UNDERSTANDING THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE MOST COMMON WINE VARIETIES
Many countries, and consumers categorize wines depending on the grape varieties used to produce the wine.
Wines can be a blend of different varieties or one single variety. The variety named on the label will either be the only type used to produce the wine or the dominating variety (usually at least 75%) with other grapes used to lend a specific character to the wine such as acidity, body, particular fruit flavor etc.
Below we explain some of the common characteristics of each of the most common varieties in Chile.
Reminiscent of green grass, herbs, and vegetable aromas. Due to its high natural acidity, it is the perfect variety to produce refreshing, crisp, light-bodied wines. As a result, in general this variety does not age in barrels and is enjoyed young.
This classic white variety offers intense fruit character of apple, melon, pear, pineapple, and some lemon, as well as some spice, honey, and butter. Winemakers often add more complexity to Chardonnay wines using techniques like barrel fermenting and malolactic fermentation which give the wines body, texture and a buttery sensation.
Also known as the “great grape of Burgundy”, the name of the French region where this grape originated. This red grape offers a full experience of black cherry, raspberry, and spices, with aromas of herbs, earth and sometime a touch of tar. Pinot Noir wines tend to have a light to medium body.
Merlot has a similar flavor profile to Cabernet Sauvignon, as they both belong to the same family of grapes, descendants of Cabernet Franc. The principal difference between these two grapes is that Merlot has thinner skin and is less astringent, with smoother tannins found in lower quantities. It also has a lighter, fruitier body. It’s known for its notes of ripe blue, black, and red fruits, followed by notes of coconut, vanilla, and some earthy notes.
Principally characterized by its aromas of ripe red fruit and spices, over a base of herbs. It is known for its green pepper herbaceous note. Carménère can be found in a variety of styles from plummy versions with opulent notes of oak to fresher versions with notes of herbs and pepper.
This variety is known for its intensity and depth of flavor. Its classic notes are of red berries such as currant, as well as plum and black cherry. A quality Cabernet Sauvignon can be identified by its ruby-purple color, firm levels of acidity, full body, and firm tannins.
Each variety has something unique to offer. It is always important to keep in mind that a variety will express itself differently depending on its origin, the climate and soil where the grapes were grown, and the winemaking techniques used. However, it should still maintain its varietal characteristics. The only way to learn how to differentiate them is to train your palate and try different varieties from different regions.