Varietals - the Spice of Life
Several varietals of wine ready to taste with their wine bottles in the background

Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Been there, done that.  Yawn.  Same old same old. 

When navigating wine preferences, these are the middle-of-the-road crowd’s easy answers.  And, yes, they are my own glass-fillers on most evenings when I want to be soothed, not challenged.  But there are times when one must liven up one’s life.  Titillate one’s taste buds.  Provoke one’s palate.

Do you love the tannic bomb that is Cabernet Sauvignon?  Yep, so do I.  The bold “King of Grapes” is known for ripe black and red fruits and herbaceous notes, and pairs easily with hearty, rich dishes.    But if you want to take your tongue on a delightful detour, tell King Cab to Move Over Dear.  That’s what oenophiles playfully name Mourvèdre (correctly pronounced ‘More VEH Druh’). 

Intensely colored, velvety Mourvèdre.  Rich with aromas of red fruit, chocolate, earth, game, and – if you’re a little kinky – leather.  Fifty shades of Yay.  Enjoyable as a solo artist, and also starring as the “M” in GSM – performing alongside the milder Grenache and Syrah in a blended trio that has been gaining popularity for its flavorful balance.

As for Chard, you’re the white of my life.  A buttery mouthful of happiness that answers the reflective question “How could life get any better?” when I’m watching the sun set off the California coast.  But absence makes the mouth grow fonder, so when I want to take a vacation from my norm, I roam over to Semillon or Riesling. 

Semillon (SAY me yaw) features a distinct fig-like character.  It is often blended with Savignon Blanc to temper its strong berry flavors.  The Bordeaux white pairs well with seafood and many salads.  Riesling (REES ling) is a classic German wine associated with the Mosel and Rhine regions.  In California, it is often  produced as a sweet wine, and deservedly with limited success.  As a result, few Americans appreciate its place in their cellar when produced in a more typical European style: dry or slightly sweet with steely acidity for balance.  Crafted in this style, it becomes a fresh and light elixir that intermingles with smoked meats and cuts through layers of spicier Japanese dishes. 

How many wine varietals are there?  Lots and lots is the best answer.  I looked it up on Wikipedia, and the list started with Abbuoto, Abouriou, Abrusco, Acolon…  I counted 45 that start with the letter A alone.  Then I stopped counting, and poured myself a glass of Chardonnay.


~ Kay Syrah

Wine Country Guru Gal

 Official Blog