Excuse me sir – but are you noble? Part 2

Excuse me sir – but are you noble? Part 2

2nd Apr 2010

Thewineremedy team gives us an overview of the “noble” red grape varieties.

Cabernet Sauvignon

A most adaptable traveler, Cabernet Sauvignon is grown in nearly every major wine producing country, spanning across a diverse spectrum of climates ranging from France’s Bordeaux region to Lebanon’s Begaa Valley. It is a grape that is synonymous with fine, full bodied wine, capable of ageing over long periods of time, developing great complexity as it does so. Cabernet berries are small and thick skinned, containing high levels of tannin, acidity and colour; attributes which give its wines the ability to age so well.

The flavour and characteristics of the wine do vary significantly depending on where the grapes are grown. All good Cabernet however should have a bouquet of blackcurrant and strong character, reminiscent of cassis.  The grape responds well to oak ageing, but consequently it is sometimes difficult to tell where the flavour of oak ends and the Cabernet fruit begins. In Bordeaux, Cabernet is blended with Merlot and Cabernet Franc. On the western part of Bordeaux (The left Bank), Cabernet is the dominant grape, having Merlot as an accompaniment to help soften its sometimes hard and austere nature. In the Eastern part of the region (the Right Bank), Merlot is the dominant grape, which produces softer wines which are approachable from a younger age. Cabernet is nearly always subject to oak ageing which imparts strong flavours; new oak especially gives the wines aromas of vanilla and cedar.  Cabernet grown in cooler climates like Bordeaux tends to offer flavors of eucalyptus and blackcurrant; hot climate wines can have a strong jammy, stewed fruit characteristic. With age can come great complexity and finesse, cedar, cassis and tobacco are commonly associated with aged Cabernet.




A firm favourite amongst thewineremedy community, Merlot is Cabernet Sauvignon’s traditional blending partner, especially in Bordeaux where its earlier ripening has made the varietal easier to grow – it is the most planted grape variety in the region. It is a larger, thinner skinned grape than Cabernet, producing medium bodied wines that are higher in alcohol, with less acidity and tannin and therefore can be enjoyed earlier.


The magic of Merlot is its exquisite soft fleshy texture, when fully ripe it produces wines with a smooth, blackberry and plum character. Like Cabernet Sauvignon it has an affinity with new oak, overlaying creaminess to the dark fruit. Cooler climate Merlot should have flavours of red berries and mint, warmer climates tend to produce wines with blackberry, plum and violets on the nose – bottle age adds caramel, leather and spice.


Pinot Noir


Our favourite red grape. This elusive variety ripens relatively early and is extremely sensitive to the region it is grown in. Planted somewhere hot, it will develop too fast and produce jammy and totally nondescript wine. Too cold and it responds with a thin, meanness of flavour and an excessive herbaceous quality. It is a thin-skinned grape, moderate in colour and low in tannin but high in acidity which gives the wines their definition. Sadly the success rate is very low with Pinot Noir, but in the hands of a caring and experienced winemaker, it is sensational!


Pinot Noir can be found in many of the worlds wine regions, but its spiritual home will always be the Côte-d'Or region of Burgundy in France. Parts of New Zealand and Oregon have taken the grape to world class levels, although New Zealand has a tendency to over oak Pinot Noir. From Burgundy, Pinot varies considerably from extremely light and delicate to medium bodied and exquisitely silky. The aromas are often characterised by red cherry, raspberry and pepper mint, but warmer climates can produce wines with black cherry, floral and raisins on the palate. Pinot Noir is a variety that can respond well to bottle age, old wines can have a bouquet of game, truffle and leather, an array of intoxicating smells that seem to last forever!

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