Grape Varieties& Role In Wine Making
Soon after harvesting, grapes are carried to a winery and made ready for primary fermentation. Red wine varieties are produced from the pulp or must of black/red grapes that are subjected to fermentation along with the grape skins.
White wine is prepared from grapes whose skins are removed before fermentation. The fermenting juice used in the production of white wines is made by pressing crushed grapes. White wines can also be prepared by extracting juice from red grapes without the skins.
A wine obtains its particular flavor, taste or scent from the specific variety of grape used in producing the wine. Now, let’s have a look at the different varieties of grapes and the role they play in making wines.
Red Wine Varieties&Role In Winemaking
The Cabernet Sauvignon grape has the darkest skin of all grape varieties and this result in dark colored red wine. Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are tough, red and small grapes and these are mostly grown in all wine producing regions of the world, including France, Italy, California, South America and Australia. Due to the tannin content of these grapes, they result in a good variety of red wine.
Cabernet Sauvignon wines taste like cedar and blackberries. This wine variety also possesses the flavors of black cherry, currant and plum. The Bordeaux region of France makes wine by mixing the Cabernet Sauvignon grape with Merlot.
Zinfandel grapes are mainly cultivated in the California region. The Zinfandel wine grape has gained recognition as the “national wine grape of California.” Both white and red Zinfandel wines are produced from this grape. On the basis of their age, Zinfandel wines can be fruity as well as spicy.
The red wine prepared from the Zinfandel grape is a strong, luscious wine and its taste is dependent on the ripeness of the Zinfandel fruit from which the wine is prepared.
Merlot is a specific type of wine grape that is extensively used to make red wines. The Merlot grape contains a lower amount of tannin and is cultivated in areas such as Long Island, Italy, California, France, Washington, New York and California. Generally, Merlot grapes that are cultivated in a cool climate yield the best wines. The British Columbia region produces the best Merlot wines due to its damp soil and cool summer. Other excellent places to grow Merlot wines are France’s Bordeaux and Italy’s north-eastern regions namely, Friuli and Veneto.
The Merlot grape yields wines with flavors of mint, honey and cherry.Some of the Merlot grapes grown in cooler climates result in wines with flavors of asparagus or green beans.
Merlot grapes ripen at an early age and the wine prepared from Merlot grape is a blending element in almost all types of Bordeaux wines.
Merlot wines are medium bodied wines that are not thoroughly acidic and this makes them the best wine varieties for beginners. The Merlot wine varieties form excellent pairings with foods such as beef, lamb, cheese and different types of chocolates. The perfect combination of Merlot wines with different food items make them one of the highly sought after red wine.
White Wine Varieties& Role In Winemaking
Chardonnay is a fruity white wine grape cultivated in the wine producing regions of South Africa, Australia, Burgundy, California and Champagne. The Chardonnay grape makes rich and excellent white wines.
Wines prepared from Chardonnay grapes may have an oak-like flavor and some of the particular Chardonnay wine varieties might taste like melons or peaches. The Chardonnay grape is well-suited to a wider variety of winemaking techniques and styles than other white grape known till now. The expensive Chardonnay wines are generally made to age in oak barrels and when Chardonnays are aged in oak barrels, it develops rich and ripe flavors of fruits such as grapefruit, pineapple and pear.
The popularity of Chardonnay grape lies in the fact that it is able to create a full-bodied buttery white wine. Altogether, as a white wine variety, Chardonnay grape is capable of getting improvement in quality and vigor even when stored in the bottle for a period of 30 years. Chardonnay wines effectively blend with Colombard as well as Chenin Blanc and still taste fruity.
2. Sauvignon Blanc
The Sauvignon Blanc grape is green-skinned and originated in France’s Bordeaux region. It is a white wine grape cultivated in the wine producing areas of France, California, New Zealand, Chile, Australia, South Africa and Brazil.
France’s Loire region has produced the best Sauvignon Blanc wines and these include Pouilly Fume and Sancerre. The wine growing regions of New Zealand has created some of the excellent varieties of Sauvignon Blanc wines. In New Zealand, the Sauvignon Blanc grapes are picked early and this results in quality wines with flavors of asparagus, lychee fruit and grass. In certain areas such as Bordeaux and California, the Sauvignon Blanc wine is made to age in oak barrels and in these specific places, the wine is blended with Semillon, another wine variety to produce excellent quality wines.
Other Grape Varieties& Their Role In Winemaking
1. Mission Grape
The mission grape (Criolla Chica) is a strong historical wine variety. It is a low grade Vinifera and was mostly used in the preparation red and white wine, sweet wine, dry wine, brandy and fortified wine. The California mutation of the mission grape Criolla Chica is dark skinned and it was used in manufacturing sacramental wine. However, now the Mission grape is no longer used in making sacramental wine.
Now, the mission grape variety is widely used in making a major part of Argentina’s low-priced table wine.
2. Fall Grape (Vitis Berlandieri)
Vitis Berlandieri is a specific type of grape known as the Spanish Grape, Little Mountain Grape, Winter Grape and especially as Fall Grape. The tissues of this plant are made to fuse with that of French-American hybrids and Vitis vinifera that helps in the propagation of these two grape plants.
The fall grape is suitable as a rootstock because it helps in combating Pierce's Disease and a range of other ailments that can occur in “Vitis vinifera”. This type of grape is also an energetic rooter and can grow effectively in sand as well as limestone.
The fall grape or Vitis Berlandieri is used to prepare delicious wines but this grape variety is not sweet enough and therefore a small amount of sugar is to be added to sweeten the wine. Before the ripening of this grape, it remains acidic to a certain extent but as it ripens it becomes thoroughly sweet and luscious…Balanced wine can be prepared from the ripened berries of Vitis Berlandieri as they contain enough acid.
3. Muscadine Grape Or Vitis Rotundifolia
Muscadine grapes are a particular type of grape varieties that are extensively grown in southeastern United States since 16th century. The Muscadine grapes taste sweet but can also be acidic at times. However, if these grapes are acidic, they may need sugar to prepare a wine having a moderate amount of sweetness. When the Muscadine wine is aged for around 3-4 years, it tastes pretty well.
The Muscadine grape variety is used to make hearty wine. Since the 15th century, Muscadine grapes are consistently being used to prepare port wines and commercial fine wines. Muscadine wine is also considered a dessert wine but certain dry varieties of the wine are still found.
Both white and red wines are produced from Muscadine grapes. Muscadine grape is also used in the preparation of dry red table wine. Vineyards present in various parts of South Eastern United States make different types of Muscadine wines.
This is a specific type of grape used in making neutral, fruity and soft wine. This grape variety is known as cot or Malbec and is widely cultivated in France’s Cahors, Alsace and Moselle regions. Auxerrois grape is also grown in Luxemburg and Canada. This grape variety is purple colored and contains tannins in sufficient quantity.
The Auxerrois wine, which is prepared from the Auxerrois grape, possesses a moderately good amount of alcohol and low acidity. A typical Auxerrois wine that contains 100% flavor of the grape yields a soft and spicy taste. Auxerrois wine is also blended with the Pinot Blanc variety to prepare honey-rich and slightly acidic wines
Auxerrois wine forms excellent combinations with pies, fish in sauce and white meats.