One of the joys and main attractions of wine tasting, collecting, drinking, and why many people are compelled to join wine clubs, is the experience and fascination that can be drawn from sampling different grape types.
To the layman, wine comes in four varieties – red, white, rose and sparkling – but anybody with a little bit of interest in wine and wine tasting will know that different types of grapes can produce wildly differing drinks.
Starting with the classic red grape, Merlot is a medium bodied grape primarily used in the Bordeaux region of France (although it is gaining popularity in New World wines – particularly in California). The aroma of this dark grape gives strong hints of the fruit but is also said to resemble chocolate and straw.
Another grape with French origins, this is the classic, and most accessible, white wine grape. Best matured in oak barrels (Chardonnay and oak flavours are very complimentary) the golden sheen of the wine gives hints of often fruity flavours. Think of citrus fruits, melon and apples.
Back to red again and although the name of this grape hints towards a very dark wine, Pinot Noir actually results in one of the lighter reds. Widely used in Burgundy wines, the grape is also popular in Germany and Switzerland. With a light body and an aroma of cherries, this wine works well with game.
The quintessential German grape, Riesling has never received the recognition it deserves, primarily because the resulting wine is often very sweet. Despite sweet wine often being looked down on, Riesling is one of the most complex white wines there is and one that definitely improves with age.
An established favourite, this variety is often seen as the classic red. The deep, dark colour and heavy body belies the often light flavourings of pepper (and perhaps even mint). The grape is also remarkably flexible, making bedfellows with Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabarnet Franc.
The most amenable of white wines, this grape lends itself to almost any meal (except heavy red meats such as beef). Similar in look and body to Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc has a subtler flavour than its compatriot with an aroma of fresh grass most often reported.