What's the Grape?
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Many wines, especially from Europe, are named for the place from which they come or their style. If you are familiar with the winemaking requirements of the region, the grapes can be inferred.
Let’s take a look at some examples:
- Bordeaux: If it is a red wine, it will be a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot and/or Carmenere. If it is a white wine, it will be a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and, possibly, Muscadell.
- Burgundy: With very few exceptions, white Burgundies are made from Chardonnay, and red Burgundies are made from Pinot Noir.
- Sancerre and Pouilly Fume: Named for the twin towns on either side of the Loire River, these white wines are made from Sauvignon Blanc. If you come across a red Sancerre, it is made from Pinot Noir.
- Vouvray: This is a white wine from the Loire Valley made from Chenin Blanc.
- Champagne: You can call it Champagne only if it comes from that region of France. Everything else is “sparkling” or “cremant." The three approved grapes for Champagne are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Muenier. If you see “Blanc de Blanc” on the label, it is made entirely from Chardonnay. If you see “Blanc de Noir,” it will have some amount of Pinot Noir or Pinot Muenier in the blend.
- Cahors: The “black wine of Cahors," named for its dark color, is made from Malbec.
- Barolo and Barbaresco: Barolo, the “king of wine," and its slightly younger counterpart, Barbaresco, are both made from 100% Nebbiolo.
- Prosecco: For the longest time, Prosecco was used as the term for both the wine style and the grape from which it is made. However, in recent years, Italy has returned to calling the grape by its proper name – Glera.
- Valpolicella: The wines of Valpolicella, including Amarone, are made from a combination of Corvina, Rodinella and Molinara.
- Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino: Chianti is made predominantly from Sangiovese, although some blending is allowed. Brunello (“the nice dark one”), on the other hand, is made from 100% Sangiovese.
- Rioja: Red Riojas are made predominantly from Tempranillo, while white Rioja is made predominantly from Viura.
- Priorat: Named for the county in Spain outside of Barcelona, Priorat wines are predominantly made from Grenache.
- Cava: The “champagne” of Spain is made from a combination of Macabeo, Parellada, Xarel-lo and Chardonnay.
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