How do I choose a red (Part II)?

Posted by Carolyn on 29th Sep 2015

A couple of posts ago I mentioned I would provide more alternatives to some of the more common wine varieties to enliven your palate with a variety of new flavours. Last time I revealed some options for the usual Cabernet Sauvignon drinker but this time I’m exploring some Pinot Noir alternatives that you may have already tried or at least heard of. The similarities to Pinot Noir are in the deep fruit flavours and overall lightness.

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is the classic choice for those seeking a light, more delicate red wine absent of overbearing spice or sharpness. It is typically fruit driven with distinguishable, long lasting flavours of berries, cherries and violets with hints of chocolate, toast, herbs such as oregano, beets, olive and spice.

Pinot Noir is notorious for being a difficult grape to grow since the climate must be consistently cool so it ripens slowly over time. Young pinot noir smells sweeter whereas aged pinot noir has deep fruit aromas holding a silky, all round mouth feel. Pinot noir doesn’t age well because of its low tannin content so it’s best to enjoy it within five years.

Burgandy (France) and New Zealand produce savoury, complex pinot noirs with more earthy, meaty and smoky flavours in contrast to Italian and Australian pinot noirs that tend to have more domineering red fruit flavours with less emphasis on spice. Pinot Noir is also grown in Germany, Switzerland and surprisingly California since it is considered to be a warmer environment.

The alternatives:

1. Grenache

Origin: Grown most famously in the Rhone region of France, but originated in Spain

Style: Light-bodied with higher acidity than Pinot Noir

Flavours: Red fruits; raspberry and strawberry, spice. Low in flavor, so it is often blended (see below).

Aroma: Very aromatic, smells similar to how it tastes

Tannin: Low

Acidity: Medium-high

2. GSM

- Grenache

- Shiraz (Syrah)

- Mataro (Mouvedre)

Origin: Rhone and Provence region of France, Valencia in Spain, California & Australia

Style: Full bodied

Flavours and aroma: Ripe fruit, rose, earth/sand from Mouvedre, Asian spice, herb and sage

Tannin: Fine

Acidity: High

3. Cinsault

Origin: Languedoc-Roussillon region of France. Major variety in Algeria, Lebanon, Morocco and South Africa. Occasionally grown in Italy, Eastern Europe and Australia.

Style: Medium-bodied

Flavour: Strawberry, red cherry

Aroma: Vanilla, coconut, meat, wood, toast, oak, smoke

Tannin: Fine

Acidity: High

4. Tempranillo

Origin: Rioja, Spain Ribera del Duero

Style: Light-medium

Flavours: Cherry, plum, licorice, chocolate, herbal

Aroma: Ripe fruit, vanilla, coconut

Tannin: Medium

Acidity: High