malbec, UC Davis
Question from Lindsay: Everytime I go to the store to buy wine for a gift or a party, I’m overwhelmed by the choices. I know there are Merlots, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and a few other types, but I have absolutely no idea what the difference between all of them are. To me, they are all red. Can you give a brief overview of the general differences.
Reply: Hi, Lindsay. Thanks for writing! This is another good question that lots of other people have. A few weeks ago I decided to write about a different grape variety every week, so soon there will be fairly detailed info on the most popular varieties available on the blog. Just do a search by variety. In the meantime, a broad-brush stroke for these reds is a great idea and will be this week’s grape(s) of the week 😉
Pucker factor (Tannin): Very noticeable. Tannin runs around your mouth seeking out protein and then clings to it. That’s what accounts for the drying, gripping sensation. Cab has thick skins and the skins are the source of the color and most of the tannin.
If you sometimes think you’re drinking Merlot and it turns out to be a Cab – or vice versa – there’s a good reason. These grapes are similar. Take Cabernet back a notch and it begins to look more like Merlot.
Flavor profile: Merlot often shows red fruit intermingled with black: Currant, black cherry, plum, violet, herb-like, earthy; Oak will add some of the woody characteristics described for the Cab.
Pucker factor: Usually noticeable, but softer than Cab. Merlot can leave a fleshy impression where Cabernet comes off as more structured. Continue reading