef cooked in maple and aged balsamic vinaigrette along with a Cote du Rhone Syrah and I thought my head was going to explode. I hit the table, stamped my feet, and praised mine Time for that mortal coil when I got it all down, "says Narron.
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According to Lincoln, Zinfandel is "the only wine on this list whose rise has come almost entirely from the New World, California more specifically. Zinfandel is generally a medium to very full bodied wine with high alcohol content and sweet ripe berries breaking through with every sip. "
Goes best with: Seafood / fish stew
"Zinfandel goes so well with fish stew," says Narron. "The wine flavors emphasize the seafood textures and cover up unnecessary fish flavors."
How do you choose the right red wine?
Red wine is poured into two glasses
According to Lincoln, wine improves anything from a homemade meal to a dinner at a restaurant, an episode of your favorite Netflix show and something intangible like a current mood or sentiment.
"For example, for a simple, fun picnic in the park on a nice, sunny day with friends, I could choose a fresh, sour gamay that is served chilled to add to the idyllic mood of upbeat casualness," he says. "Or, on the other hand, I could choose a deep, almost foreboding bottle of Northern Rhone Syrah while drinking in a dimly lit steakhouse and having a serious conversation about Descartes vs. Casuistry."
You don't have to be an ethics buff or even a philosophical thinker to enjoy a glass of Syrah, but you get an idea of what tone it can make. Hopefully, now with the utmost confidence you can go to a wine store and choose the red wine that best suits your outing or event. Bottom up!
For more information, check out these 108 most popular sodas, sorted by toxicity.
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