Future Noble Grapes
What Are Noble Grapes?
Noble wine grapes. Have you ever heard that term before? For decades, generations of wine authorities referred to a group of six grapes considered to stand above the rest: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling. The first five are considered French in origin and the sixth is most well known as German. Not uncommon that these wines are so well known since they have been championed for over a hundred years and make up significant parts of wine shelves and menus.
However, the times are changing, and what we think of what a grape is and what it can become is up for debate. From how and where it is grown to what type of wine the grape produces, wine drinkers are reaching out for other grape varietals to try. I contend that those six “noble grapes” mentioned above are not that noble. Most wines made from any of those grapes are insipid, overprocessed wines with no quality of care afforded them. Yes, there are excellent wines made from the six, but they are few in the grand scheme and usually priced out of normal everyday wine drinking. Maybe we need to rethink what a noble grape is, or just do away with the antiquated term altogether and just focus on varietals.
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Domaine Lefage Tessellae Carignan Vieilles Vignes
I believe Carignan can be the next medium-bodied red grape to overtake the same shelves Pinot Noir sits on now. It provides the same weight and feel as Pinot Noir. Both show similar red fruit, from cranberry to deep cherry depending on what climate they are grown in. Yet Carignan is easier to grow, can adapt to more diverse soil and climate conditions, and yields more fruit than Pinot Noir. Carignan, with a long history of being grown for volume rather than quality, was thought to be a grape of poor quality. But it has shown that it can make lovely wines. It just needs the same time and care Pinot Noir sees to really shine.
Domaine Lefage Tessellae Carignan Vieilles Vignes is one of the best examples of this variety from the Roussillon, France. Coming all from schist soils and 70-year-old vines, raised 12 months in a mix of concrete tanks and demi-muids, it offers tons of black raspberry and black cherry fruit, licorice, and dried spices to go with a super sexy, heady, seamless style on the palate that keeps you coming back to the glass.
Pair this wine with smoky pork ribs or pasta with a red lentil ragu.
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Catena Zapata DV Catena Red Blend
The blend has three grapes with bright futures for wine drinkers: Malbec, Bonarda, and Petit Verdot. Malbec may be the grape to overtake Cabernet Sauvignon. They both show similar black fruit, have an affinity for oak, and can be rather powerful in their structures. With looming climate change, areas that are bastions for Cabernet may soon find it to be hospitable to the variety, leaving areas such as Mendoza in Argentina to become stalwarts for big red wines. The Bonarda in Argentina is the same as Charbono in California. Bonarda is an easy-growing grape making lush, red-fruited wines. Petit Verdot has been all but forgotten in its home of Bordeaux due to its trouble of ripening fully. It too is suited to the higher elevations of Argentina to fully develop in a long growing season. Maybe Petit Verdot can be better than Merlot in the future.
Don Domingo Vicente Catena, Nicolas Catena Zapata’s father, was famous in the 1930s for his deep dark red wine blend. This blend was sold in the French-styled bistros of Buenos Aires – the Paris of South America – as the finest wine from the Mendoza region. This wine, DV Catena Tinto Historico Red Blend, is made in honor of Don Domingo Catena and his legendary abilities as a Master of the Assemblage. The Catena wines are a special assemblage of High Mountain Estate Vineyards made by fourth-generation vintner, Laura Catena, and chief winemaker, Alejandro Vigil.
Catena Zapata DV Catena Red Blend shows black fruit and flowers from Uco Valley Malbec laced with spicy Petit Verdot. Malbec lends freshness and smoothness, while Petit Verdot grants volume and persistence, conferring a lush, rich attack and wonderful length to the blend.
Pair this with grilled meats or hearty root vegetable dishes.
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Tenuta di Capezzana Barco Reale di Carmignano
Sangiovese is another red grape to look to as an alternative to Pinot Noir or Merlot. There are many clones of the Sangiovese grape in Italy alone. In Tuscany, Sangiovese is the principal grape in Chianti and Brunello wines, and a key component for Super Tuscan wines. It is also a workhorse grape of Central Italy in all of Italy. The grape is seeing more plantings across the globe. Argentina, Australia, California, and even Texas are seeing considerable plantings growing for this grape.
Tenuta di Capezzana Barco Reale di Carmignano is quite exotic with notes of dried sage, dark cherries, mulberries, cedar, and red licorice. Full body with round tannins, showing good grip and a medium-long finish. Barco Reale is made with Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon together with a small amount of Canaiolo. It takes its name from the Medici property at nearby Artimino whose boundaries were defined by the ‘wall of the Barco Reale’ (‘Regal Reserve’) which ran for more than 30 Roman miles.
Pair this wine with red sauced pasta bakes and pizzas.
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La Rioja Alta Vina Alberdi Rioja Reserva
Tempranillo has been planted so enthusiastically in Spain that it is now the world’s fourth most popular wine grape variety. In some ways, it is Spain’s answer to Cabernet Sauvignon, the vine variety that puts the spine into a high proportion of Spain’s most respected red wines, and is increasingly planted elsewhere. Its grapes are thick-skinned and capable of making deep-colored, long-lasting wines that are not, unusually for Spain, notably high in alcohol. Tempranillo is one of relatively few Spanish varieties to have been adopted to a great extent in Portugal, where it is known both as Aragonez and Tinta Roriz and, after a dramatic increase in popularity, was the country’s single most planted variety.
La Rioja Alta Vina Alberdi Rioja Reserva is intense, with dominating ripe fruit and strawberry jam rounding off the background notes of cocoa, vanilla, caramel, and smoke from oak aging. Pleasant acidity and soft, round tannins provide a very pleasant, medium-bodied mouthfeel. Intense finish, with persistent hints of strawberry jam, cocoa, and vanilla and a seductive final acidity that entices you to carry on drinking.
Pair this red wine with a charcuterie and cheese platter or a rustic paella.