Cabernet Sauvignon is the most well-known member of the Carmenet family of grape cultivars. Its renown comes from its involvement in most Bordeaux wines (and equivalents). Other members of the family include Merlot and Malbec. Their inclusion in Bordeaux blends moderates the tannin content donated primarily by Cabernet Sauvignon. The tendency of Merlot to mature more quickly has made it a popular substitute for Cabernet Sauvignon. Under optimal conditions, Cabernet Sauvignon yields a fragrant wine possessing a black-currant aroma. Under less favorable conditions, it generates a predominant bell-pepper aroma. Cabernet Sauvignon probably is the offspring of an accidental crossing between grapes related to, if not identical with, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon blanc.
Gamay noir is the primary, white-juiced, Gamay cultivar. Its reputation has risen in association with the popularity of Beaujolais wines. Crushed and fermented by standard procedures, Gamay produces a light red wine with few distinctive characteristics. However, when processed by carbonic maceration, it yields a distinctively fruity wine. Most of these features come from the grape-berry fermentation phase of carbonic maceration.
Nebbiolo is generally acknowledged as producing the most highly regarded red wine in northwestern Italy. With traditional vinification, it produces a wine high in acid and tannin content that requires years to mellow. The color has a tendency to oxidize rapidly. Common aroma descriptors include tar, violets, and truffles.
Pinot noir is the most famous Noirien grape variety. It is particularly environmentally sensitive, producing its typical fragrance (beets, peppermint, or cherries) only occasionally. The cultivar exists as a varied collection of distinctive clones. Usually, the more prostrate, lower-yielding clones produce the more flavorful wines. The upright, higher-yielding clones are more suited to the production of rose and sparkling wines. The South African cultivar, Pinotage, is a cross between Pinot noir and Cinsaut.
Sangiovese is an ancient cultivar consisting of many distinctive clones, grown extensively throughout central Italy. It is most well known for the light- to full-bodied wines from Chianti, but also produces many fine red wines elsewhere in Italy. Under optimal conditions, it yields a wine possessing an aroma considered reminiscent of cherries, violets, and licorice. Sangiovese is also labeled under local synonyms, such as Brunello and Prugnolo, used in producing Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano wines, respectively.
Shiraz (Syrah in France) has become famous for yielding a deep red tannic wine with long aging potential in Australia. This has helped Syrah regain the prominence it once held in the Rhone Valley of France. Its wines are peppery with aspects reminiscent of violets, raspberries, and currants.
Tempranillo is probably the finest Spanish red-grape variety. Under favorable conditions, it yields a delicate, subtle wine that ages well. It is
the most important red cultivar in Rioja. Outside Spain, it is primarily grown in Argentina. It usually goes under the name Valdepenas in
California. Tempranillo generates an aroma distinguished by a complex, berry-jam fragrance, with nuances of citrus and incense.
Zinfandel is extensively grown in California. Its precise origin is unknown, but is clearly related to several Austrian, Croatian, and Hungarian varieties (Calo et al., 2008). This variety occurs under a variety of synonyms, such as Primitivo in Italy and Crljenak kastelanski in Croatia. Zinfandel is used to produce a wide range of wines, from ports to light blush wines. In rose versions, it shows a raspberry fragrance, whereas full-bodied red wines possess rich berry flavors.
Extract from: Wine Tasting. A Professional Handbook. By Ronald S. Jackson