Bite-size insights into some classic red grape varietals...

Cabernet Sauvignon:

• Origin: Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant varietal in its home of Bordeaux in France. It is a crossing between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc during the 17th century.
• Classic Flavours: Dark plums, blackcurrants, blackberries, mint chocolate, vanilla clove, leather, tobacco and many more.
• Food Pairing Suggestions: A light style Cabernet Sauvignon pairs well with: simple red meat cuisine, sausages, kebabs, grilled or bbq’d steak. A fuller-style Cabernet Sauvignon with good oak - will pair well with: wild game, rich red meats, dishes with a red wine sauce or wine-jus and rich earthy flavours etc.



• Origin: Carignan is believed to have origins in Cariñena, the Aragon region of Spain, and an historically key part of Rioja's red wine blends. For a long time, it was the world’s most planted vine.
• Classic Aromas & Flavours: Dark wild berries and dried spices. Naturally high in acidity, tannins and astringency - requires skill to craft a wine of elegance.
• Food Pairing Suggestions: A medium-full style Carignan pairs well with simple red meat cuisine, rich sausages, grilled or bbq’d meats. A fuller-style Carignan with good oak - will pair well with game red meats, dishes with lingering rich earthy flavours.



• Origin: Carmenère is a red wine grape varietal (a member of the Cabernet family) originally planted in the Medoc region of Bordeaux in France, where it was used for blending purposes to produce deep red wines.
• Classic Flavours: Carmenère produces a deep red colour and aromas of red fruits, wild berries, earthy, leather, tobacco notes and dried spices.
• Food Pairing Suggestions: A light style Carmenère pairs well with: simple red meat cuisine, sausages, kebabs, grilled or bbq’d steak. A full, richer style Carmenère with good oak - will pair well with: wild game, fatty red meats, dishes with a bbq sauce or wine-jus and earthy, dried spice flavours.



• Origin: Grenache has its origins in Spain, (where it is known as Garnacha) is one of the most widely planted red wine grape varieties in the world.
• Classic Flavours: Blackcurrants, sweet fleshy dark plums, allspice, cinnamon, vanilla and subtle smoky notes.
• Food Pairing Suggestions: A classic style, fruit driven, early drinking style Grenache wine will pair well with: traditional pizzas, rabbit and pork, lamb. An old vine, richer style Grenache can pair with lighter Indian dishes, Moroccan Tagine’s along with baked, and both styles with earthy vegetarian cuisine.



• Origin: Merlot has its origins in the wine region of Bordeaux - France. Merlot is an offspring of Cabernet Franc and is a sibling of Carménère and Cabernet Sauvignon.
• Classic Flavours: Black-Doris plums, black cherries, chocolate, coffee, vanilla and with subtle, soft fine tannins.
• Food Pairing Suggestions: Merlot is generally softer in style, with a ripe fruit driven palate and with a lighter tannin structure. With this in mind Merlot pairs well with: simple meat pizza's and mild pasta dishes, roasted chicken, mild flavoured tapas, earthy vegetarian cuisine and pâté on toast.



• Origin: Mourvèdre (Monastrell or Mataró in Spain and Australia) - is a varietal with its origins thought to be in Spain. It is thought it may have been introduced to Catalonia by the Phoenicians in around 500BC.
• Classic Aromas & Flavours: Dark fruits, lifted dried herbs like sage. Ripe berry flavours with a savoury earthy character with a good balance of fruit acidity and tannins.
• Food Pairing Suggestions: A light-medium style Mourvèdre pairs well with simple mild meat cuisine, , grilled or bbq’d dishes. A medium-fuller-style Mourvèdre with oak - will pair well with game, rich red meats, dishes with a red wine sauce or wine-jus and good seasoning.


Petit Verdot:

• Origin: Petit Verdot can trace its origins to the Bordeaux region of France. Though today - Petit Verdot is the least known and grown of the Bordeaux red varietals.
• Classic Flavours: Blackberry, black cherry and black plums, cigar box, leather and earth tones, violets, green peppers, spices and smoky oak notes.
• Food Pairing Suggestions: Due to the firm tannin structure and concentrated nature of Petit Verdot - if this varietal is the predominant grape varietal in the finished wine - this style of wine pairs well with: rich well seasoned red meats, wild game, bbq’d meats, earthy dishes and well-aged, firm cheeses.


Primitivo / Zinfandel:

• Origin: Primitivo is a red grape varietal linked with and grown principally in Apulia (Puglia) in southern Italy. DNA testing has confirmed that Primitivo and Zinfandel are clones of the same varietal.
• Classic Flavours: Red plums and spice, ripe blackberries, violets and pepper are common.
• Food Pairing Suggestions: A youthful, lighter style Primitivo wine none or light notes of oak pairs well with: simple red meats, pork and lamb chops, homemade hamburgers, mildly flavoured pizza's, mildly sauced pasta dishes, cured and cold meats, eggplant vegetarian dishes and mild cheeses.


Syrah / Shiraz:

• Origin: Recently DNA testing has clearly indicated that this red grape varietal is native to the Rhône Valley in France.
• Classic Flavours: Blackberries, black olives, dark plums game, meaty, cedar, dried spices, pepper (black for hot climates & white in cooler climates), smoky oak notes.
• Food Pairing Suggestions: A lighter, more approachable style Syrah wine pairs well with: lamb chop, cutlets, grilled or bbq'd pork, herb sausages, kebabs etc. A full, richer style Shiraz with good integrated oak will pair with prime steaks, venison and other game meats, served with a rich sauce or wine-jus.


Cabernet Franc:

• Origin: Cabernet Franc can link its origins to the Libournais wine region of southwest France. Cabernet Franc crossed with Sauvignon Blanc to produce Cabernet Sauvignon.
• Classic Flavours: Wild blackcurrants, sweet liquorice, roasted peppers, dark plum, raspberry, sandalwood, violets, herbs and smoky notes.
• Food Pairing Suggestions: A 100% or predominant Cabernet Franc is not as common as one would think - but if you are lucky enough - due to its lighter tannin structure and palate weight it pairs well with games birds, medium rich meat dishes, mushroom pasta, Middle Eastern cuisine and flavoursome pizzas.


Durif / Petite Sirah:

• Origin: Durif is named after Dr Francois Durif, a botanist at the University of Montpellier in southern France. He created this new varietal by crossing Syrah with the Peloursin varietal in the 1860's.
• Classic Aroma & Flavours: Dried spices, black pepper and herbs, and typical flavours of wild berries, along with dark fruits and a good firm tannin structure.
• Food Pairing Suggestions: A medium to full style Durif pairs well with simple red meat cuisine, sausages, kebabs, hamburgers. A full-bodied Durif with good oak - will pair well with wild game, rich red meats, dishes with a red wine sauce or wine-jus and earthy flavours.



• Origin: Gamay is a purple-coloured grape used for red wines, most notably grown in the wine region of Beaujolais - France. Parents of Gamay are Pinot Noir & Gouais Blanc.
• Classic Flavours: Cherries, strawberry, raspberry, violets, rose petal, vanilla and subtle herbs and mild spices.
• Food Pairing Suggestions: A youthful, lighter style Gamay wine (which can be served slightly chilled) will pair well with seared tuna, salmon and sushi. A classic, fuller style Beaujolais Gamay red wine pairs well with: roast chicken, turkey, pork, duck spring rolls, pate on toast and earthy vegetarian cuisine.



• Origin: Malbec can trace its origins to the region of Bordeaux in France. Though it is Argentina which is now regarded as the ‘new’ home of Malbec.
• Classic Flavours: Dark berries, rich plums, dark cherries, chocolate, coffee, cooked bacon, tobacco and with mild tannins.
• Food Pairing Suggestions: A vibrant, classic, approachable style Malbec with its ripe dark fruit flavours and mild tannins pairs well with: lean cuts of lamb, and mild beef, grilled or roasted pork, lightly seasoned and sauced pasta dishes along with hard cheeses - like a mild aged cheddar.



• Origin: Nebbiolo is an iconic red Italian varietal predominately associated with the Piedmont wine region where it makes the (DOCG) wines of Barolo and Barbaresco.
• Classic Flavours: Violets, liquorice, wild herbs, dark cherries, wild raspberries, black truffles, bitter chocolate and tobacco notes.
• Food Pairing Suggestions: A traditional-classic style Nebbiolo wine can have a formidable, even aggressive tannins and natural acidity in their youth. So with this in mind they can pair well with braised beef, slow cooked red meats, dishes with earthy/ truffle notes and dishes served with a rich sauce or wine-jus.



• Origin: Pinotage is a red wine grape varietal with its origins in South Africa. It is the result of crossing Pinot Noir with Cinsault and created by Professor Abraham Izak Perold in 1925.
• Classic Aromas & Flavours: Herbs, bramble and floral notes. When ripe flavours of dark cherries, mulberry, small wild berries - can produce complex wines, but drinkable when young.
• Food Pairing Suggestions: A light style Pinotage pairs well with sausages, kebabs, taco’s and mild pasta/pizza’s. A medium-fuller-style Pinotage with good oak - will pair well with game red meats like duck, along with lamb dishes with a wine-jus and earthy vegetables.


Pinot Noir:

• Origin: Pinot Noir is linked to Burgundy in France - and seems to reflect more pronounced 'Gout de Terroir', or 'flavour of the soil', than other red varietals, making site selection critical.
• Classic Flavours: Red to dark cherries, red plums, dried flowers, mushrooms, earthy, dark chocolate, forest floor, mocha, truffle, smoky notes.
• Food Pairing Suggestions: A youthful, lighter style Pinot Noir pairs well with: salmon, tuna, duck spring rolls, simple pizza’s and mixed vegetarian dishes. A richer, fuller style Pinot Noir with an amount of oak - will pair well with: smoked salmon, roast pork, lamb cutlets, duck and earthy vegetarian cuisine.



• Origin: Sangiovese is an indigenous Italian red grape varietal, with a number of clones - whose name derives from the Latin 'Sanguis Jovis', 'the blood of Jove (Jupiter)'.
• Classic Flavours: Wild red and black cherries, with fresh through to dried spice, lifted herbs and tobacco.
• Food Pairing Suggestions: A lighter style Sangiovese wine with none or light oak notes will pair well with: mushroom based pasta or pizza's, bbq'd and grilled red meats. A fuller, richer style Sangiovese with oak will pair well with prime cuts of red meat, wild game with a rich, earth sauce or wine-jus.



• Origin: Tempranillo is a black grape varietal widely grown to make varied approachable mild to full-flavoured red wines in its native home in Spain.
• Classic Flavours: Depending upon the style (fruit driven, or oak infused) and age of wine - ripe red-to-dark cherries, plums with hints of coffee and earthy dried spices.
• Food Pairing Suggestions: As a Tempranillo based wine can vary in style and personality so much - they pair well with a broad range of pork dishes, from chorizo and dried, cured, and uncured sausages to aged hams like prosciutto and lamb, varied tapas’, mixed pizza's and mild-to-hard cheeses.

White Grape Varietals - ‘brief insights’ - CLICK HERE