Grape Types and their
Characteristics in Red Wines:

Cabernet Sauvignon

Use in Old World- Bordeaux, primary in Haut-Medoc
Use in New World- Pervasive
Color- Dark red with blue hints when young.
Aroma- Bramble fruit, cassis. Often mint or even green pepper.
Body- Heavy
Wine Making Flavors- Heavy use of oak, but incorporates well into the wine.
Blended with: Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Syrah (Australia).
Other- increasingly being planted in Italy where it only recently has an official status.


Use in Old World- Bordeaux, primary in St.-Emilion and Pomerol
Use in New World- US and South America
Color- Tends towards medium dark and very blue.
Aroma- Red bramble fruit, chocolate, straw
Body- Moderate
Wine Making Flavors- Diacetyl and vanillic acid from American oak come through well and are often prevalent. Brett is common in the Old World, but it is the light dirt variety.
Blended with: Usually with Cabernet Sauvignon.
Other- increasingly being sold as a varietal wine even in the Old world.

Pinot Noir

Use in Old World- Burgundy. Also Germany and Switzerland.
Use in New World- US, Australia
Color- Light red, sometimes with a slight hint of blue.
Aroma- Dark cherries and linden (to some a 'Band-aid' smell).
Body- Light to medium.
Wine Making Flavors- Brett (horse blanket), sometimes strongly, especially in Burgundy.
Blended with: Rarely blended, except with Chardonnay in Champagne.
Other- The hardest of all wines to make, and often the most rewarding when it is successful.


Use in Old World- Rhone, France.
Use in New World- Australia (called Shiraz), US esp. CA.
Color- Deep red with a good deal of blue.
Aroma- Violets and sometimes black pepper. Very Berry.
Body- Medium to heavy.
Wine Making Flavors- Minimal flavors intrude, even when much is done to the wine.
Blended with: Grenache and in Chateauneuf du Pape, 11 other grapes. The white grape Viognier is used very well in the Cote-Rotie (Rhone). In Australia it is a very important grape and is often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon.
Other- The Syrah of Australia is an older clone than in the Rhone. The clone was taken before phylloxera.

Cabernet Franc

Use in Old World- Chinon in the Loire, as a blending grape in Bordeaux.
Use in New World- US.
Color- Light to medium, bright red
Aroma- Raspberry.
Body- Light to medium.
Wine Making Flavors- Often made in whole or partial CM style.
Blended with: Alone or as part of a Cabernet Sauvignon blend.
Other- Just starting to catch on in the US.


Use in Old World- Rhone and Southern France. Rioja, Spain.
Use in New World- Some US.
Color- Light red to orange.
Aroma- Spicy black pepper. Light red fruits.
Body- Light to heavy.
Wine Making Flavors- CM style in Southern France and Cote du Rhone. Much blended in the rest of the Rhone. Often oxidized with a strong vanilla aroma (from American Oak) in the wines of the Rioja.
Blended with: Extensively with Syrah in the Rhone and a zillion other grapes in the south of France. In Rioja it is blended with Tempranillo.
Other- Also used to make the excellent roses of Tavel and Lirac.


Use in Old World- Piedmont, Italy.
Use in New World- Small amounts in US.
Color- Solid red.
Aroma- Light fruit, sometimes bitter.
Body- Medium to heavy.
Wine Making Flavors- Often old musty oak and oxidation in these wines.
Blended with: None.
Other- The grape of Barolo and Barberesco. A difficult grape that is often overlooked.


Use in Old World- Tuscany, Italy.
Use in New World- Rare, but increasing in CA.
Color- From very light to very dark.
Aroma- Dark red fruits.
Body- From very light to very heavy.
Wine Making Flavors- Often heavily oaked and slightly oxidized.
Blended with: In Chianti it is blended with red and white wines. In the 'Super-Tuscans' it is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon.
Other There are huge differences in the various clones of this grape. There is the Grosso clone which is the more common, and the Piccolo clone which is smaller in size and plantings. The Brunello grape is a Sangiovese Grosso clone and yet still shows as the finest example of Sangiovese.


Use in Old World- Probably the Primativo of Italy, but it is now rare.
Use in New World- The only vinifera grape exclusive to the US.
Color- Deep purple, often inky.
Aroma- Blackberries and dark fruit.
Body- Light to very heavy.
Wine Making Flavors- Sometimes made in a CM style. Increasingly it is made in a partial CM style (blended with traditionally made wine) which preserves its character while adding complexity.
Blended with: Any number of things, but Petite Syrah and Grenache are the most successful.
Other- Often made into a rose wine his exceptional grape has earned an undeserved reputation based on these insipid pink wines.

read about Grape Types and their
Characteristics in white Wines

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