34 red wine varietals

March 20th, 2015

Here is a list of vine varieties with a description of the red wines made from them.

Variety Origin Description
Aglianico Greek Tannic, tarry wines of great breed and lasting power from southern Italy.
Alicante French Hybrid.
Undistinguished grape with highly coloured juice, teinturier.
French Hybrid.
Full-bodied, deep colour, smoky blackberry flavour.
Barbera Italian Medium colour, high acid, dry quaffing wine.
Cabernet Franc French (Bouchet)
Usually blended with Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. Medium-weight, herbaceous
wines suggestive of violets and raspberries.
French Deep ruby colour, black currant and cedar nose, full-bodied, tannic when young.
Capable of long ageing. Softened with Merlot, Cabernet Franc in Bordeaux
and in California and Australia.
Carignan Spain Widely planted, high yielding. Astringent table wine with good colour, used for blending.
Cinsault French Hot weather grape, deep colour and meaty flavour, low tannins. Good for blending.
French Hybrid.
Acid, tough red, slightly smoky in flavour.
Dolcetto Italian Deep-coloured, soft, fruity wine, not for ageing.
Freisa Italian Garnet colour, light, dry wine tasting of raspberries.
Gamay French Grape of Beaujolais. Fresh, fruity, light-bodied wines tasting of cherry and plums with peppery finish. Fast maturing.
California Hybrid; a crossing between Valdiguié and Pinot Noir. Not very distinguished. Fruity flavour, high acid.
Grenache   (Garnacha/Cannonau)
Fruity, high alcohol, low tannins, soft. Good for rosé. Fast maturing.
Grignolino Italian Light
colour, fragrant strawberry aroma, very dry.
Kadarka Hungary (Gamza)
Powerful, deep, full-bodied wines.
Lambrusco Italy Light, grapey, fruity, off-dry wines.
Malbec French (Côt)
Early maturing, low acid, blackberry flavour. A lesser blending grape in Bordeaux.
Maréchal Foch French Hybrid.
Deep-coloured, peppery, plummy, acidic wine.
Merlot French Purple, full-bodied wines, blackberry flavour. Less tannic and earlier maturing than Cabernet Sauvignon. Ages very well.
Mourvèdre Spanish (Mataro)
Deep-coloured, powerful wines with a spicy blackberry taste.
Nebbiolo Italian (Spanna/Chiavennasca)
The noble grape of Piedmont producing long-lasting wines that take time to soften. Brick red, truffles and violets on the nose with an austere dry finish.
Petite Sirah French Californian name for the French Duriff. Full-bodied, deep-coloured wines with peppery flavour.
French (Pinot Nero, Spätburgunder) One of the grapes of Champagne and the grape of red Burgundy. Difficult to cultivate. Garnet colour, barnyard bouquet,
raspberry flavour, medium weight. Ages very well.
French Secondary grape of Champagne. Fruity, acidic, low alcohol.
Pinotage S.Africa (Hermitage)
Pinot Noir Cinsault crossing. Robust, powerful red, inky nose. Fast maturing, ageing potential.
Primitivo Italy Massive black wines of high alcohol and intense fruit. Thought to be progenitor of the Californian Zinfandel.
Ruby Cabernet California A Carignan-Cabernet Sauvignon crossing. Deep-coloured, fruity wines but lacking the finesse and breeding of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Sangiovese Italian A Chianti grape usually blended with Canaiolo. Earthy, truffle-scented wines with fine acidity and ample tannins. Capable of long ageing.
Syrah Middle East (Shiraz)
Powerful black, aromatic wines tasting of blackberries and white pepper. Capable of long ageing.
Tempranillo Spanish (Ull de Llebre) Pinot Noir-like character. Pale ruby colour, coconut and sandalwood bouquet. Dry strawberry flavour. Ages elegantly.
Touriga Naçional Portugal The best port grape. Intense dark wine with high tannin and a lovely berry nose. Other port grapes include Mourisco, Tinta Francisca, Tinta Amarella,
Tinta Cao and Touriga Francesa.
Xynomavro Greek Black wines of high acidity and tannin that age well.
Zinfandel California Versatile grape that can produce powerhouse to medium-weight reds, rosés and blush wines. Characterized by a blackberry flavour and intense fruit. Also
late harvest with port-like sweetness.

On this website here is a list of white wine varietals.

Best wine sites as of January 2015

February 6th, 2015

This article is a resource for you to find interesting sites. I have performed website appraisal on 500 sites and I have ranked only the top 250. Herebelow is an analysis of the results.

The big guns

Two Fort Riley soldiers compete in the 2005 Best Ranger Competition

More people look for food or wine information on the Web in the Autumn that in other seasons. This primarily benefits the information brands. This semester the sites that gained most traffic were (in decreasing order): Snooth, the Wine Spectator, CellarTracker, Wine Enthusiast, Wine Folly.

Conversely fewer and fewer people go and visit the small sites, I mean the ones that do not show in the selection because they are not enough visited. So we may have a vicious circle here : few visitors bring low visibility.


The recent holiday season has favoured the big sites again. Yet challengers already show in this list. You can expect some to rise higher in the next installment in April.

Everybody and their wine supplier now has a blog. Here is a list of only quality wine critics. So go on a reading journey by browsing the list of 100 best wine sites!

How to participate

Websites are automatically included in the contest as soon as I learn of their existence. To be eligible to the next issue of the Cellarer wine directory, the below conditions must be met:

  1. The main topic should be wine.
  2. Producing estates and wine sellers are excluded. Some of them run wonderful websites but the type of information is different.

If you disagree with the directory criteria, please comment below or e-mail me.

Here are the metrics I use for rating the wine sites. You can follow the directory evolution by subscribing to the feed on websites blog RSS.

Taste the aromas in wine

December 19th, 2014

Flavor and aroma in wine are closely linked. In fact, Dr. Marion Baldy who teaches a University-Level course in the evaluation of wine, jokingly refers to her class as the “Winesmelling Course”. What you taste in a given wine depends most heavily on cooperation from your sense of smell. The rich, complex odors and flavors of wines are for the most part sensed by the olfactory epithelium­ a specialized patch of millions of nerve endings at the top and rear of the nasal cavity, above and behind the nose. Sometimes wine tasters suck a stream of air through a portion of wine they have taken into their mouth, bubbling it through the wine in the process. This volatilizes the aromatic components in the wine so that they are carried into the epithelium and amplified.

But once a wine has been tasted, how do we describe what we’ve perceived?

We all describe odors differently probably because of our differing life experiences and our varying abilities to perceive scents. In particular, it becomes challenging for most of us to place a name on a particular odor once we’ve encountered it again. This brings up a issue in the tasting and evaluation of wines­ How do we communicate consistently with one another
the flavors aromas found in wines?

To address this issue, Professor Ann Noble of the University of California, Davis developed the wine aroma wheel in the 1980s. Similar tools existed in the beer and scotch whisky industries, I am told. Professor Noble used the approach of grouping similar aromas into descriptive categories, which were then organized into groups by origin and/or similarity of smell and displayed in the circular format shown in Figure 1. This provided a common “catalog” of descriptive and commonly perceived wine aromas­ a lingua franca which allows our epitheliums to relate to one another.

Figure 1: The Wine Aroma Wheel

There are 12 fundamental groupings of aromas in the “catalog”, each of which has two or three sub-categories related to the fundamental. These sub-categories, in-turn, have multiple specific descriptors which pin-point an aroma. Often, the specific descriptors have reference-standards; pure essence of that aroma that can be brewed, extracted, or otherwise reproduced.

Recipes for making aroma standards can be found in article by NobLE, A.C.et al, in the American Society for Enology and Viticulture 38:143-146( 1987). Additionally, colored, plastic laminated copies of the wine aroma wheel (copyright ACNOBLE 1990) may be obtained from A.C.Noble, Dept. Vit and Enology, Univ. California, Davis, CA 95616; FAX 916 752 0382; email acnoble@ucdavis.edu; phone 916 752 0387.

On an editorial note­ aromas in wines can be pleasing to one person and offensive to another. Some folks enjoy an “earthy” wine or a “microbiological” wine (something I might call funky). A little bit of one component can be complex and interesting, whereas a lot can be a flaw. Its all a matter of taste, after all, isn’t it? Also­ these terms are just an attempt by academics to standardize perceived aromas so that they can be accurately discussed. Too often, this sort of tool risks usage in a snobbish or intimidating way­ in all cases I feel one should first concentrate on what’s tasted and smelled and enjoyed in the wine. Keep these “standard” terms as a backdrop to your tasting experience, not a facade.

So where in wine grapes do these aromas come from? Certainly human intervention in the wine growing process, or the introduction of human-made elements can effect the flavors and aromas in wines. But surprisingly mother nature can imbue in her fruit many surprising aromas­ some of which may seem man-made but they are entirely natural. I thought it would be instructive to list the twelve fundamental categories of the aroma wheel and relate some of my thoughts and experiences on just what happens in the vineyard or the winery that can produce each effect.

Fruity Can be caused by cooler fermentation temperature, strain of yeast used, or by carbonic-maceration fermentation (Beaujolais style)
Nutty Sur Lie againg of wines (storing wine on its spent yeast cells after primary fermentation) can introduce a nuttiness or yeastiness to the wine
Vegetative Can be caused by underipe fruit, or by herbaceousness introduced in whole-cluster fermentation
Caramelized Sometimes extracted from barrel aging in newer, toasted French oak barrels. Toasting of oak creates a non-fermentable sugar which can be perceived as caramel.
Woody Can be caused by aging in oak barrels, particularly barrels that have seen several seasons of use. The non-fermentable sugars and other new oak aromas are leached out of the barrel after about 3 seasons of use, leaving only “neutral” wood components behind to effect the wine.
Earthy Can be caused by naturally occurring or “wild-yeast” fermentation
Chemical Can be caused by over use of sulfur dioxide or by over exposure of wine to air (as occurs when head-space in barrels are not keep topped up with fresh wine).
Pungent Sometimes can be caused by high-alcohol content in wine (derived from high-sugar content of grapes when harvested).
Oxidized Caused by over exposure of wine to air, as occurs when head-space in barrels are not kept topped up with fresh wine, or through cavitation of a pump when moving a delicate wine from tank to bottling line.
Microbiological Can be caused by lack of proper cleaning procedures in winery operations and by little or no use of Sulfur-Dioxide, the anti-microbial / anti-oxidative compound used in winemaking.
Floral Most often floral wine components are produced in the grape skins and pulp by mother nature. Floral aromas can also arise when alcohols & acids combine during fermentation to produce esters. Cooler fermentation temperatures retain these volatile esters, whereas hot fermentation temperatures cause them to “blow off”. Floral aromas also can occur during bottle aging of wine, developing a so-called “bottle bouquet.”
Spicy Can be picked up from soil constituents by a particular clone of grape. Sometimes spiciness is derived from prolonged skin contact during pre-fermentation maceration. Too long of a soak on the skins produces astringency

Top 100 wine voices in 2014

October 30th, 2014

Traffic data shows which wine websites are most popular this year. (Here is the method.) Below is an analysis of this ranking of wine sites.

Apps and magazines

And the winner is…Having an off-line reputation clearly helps. This is easiest for the paper media — as illustrated by the presence in the Top 10 of the Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, Decanter and Robert Parker.

Most incumbents are not going away but web apps now also dominate the Top 10.

In the last few years the wine web offer has immensely diversified. There now are many quality wine critics who blog on line. The Traveling Wine Chick and the Wine Predator have just entered the Top 100 wine voices. The Top 100 attempts to highlight writers that you should discover. Only the “better” 20% of the websites are shown. Well, “better” here is not an opinion but an evaluation of which sites are most popular.

How to participate

Websites are automatically included in the contest as soon as I learn of their existence. To be eligible to the next issue of the Cellarer wine directory, the below conditions must be met:

  1. The main topic should be wine.
  2. Producing estates and wine sellers are excluded. Some of them run wonderful websites but the type of information is different.

If you disagree with the directory criteria, please comment below or e-mail me.

Here are the metrics I use for rating the wine sites. You can follow the directory evolution by subscribing to the feed on websites blog RSS.