How Knowing your Regions can De-Mystify Wine

June 9, 2009 No comments yet

We have the entire world; so where to start? There is good wine made in every corner of our world. And there is a lot of bad wine made everywhere, too. I’ve had some good wine from countries, such as Romania and Lebanon. Not a lot, but good wines definitely exist there.

Of course, we all know that France, Italy, and the US are among the top wine producing countries in the world. And within each country, there are several regions – all of which make different styles of wines.

In France and Italy, the most famous regions are actually codified as to which grapes can be made into wine that bears the name of each region. America is less regulated in this respect. For example, in Bordeaux, there are 5 grapes that may be used for their better red wines, most notably Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. In Burgundy, the red wines must be 100% Pinot Noir. In the Rhone, there are 13 grapes that may be used in any combination, principally Grenache, Mourvedre, and Syrah. But in the Northern Rhone, it’s 100% Syrah.

Therefore, knowing your wine regions can really help you to know what type of wine you are drinking. And if you know the grape characteristics, then that will help you to further know what to expect in a glass. Basic sommelier training seeks to help you identify the wine in the glass by learning flavor profiles and characteristics of different grapes as well as the influence that regional differences (climate, etc) have on the wine. It’s all very deductive. With a little experience, certain patterns will fall out and become obvious. Before you know it, you could be impressing your friends by correctly identifying that dark, bold, and spicy red wine as being made from 100% Syrah grapes grown in the Saint Joseph area of the Northern Rhone. Very nice!

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