One of the most important factors affecting the flavour of the wine you drink is the grape variety or varieties that go into creating it. Understanding the key differences between these will help you navigate the many different options available to you and allow for a more enjoyable experience. We've outlined the key characteristics and styles of wine from 3 common grape varieties.
The name Pinot Noir derives from the French words for pine and black. Pine because the variety has tight bunches of pinecone-shaped dark coloured fruit. Pinot noir grapes are grown all around the world, but is mostly associated with the wine growing region of Burgundy in France.
Merlot is a dark blue-coloured grape variety whose name is thought to have derived from the French word, merle (blackbird), most probably a reference to its colour. The softness and fleshiness of the grape, combined with its earlier ripening, makes Merlot a popular grape for blending with the tougher, later-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon.
Tempranillo is predominantly grown to make full-bodied red wines in its native Spain. Its name derives from the Spanish word temprano (early), referencing the fact that it ripens several weeks earlier than most Spanish red grapes. It is the main grape used in Rioja, and is often referred to as Spain's noble grape.
Pinot Noir wines
Fruity notes of raspberries, blackberries and cherry. In aged wines, you can find floral notes of rose or violet are, and in young, wines herbal tones of tobacco and cut grass can be found. Wine made from mature grapes will show notes of cooked jammy fruits. Wines stored longer in the barrel will show hints of cinnamon or ginger as well as coffee, liquorice and grilled almonds.
Pinot Noir in Sancerre produce light reds with notes of violet, strawberry, Cherry and red berries on the nose.
Wines with more body can also produce notes of blackberries and blueberries and hints of dark chocolate and plums.
Pinot Nero produces wines with velvety structures and well-balanced tannic content. Bright ruby red in colour with intense, fruity aromas of red berries, cherries and raspberries.
Due to the climate of Pinot Nero regions, expect some spicy notes of white pepper and discreet spices.
Pomerol can be described as velvety with fruity characteristics of plum, tending towards prune. In addition, notes of honeyed spices, truffles, peppermint, chocolate, roasted nuts and raisins can be detected. Pomerol has a creamy, sometimes buttery mouthfeel and supple tannins.
Warm, intense bouquets of mocha and sweet spices. Full bodied with fine yet firm tannins, and an explosion of black cherry fruit. Hints of subtle vanilla notes when aged in new oak.
Usually blended with other grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Hints of dark fruits such as black cherry, plum and raspberry. Earthy notes can be found such as graphite, cedar, and tobacco. Hints of spice can include vanilla, clove and mocha.
The Tempranillo grape produces notes of cherry, plum, tomato, and dried fig. Depending on the amount of ageing there can also be various notes of cedar, leather, tobacco, vanilla, dill, and clove. If French oak is used, the wine tends to be more elegant, and American oak tends to heighten the notes of vanilla and spices.
Ribera del Duero
As Ribera del Duero grapes tend to be smaller in size, old vines have a reputation for producing more structured and balanced wines. They produce rich, complex notes of red berries, warm spices, leather and tobacco leaves.