Red, red wine

You make me feel so fine

MAY17-Summit-Somm

Whether you are a fan of UB40 or the health benefits associated with red wines, here are a few reds you should definitely know about. You have possibly tried cabernet sauvignon, merlot and pinot noir, maybe malbec and perhaps zinfandel. But have you tasted cabernet franc, petit verdot, carignan (aka mazuelo in Spain), gamay, grenache (garnacha in Spain) or sangiovese?

I browsed around some of our liquor and grocery stores recently looking for bottles of red wine that are more esoteric and perhaps a bit mysterious. The good news is we have fabulous wine selections here in Fort Wayne! So anything I discuss here you can actually go out and buy and you won’t need a day trip to Chicago to find it.

My all time favorite wine is cabernet franc. If it’s a French cab franc, it’s called Chinon and the style of the wine is dry, easy to drink and luscious. It’s a touch spicy with a beautiful structure, but has no bitterness from the tannins. It’s racy and tastes of creamy violets (it does). A cab franc from California will be much different, but equally delightful. It will be a bigger wine than the French version with chewy tannins and dense, dark fruit flavors. I’d recommend Couly Dutheil Chinon for everyday and Chappellet Cabernet Franc for a splurge.

Petit Verdot is actually a minor blending grape in the Bordeaux region of France, but can be found as a stand-alone as well. It has vivid flavor, color, intensity and tannin. It’s an inky purple wine that smells of leather, earth and smoke. It’s a full-bodied wine for sure. I like the ones from California; try Michael David’s Inkblot or their blend of petit verdot and petite sirah – aptly named Petite Petit.

Carignan, or mazuelo, is grown in France, Spain, South America and California. The wine typically has tart red fruit aromas of cherries, pomegranates and raspberries. Smooth tannins and a line of refreshing acidity carry the red fruit flavors as well. It’s also another blending grape, and you should try it in a Priorat from Spain. I love Bluegray – it’s a blend of grenache, mazuelo and cabernet sauvignon.

Gamay is a French red from the Beaujolais region of France, in the south of Burgundy. It’s got a vivid magenta color and is fresh, expressive and thirst quenching. It’s a lighter style red with black cherry and raspberries, roses, peaches and very low in tannin. You should buy Morgon, Brouilly or Beaujolais Villages. All are delightful.

Sangiovese you may already know. It’s the major Tuscan grape from Italy used for all the important traditional red wines of the region – Chianti, brunello di Montalcino and vino nobile di Montepulciano. Sangiovese is also the main player in so-called Super Tuscans – powerful, highly structured wines with heavy oak and tannins. You most likely want to start with a Chianti Classico; it has an intense ruby red color, soft and silky tannins and flavors of plums and spices. As you may guess, it goes best with Italian food; try Cecchi. 

Go get tasting! Cheers.

First appeared in the May 2017 issue of Fort Wayne Magazine.

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