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Last week I wrote two posts about my list of markers for classic white grapes and wines.  This post is the first of two listing my markers for classic red grapes and wines. Cheers!

I. Cabernet Sauvignon

Left Bank Bordeaux Blend 

Sight: deep ruby.  
Nose: black fruits (berry, black cherry and cassis) with green olive, cedar, pencil lead, violet-floral, and green herbs.  Wines from cooler vintages
can display more red fruit character as well as more pronounced herbal notes. Elements of clay, dried leaves, mushroom and turned earth can often be found.  Leather and game are common in older wines.  Oak aging adds smoke, toast, sweet baking spice notes.  
Palate: medium-to-full bodied and bone dry to dry.  
Structure: alcohol: medium-plus to high in warm vintages; acidity: medium-plus; tannin: medium-plus to high.  
 
ID Keys: the combination of deep black fruits, green herbs, earth/forest floor, and bright acidity.  Some wines can be bone dry with considerable herbal elements and pronounced earthiness.

New World: California

Sight: deep ruby.  
Nose: ripe even jammy black fruits (berry, cherry, cassis and currant) with green olive, cedar, chocolate and green herb notes.  Cooler climate wines can display red fruit characteristics and more herbal notes.  Oak aging adds smoke, toast, sweet baking spices and sawdust notes. 
Palate: full bodied and dry.  
Structure: alcohol: medium-plus to high; acidity: medium to medium-plus; tannin: medium-plus to high.  
 
ID Keys: generally much riper and richer in style than Bordeaux without the prominent earth/mineral component. 

New World: South Australia – Coonawarra

Sight: deep ruby.  
Nose: blackberry, black cherry and black currant fruit with pronounced mint/eucalyptus and notes of green olive and herbs.  Oak adds vanilla, baking spices and toast.  
Palate: full bodied and dry.  
Structure: alcohol: medium-plus to high; acidity: medium to medium-plus; tannin: medium-plus to high.  
 
ID Keys: Coonawarra Cabernet is very distinctive with classic Cabernet black fruits but with a strong presence of mint and eucalyptus.

II. Pinot Noir

Burgundy: Cote de Nuits


Sight: light to medium ruby.
Nose: red fruits—cherry, raspberry, strawberry–with tea, floral, herb, and earthy complexity.  With age the wines take on gamy-vegetal-earthy complexities difficult to describe.  Oak aging adds smoke, vanilla, sweet spice and wood notes to the wines. 
Palate: medium to medium-plus bodied and dry to bone dry.  
Structure: alcohol: medium to medium-plus; acidity: medium-plus; tannin: medium-minus to medium. Some winemakers use stems during fermentation giving the wines a green woody quality on the nose and palate as well as firmer tannins.

ID Keys: although deceptively light in color the wines can be quite concentrated in flavor. Light-bodied, supple, and elegant with bright red fruits (not black fruits!), tea-spice, earthy complexities, and new oak. 

Burgundy: Cote de Beaune

Sight: light to medium ruby.
Nose: tart or ripe red fruits depending on the quality of the vintage; cherry, raspberry and cranberry are common.  Non-fruit aromas include green herb, black tea, rose floral, and clay/earth/mineral notes. As with wines from the Cote de Nuits, age can add gamy—savory-vegetal-earthy complexities.  Oak aging adds aromas of vanilla, baking spices and toast. 
Palate: medium-bodied and dry to bone dry.  
Structure: alcohol: medium to medium-plus; acidity: medium-plus; tannin: medium-minus to medium. 
 
ID Keys: generally, wines from the Cote de Beaune tend to be relatively earthier and firmer in tannins than those from the Cote de Nuits; they also tend to have less forward fruit.


New World: California and Oregon

Sight: medium to deep ruby.
Nose: ripe red fruits (black fruits in warm vintages or regions), herb, floral, tea and more.  Oak aging adds smoke, sweet spice and wood flavors. 
Palate: medium-minus to medium-plus bodied and dry.  
Structure: alcohol: medium to medium-plus (and getting higher all the time …); acidity: medium to medium-plus; tannin: medium to medium-plus.

ID Keys: supple red berry fruit, spices and new wood.  Stem tannins often present but a relative lack of earthiness when compared to Burgundy. 

New World: New Zealand

Sight: light to medium ruby.
Nose: red fruits—both fresh and dry with considerable herb, floral, tea and mineral/soil.  Oak aging adds smoke, sweet spice and woody flavors. 
Palate: medium to medium-plus bodied and dry.  
Structure: alcohol: medium to medium-plus; acidity: medium to medium-plus; tannin: medium to medium-plus.

ID Keys: New Zealand Pinots are similar in style to California and Oregon with its supple red fruit, spices and new wood qualities.  However, the wines are distinct with their pronounced herbaceousness; many display a chalky mineral quality.

III. Merlot

Right Bank Bordeaux Blend


Sight
: very deep ruby.
Nose: red and black fruits, green herb, forest floor, violet floral, earth-mineral. Oak aging adds vanilla, sweet spice and toast/smoke flavors.
Palate: medium-plus to full-bodied; supple, rich and lush; and dry to bone dry.  
Structure: alcohol: medium-plus to high in warmer vintages; acidity: medium to medium-plus; tannin: medium to medium-plus tannins.  
 
ID Keys: Generally,
Merlot-based right bank wines tend have softer tannins than their Caberne-basedleft bank counterparts as well as more herbal/vegetal characteristics.

New World: California, Australia and Chile 
 
Sight: very deep ruby.
Nose: ripe black fruits, green herb, bitter chocolate, and oak. Mint and eucalyptus can also often found. 
Palate: full-bodied and usually richer and riper than right bank Bordeaux wines with more new oak.   
Structure:  alcohol: medium-plus to high, acidity: medium to medium-plus; tannin: medium to high.  

ID Keys: generally Merlot tends to be ripe and supple with lush fruit and herbal notes; full-bodied wines display considerable alcohol with a relative lack of earthiness and considerable new oak.  Tannins tend to be less angular than Cabernet Sauvignon although Cabernet is often blended with Merlot for added structure.

IV. Cabernet Franc

France: Loire Valley Chinon or Bourgueil

Sight: medium to deep ruby.
Nose: tart red and black fruits (sour cheery, plum, raspberry, and cranberry) with a pronounced green tobacco-leafy  herb character and chalky minerality.  Warmer vintages yield wines with more black fruit character. Oak usage varies from old wood to noticeable new barrique. 
Palate: medium to medium-plus bodied and very dry, sometimes austere in character.
Structure: alcohol: medium to medium-plus; acidity: medium-plus to high; tannins: medium to medium-plus.

ID Keys: similar in weight to many to lighter right Bank Bordeaux wines but with a pronounced leafy green herb (and stemmy) quality and chalky
minerality.

V. Gamay: Beaujolais Villages

Sight: medium to deep ruby with purple highlights
Nose: candied, artificial fruit basket derived from carbonic fermentation with confected red and tropical fruits, pear drops, bubblegum, floral, green herb and stony earth.  
Palate: medium-bodied and dry to bone dry. Emphasis on candied fruit, herb and granitic soil
Structure: acidity: medium-plus; alcohol: medium  to medium-plus, tannin: medium-minus to medium. 

ID Keys: look for the candied fruit-basket quality with herbal and stony qualities.

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