Wine Grape Varietals and Classifications:
  • Auslese
    German wines are categorized according to ripeness at picking. The minimum levels of ripeness for each category vary by region, but the basic categories are Tafelwein (table wine), Qualitatswein (quality wine or QbA) and Qualitatswein mit Pradikat (quality wine with added distinction or QmP). Within the latter category the distinctions are (in ascending order of ripeness) kabinett, sp�tlese, auslese, beerenauslese, trockenbeerenauslese (TBA) and eiswein. Under certain climatic conditions, the grapes may be affected by Botrytis cinerea, a desirable fungus that enhances flavor, and is known in Germany as Edelf�ule. Although they may contain residual sugar, German wines tend to be richer as one tastes through the categories of distinction and not until Beerenauslese is sweetness enough of a dominant factor for a wine to be considered a dessert wine. At all levels German wines are balanced by high acidity, so they do not necessarily taste sweet.
  • Bordeaux
    Premier French growing region. Primary varietals: Red (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc) and White (Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc).
  • Cabernet Franc 
    One of the Bordeaux cepages, used as part of the blend to complement the primary varieties Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot -and standalone as a varietal wine. Cab Franc is less deeply pigmented, more obviously aromatic and fruity in youth, with suggestions of raspberries, violets, currants and herbs. When blended with the more astringent Cabernet Sauvignon, this less tannic grape tend to augment Cabernet Sauvignon�s more subtle nuances. It is most notably used in the Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated wines of Bordeaux�s left bank but is becoming popular in California as a standalone varietal.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
    The undisputed king of red wines, Cabernet is a remarkably steady and consistent performer. It grows well in many regions, and is capable of rendering wines of uncommon depth, richness, concentration and longevity. Cabernet has an affinity for oak and usually spends 15 to 30 months in new or used French or American barrels, a process that, when properly executed imparts a woody, toasty cedar or vanilla flavor to the wine while slowly oxidizing it and softening the tannins. Microclimates are a major factor in the weight and intensity of the Cabernets. Winemakers also influence the style as they can extract high levels of tannin and heavily oak their wines.
  • Cabernet-Merlot
    A common "Bordeaux-blend" becoming more popular in wines produced worldwide. The Merlot adds a softer, more supple texture to the bold Cabernet Sauvignon. (also see Merlot)
  • Carignane
    It's origin is a Spanish varietal of grape from Cari�ena, Aragon. It was later transplanted to Sardinia, where it is still made into varietal wine, Carignano, and elsewhere in Italy, France, Algeria, and much of the New World. Italian immigrants to the US starting in the late 1890s brought the vine to California, and through the early and mid-20th century, Carignane was one of the most widely planted grape varietal in California.California, production has diminished from a high of 27000 acres to about 3500 today, the grape is not often used to make varietal wines, but a few producers such as Ravenswood, Cline and Mayo Family Winery make notable varietals from old vines.  

    It is generally associated with jug wines or blending into wines to add body, color, and character however it tends to have a characteristic harshness and astringency that diminishes with age. It is one of the 22 approved Rh�ne varietals and can be found in the notable Chateauneuf-du-Pape. It is often blended with Cinsaut, Grenache, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Mourv�dre, Merlot, and/or other grapes, especially in the Languedoc region of France. Ridge uses it as its best suited to add complexity, depth and character to a bold varietal such Zinfandel, which otherwise might be someone one dimensional, albeit big and flavorful.
  • Chablis
    Authentic Chablis is made in France from pure Chardonnay. However, many wineries market a "Chablis" which can be any semi-dry blend of white wines.
  • Champagne
    Only sparkling wine that comes from the Champagne region of Northeastern France can boast this name. Champagne can be made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier. Similar wines that come from anywhere else in the world are known as "Sparkling Wines."
  • Charbono
    It is a grape variety with origins in the Savoie region of France where it is also known as Corbeau, Douce Noire, or Charbonneau. It is the second most commonly grown variety in Argentina, where it is known as Bonarda, which is not the same as the Bonarda Piemontese varietal, and is probably not related to Dolcetto of the Piedmont. Some believe that this variety is actually the Dolcetto Nero grape of Italy, or the minor French variety Charbonneau, because an Italian synonym for Dolcetto is "Dolce Nero" which translates to "sweet black," as does the French name "Douce Noire" for Charbono.

    It is produced in small acreage on California�s North Coast, mainly in the Napa Valley. This grape produces very dark, acidic, red wines, with high tannin levels and wild berry aromas. Charbono rarely receives much attention, but some producers continue to grow the grape once produced by the storied Inglenook. Currently, producers such as Turley, Pacific Star, Villa Helena, August Briggs, Robert Foley, OnThEdge and Randall Grahm's Bonny Doon have extended the life of this grape. Venge uses the grape to add structure, backbone, color, complexity and character to its Zinfandel, which while big and bold might otherwise be less interesting. 
  • Chardonnay
    The "king of white wines." Chardonnay is the single most popular wine in the world (if you judge by sales). It makes consistently excellent, rich and complex whites. This is an amazingly versatile grape that grows well in a variety of locations throughout the world. In Burgundy, it is used for the exquisite whites, such as Montrachet, Meursault and Pouilly-Fuisse, and true Chablis; in Champagne it turns into Blanc de Blancs. Chardonnay has reached superb maturity in many California regions as well. Among the many other countries that have caught Chardonnay fever, Australia is especially strong.
  • Corvina
    Red grape varietal from the famous red wine region of Veneto in northern Italy where Valpolicella wine is made primarily from three grape varieties - Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara.
  • Cotes du Rhone
    (Also Cotes du Rhone-Village). Blended wines , not only of the14 grape allowed grape varieties, Grenache being chief among them, but blended from village to village as well. Of varying quality, they are best when made by the traditional barrel fermented techniques and not the newer carbonic maceration technique (which is how Beaujolais is made, and why everything made this way tastes like Beaujolais).
  • Dolcetto
    (Dole-chet-toe):  A red grape varietal grown in the region of Piedmont, northern Italy. Fragrant and fruity, it is usually the quickest to mature of the red Piedmont wines.
  • Dornfelder
    Germany. The most successful new grape is making a wonderful career for itself. It came originally from a crossing of the negligible Helfensteiner and Herold grapes and was supposed to improve the color of bright red burgundy. But Dornfelder came through as a robust, strong red wine in its own right - due especially to barrique casking. It is grown mostly in the Palatinate, and is known in the region as an excellent Pfalzwein.
  • Eiswein
    German wines are categorized according to ripeness at picking. The minimum levels of ripeness for each category vary by region, but the basic categories are Tafelwein (table wine), Qualitatswein (quality wine or QbA) and Qualitatswein mit Pradikat (quality wine with added distinction or QmP). Within the latter category the distinctions are (in ascending order of ripeness) kabinett, spatlese, auslese, beerenauslese, trockenbeerenauslese (TBA) and eiswein. Under certain climatic conditions, the grapes may be affected by Botrytis cinerea, a desirable fungus that enhances flavor, and is known in Germany as Edelf�ule. Although they may contain residual sugar, German wines tend to be richer as one tastes through the categories of distinction and not until Beerenauslese is sweetness enough of a dominant factor for a wine to be considered a dessert wine. At all levels German wines are balanced by high acidity, so they do not necessarily taste sweet.
  • Gewurztraminer
    Gewurztraminer can yield magnificent wines, as is best demonstrated in Alsace, France, where it is made in to a variety of styles from dry to off-dry to sweet. The grape needs a cool climate that allows it to get ripe. It's a temperamental grape to grow and vinify, as its potent spiciness can be overbearing when unchecked. At its best, it produces a floral and refreshing wine with crisp acidity that pairs well with spicy dishes. When left for late harvest, it's uncommonly rich and complex, a tremendous dessert wine.
  • Graves
    Rich, lush Whites and Reds from one of the most prestigious regions of Bordeaux. Not to be missed!
  • Grenache
    Grenache is the most widely planted c�page in the southern Rh�ne Valley, and the second most widely planted varietal in the world. It is .often blended with Syrah and Mourvedre in France and Australia, and with Tempranillo in Rioja and is most popular in the wines of Ch�teauneuf-du-Pape.  Grenache produces wines with high concentrations of fruit, tannin, and acids. Its flavors are most typically currant, cherry, and raisin, and its aromas are of black pepper, menthol, and licorice. Although many California Grenache clones produce simple, fruity wines which tend to be pale in color, French clones produce brilliant ruby red wines which are heady in alcohol (usually 15% or higher), and intensely fruity and fat.
  • Huxelrebe
    A blended German white wine, it offers a penetrating bouquet, and fantastic sweet fruit flavors.
  • Kabinett
    A semi-fruity German white wine. Big and generous, with a nice balance between ripe green apple and apricot. Loaded with bright juicy flavors of fresh flowers, lemon and red apple. An excellent summertime wine.
  • Late-Harvest Cabernet
    Late-Harvest wines are made from grapes left on the vine after traditional harvest. These grapes (both Red and White) begin to achieve very high levels of sugar, and eventually develop " botrytis" (the noble rot) producing intense, thick, concentrated wines that are often the most sought-after wines made.
  • Malbec
  • Molinara
    Red grape varietal from the famous red wine region of Veneto in northern Italy where Valpolicella wine is made primarily from three grape varieties - Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara.
  • Merlot
    Merlot is the red-wine success of the 1990s: its popularity has soared along with its acreage, and it seems wine lovers can't drink enough of it. It dominates Bordeaux, except for the Medoc and Graves. Though it is mainly used for the Bordeaux blend, it can stand alone. In St.-Emilion and Pomerol, especially, it produces noteworthy wines, culminating in Chateau Petrus. In Italy it's everywhere, though most of the Merlot is lighter in style. Several styles have emerged. One is a Cabernet-style Merlot, which includes a high percentage (up to 25 percent) of Cabernet, similar currant and cherry flavors and firm tannins. A second style is less reliant on Cabernet, softer, more supple, medium-weight, less tannic and features more herb, cherry and chocolate flavors. A third style is a very light and simple wine; this type's sales are fueling Merlot's overall growth. Like Cabernet, Merlot can benefit from some blending, as Cabernet can give it backbone, color and tannic strength. It also marries well with oak. Merlot's aging potential is fair to good, but may become softer with age.
  • Montepulciano
    Popular Italian red wine. The most ancient document concerning the wine of Montepulciano dates back to 789: the minor clerck Arnipert gave the church of St. Silvester or St. Salvador in Montepulciano on Amiata Mount a strip of land where vineyard was grown in the castle of Policiano. The wine of Montepulciano became very important in 1685, when Francesco Redi ends lines dedicated to the wine in his dithyramb "Bacchus in Tuscany" with: "Montepulciano is the king of all wines". Very dark, almost inky garnet in color, with black fruit aromas and an odd but appetizing whiff of coffee. Full and ripe black-fruit flavors are backed by bright acidity, with good fruit and pleasant spice continuing in a long finish.
  • Montrachet
    Exquisite white Burgundy (France). Powerful bouquet of apples, minerals and spices. Immensely satisfying aroma. Very elegant yet full of flavors. Not somber or reserved, yet not as "fat" and viscous as Meursault. Steely tones combine with richness to make this wine extremely tasty.
  • Mourv�dre
    Mourv�dre is grown in the Southern Rhone River Valley and is used as a blending varietal  to add earth, spice, red fruit, structure and ageability to the purple fruit and acidity of Grenache and the tannins, spice, black fruit and mineral of Syrah. Mourv�dre is native to Spain, From the Spanish town of Murviedro, near Valencia, where it is known as Monastrell and is second only to Grenache (Garnacha) in importance. Wines made from Mourv�dre are intensely colored, rich and velvety with aromas of leather, game, and truffles. They tend to be high in alcohol and tannin when young, and are well-suited to aging. The game-like flavors present in young Mourv�dres can be strong. In a well-made Mourv�dre, these flavors should resolve into aromas of forest floor and leather with aging. Although it can be delicious as a single varietal, Mourv�dre is more typically found blended with the warmth and fruit of Grenache and the structure, spice and tannin of Syrah.
  • Nebbiolo
    The great grape of Northern Italy, which excels there in Barolo and Barbaresco, strong, ageeable wines. Mainly unsuccessful elsewhere, Nebbiolo also now has a small foothold in California. So far the wines are lighter and less complicated than their Italian counterparts.
  • Petit Verdot - Petit verdot is a red wine grape traditionally grown in France's Bordeaux valley and is most often used as a blending wine in Bordeaux wines. Petit verdot requires a long growing season with hot days and cool nights such as in California and Australia. When used in a Bordeaux blend petit verdot grapes bring a deep purple color to the wine and adds a spicy, floral aroma.
  • Pinot Grigio / Pinot Gris
    Known as Pinot Grigio in Italy, where it is mainly found in the northeast, producing quite a lot of undistinguished dry white wine and Collio's excellent whites. As Pinot Gris, it used to be grown in France's Burgundy and the Loire, though it has been supplanted, but it comes into its own in Alsace--where it's known as Tokay. Southern Germany plants it as Rulunder. When good, this varietal is soft, gently perfumed and has more color than most whites.
  • Riesling
    Undoubtedly the best German wines are made from Riesling. This white grape is capable of developing intense flavors at lower ripeness levels, making it an ideal cultivar for Germany's northern climate. Under the right weather conditions, Riesling will ripen late into autumn, rendering late-harvest styles. When combined with an attack of Edelf�ule, these late-harvest grapes produce some of the most stunning and longest-lived wines around. Rieslings are distinguished their floral perfume, but after that they vary widely. In Germany's Mosel-Saar-Ruwer area, the wines are delicate and subtle, with very low alcohol, while in the Pfalz they become spicy, exuberant and full-bodied. In Alsace the result is bone-dry. Because Riesling is one of the grapes susceptible to Botrytis cinerea, it also produces luscious late-harvest dessert wines. Riesling was Australia's most-planted white until Chardonnay surpassed it. In California this grape is known occasionally as White Riesling. It has been declining in acreage the past few years and quality rarely rises above the good category. As a dessert wine, though, it can be exceptional. Grows best in cool areas that allow the grapes to ripen slowly, so it is also found in Canada--where it is being used to produce eiswein--and Oregon and Washington state.
  • Riesling Spatlese
    German white wine teeming with bright citrus flavors yet soft in texture. Strikes a perfect balance between acidity and sweetness. Like biting into the most perfectly ripened, crisp, fresh green apple. A very refreshing wine and a real favorite in the summer months.
  • Rondinella
    Red grape varietal from the famous red wine region of Veneto in northern Italy where Valpolicella wine is made primarily from three grape varieties - Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara.
  • Scheurebe
    A relatively newer German white wine blend of Sylvaner and Riesling. Lively acidity; bouquet and taste reminiscent of black currants. A lightly dusty hint in aroma and lots of spice in taste are typical.
  • Semillion-Chardonnay
    Semillion is traditionally a white French blending grape blended with Sauvignon Blanc to create the foundation for the classic Sauternes and most of the great dry whites found in Graves and Pessac-Leognan. Blending Semillion with Chardonnay is gaining increasing popularity in California and Australia, producing smoother, floral whites slightly softer and lighter than pure Chardonnays.
  • Siegerrebe
    Siegerrebe is a hybrid of the classic German/European Gewurztraminer. It offers a penetrating bouquet, with very forward fruit flavors. It is often blended with other German whites such as Huxelrebe and Spaetlese.
  • Spatlese
    Delightfully rich German white wine that full, honeyed peach flavor with tons of residual sweetness that is so very popular. As an evening cocktail with fruit and cheese it would serve you very well.
  • Shiraz - Syrah
    Syrah, also known as Shiraz in Australia, is a popular red grape of the northern Rhone Valley. The Syrah grape is thick-skinned, dark, almost black and produces intense wines with a dark purple-black color. Syrah wines taste of blackberry, currant fruit, smoke, tar and black pepper, and have a smooth supple texture. Syrah reflects minerality well, and the chalky character of the tannins provides a backbone to softer, fruitier varietals.
  • Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA)
    German wines are categorized according to ripeness at picking. The minimum levels of ripeness for each category vary by region, but the basic categories are Tafelwein (table wine), Qualitatswein (quality wine or QbA) and Qualitatswein mit Pradikat (quality wine with added distinction or QmP). Within the latter category the distinctions are (in ascending order of ripeness) kabinett, spatlese, auslese, beerenauslese, trockenbeerenauslese and eiswein. Harvested of individually-selected berries which are overripe and dried up almost to raisins. Produces rich, sweet, luscious, honey-like wines.
  • Verdicchio
    Verdicchio is cultivated and produced in the area of Italy known as "The Marches," situated just in the center of Italy, between the Apennines and the Adriatic Sea. Although the Marches are not a large region (less than 10.000 Km2 roughly), visitors can admire an outstanding range of landscapes: from the sea to the hills, from the valleys crossed by several rivers to the tops of the highest mountains. Thanks to this variety, this region differs considerably from all the other Italian regions. Verdicchio is a very clear and intense wine, of a pale yellow with greenish tones, with a rich and delicate bouquet, full-bodied and savory, with the typical slightly bitter aftertaste.
  • Zinfandel
    The origins of this tremendously versatile and popular grape are not known for certain, although it is thought to have come from Southern Italy as a cousin of Primitivo. It is the most widely planted red grape in California (though Australia has also played around with the grape). Much of it is vinified into white Zinfandel, a blush-colored, slightly sweet wine. Real Zinfandel, the red wine, is the quintessential California wine. It has been used for blending with other grapes, including Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah. It has been made in a claret style, with berry and cherry flavors, mild tannins and pretty oak shadings. It has been made into a full-bodied, ultra-ripe, intensely flavored and firmly tannic wine designed to age. And it has been made into late-harvest and Port-style wines that feature very ripe, raisiny flavors, alcohol above 15 percent and chewy tannins. Styles aimed more for the mainstream and less for extremes, emphasizing the grape's zesty, spicy pepper, raspberry, cherry, wild berry and plum flavors, and its complex range of tar, earth and leather flavors.
 

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