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Barbera is known the "King of Piedmont," where it's the region’s most widely planted grape. The two major appellations are Barbera d'Alba and Barbera d'Asti (Alba and Asti being the names of two towns in Piedmont). A basic flavor profile of Barbera can be described as low tannin, high acid, and dark berry/plum fruit with a minerality typical of the region. These are excellent food wines, working well with just about anything especially pork, veal, and hard cheeses such as Parmesan and Cheddar.

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Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is the most recognized red variety in the world, planted in almost every corner of the wine world, from Bordeaux, France to Maipo, Chile. Cabernet Sauvignon is famous for its black current and (sometimes) bell pepper nose. The grape has a very powerful structure, which allows it to stand on its own; oftentimes, it is blended with other grape varieties in order to add structure to the overall wine. Finally, Cabernet Sauvignon has the ability to truly reflect the terroir in which it is grown, reflecting the personality of the region. "Cab," as it is often called, can be used for a variety of food pairings, including meats, hard cheeses and, surprisingly, chocolate.

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Alba Vineyard Consulting - ChardonnayChardonnay is a very versatile grape, hence its mass success around the wine growing world. The styles of Chardonnay often depend on the region where it is grown and the winemakers' styles and traditions. Chardonnay is king in Burgundy, producing a full-bodied, round wine with distinctive red apple flavors and vanilla. In California, premium Chardonnay is traditionally aged for years in oak barrels, producing a very buttery wine. Lately, however, there has been a move towards less oak-ageing in order to maintain the crispness and acidity of the grape. Chardonnays can be matched with many types of food, depending on the style of wine. Heavier Chardonnays pair well with chicken and creamed based sauces. A lighter style Chardonnay would pair excellently with salmon.

View 32 wines made from the Chardonnay variety

Chenin Blanc

Chenin Blanc or Chenin is one of the world’s most versatile grape varieties. The Chenin Blanc grape is capable of producing some of the sweetest, longest lasting whites, and some of South Africa’s most prized sparkling wine. Currently Chenin Blanc is South Africa’s most planted vine. There is far more planted in South Africa than in the Pineau de la Loire region, in its native France. The Chenin grape’s high acidity allows for long aging and a dry or sweet taste, producing sweet whites, refreshing sparkling wines and even nectar-like dessert wines. Chenin Blanc, like many whites, pairs well with white meats, salads and fish.

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Alba Vineyard Consulting - GrenacheThe Grenache grape can be found all over the world, although often used as a blending partner to other red wines. Specifically, it is critical in the southern Rhone as the base for the famous wines of Châteauneuf du Pape. It is a fleshy grape, producing rustic red wines with black-fruit characteristics that marry well with oak. Grenache flourishes in the southern region of France. It is found throughout the Languedoc, blended for full-bodied reds, and is also made as a rosé in Provence. Grenache plays a key role in Spain, in the Rioja region, where it is blended with Tempranillo. Finally, Grenache can be discovered as a single varietal in the new world, most successfully in Australia and California. Grenache pairs well with gamey meats such as duck, lamb and pheasant.

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Alba Vineyard Consulting - MerlotMerlot is a very approachable grape, hence its immense popularity. Less acidic and powerful than Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot has a lush, fruity character that often contains a wide varieity of scents and flavours. These characteristics can range from cherry and plum to pine and clove to violet and herbal. Merlot grows around the world, although it is most famous in Bordeaux blends, where it lends charm to the powerful Cabernet Sauvignon and aromatic Cabernet Franc. Merlot should be enjoyed with gamey meats, tomato-based pastas and even heavier fish such as salmon.

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Nebbiolo is considered one of the greatest wine varieties in the world. It flourishes in the northeastern Italian region of Piedmont, where is produces the great wines: Barolo and Barbaresco. Nebbiolos are big wines, dark and tannic and very long-lived. These dense wines exhibit complex aromas of cherries, violets and black licorice. An aged Nebbiolo often expresses notes of truffle, earth, cedar and leather. Nebbiolos can be paired with a variety of rich foods, from heavy meats and stews to dry, aged cheese.

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Pinot Grigio / Gris

Pinot Gris is the French name and Pinot Grigio is the Italian name for this grape, which is actually a mutation of Pinot Noir. Pinot Grigio is most widely planted in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of northeast Italy, where it produces the esteemed wines of the Collio district. It is also grown in Trentino-Alto Adige, Veneto, Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany. France's Pinot Gris has Burgundian roots, where it is called Pinot Beurot; but it is most prized in Alsace, where it is called Tokay d’Alsace. This grape is also grown in a host of other nations under an assortment of different names. Pinot Grigio tends to be crisp, light and dry, whereas Alsatian Pinot Gris tends to be rich, sweet and dry. Both produce mild floral aromas with pear, honey or lemon-citrus flavors. It pairs well with antipasto, mild seafood, sandwiches and salads.

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Pinot Noir

Alba Vineyard Consulting - Pinot NoirPinot Noir, the quintessential red burgundy grape, has been produced all over the world. What it shares in every region is its traditional sweet fruitiness and low levels of tannins and pigments. In its youth, Pinot Noir tastes heavily of fruit: strawberries, cherries and raspberries, as it ages it goes through spicy and even gamey scents. Pinot Noir has been known to mutate, as evidence from the offshoot varietals, Pinots Grigio (Gris), Meunier and Blanc. Pinot Noir is known to be planted throughout Eastern France, especially in the Cote d’Or region. Once the Champagne region started to produce more Pinot Noir, in the 1980’s, the grape gained ground in sparkling wines. Although Pinot Noir matches well with many foods, the best foods are those that are simple and rich, that show off the Pinot Noir’s delicacy and texture. Foods like grilled salmon, a quality cut of roast beef, roasted and braised lamb, or mushroom dishes all work well with the Pinot Noir.

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Although not exclusively grown in Germany, Riesling is one of Germany’s three noble grapes. The Riesling vine is hardy and can be grown in cool wine regions. Praised for its longevity, Riesling has the ability to carry the traits of a specific vineyard into a wine, but retain its own classic style. It is notable for its distinct aroma and versatility. The Riesling grape can produce fresh, youthful wines or mature, mellow wines, dry tart wines or sweet flavorful wines. Its ability to retain acidity and low alcohol with intense fruit ripeness is also admired. Riesling can be paired with many foods, including, Asian dishes, mild cheeses, seafood, ham or pork, or Tandoori chicken.

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Alba Vineyard Consulting - SangioveseSangiovese is the most important grape in the Tuscan region of Italy, the base ingredient in the Chianti wines. Sangiovese is a fruity grape, with moderate to high acidity and a medium body. The grape exhibits fruit aromas of strawberry, blueberry, and plum, along with a faintly floral scent of violets. Recently, Tuscan winemakers have blended Sangiovese with Cabernet Sauvignon to create Super-Tuscans: very full-bodied and full-flavored red wines. Sangiovese can now be found in other parts of the world, and has made a very good entrance onto the California wine scene. Pair a Chianti with pizza, pasta, or any cheeses from Tuscany.

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Sauvignon Blanc

This highly aromatic wine is very food friendly – it can be paired with an assortment of food textures and flavors. Its aromas are determined by the climate in which it is grown: a hot climate produces a nose of melon, whereas a cooler climate produces a grassy nose. It produces a dry, crisp and sometimes sweet wine. Historically, Sauvignon Blanc hails from the Loire river valley (where it is called Pouilly-Fume and Sancerre) and the Bordeaux region of France, where it is commonly blended with Semillon. Recently though, New Zealand growers have received international acclaim. Sauvignon Blanc is also grown in Argentina, Australia, Chile, South Africa, and the U.S. (where it is sometimes called Fume Blanc.) The versatile Sauvignon Blanc pairs well with many foods, seafood and shellfish, roast and grilled chicken, barbecue, salads, vegetables of all sorts, and aged and fresh goat cheese.

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Shiraz / Syrah

Alba Vineyard Consulting - ShirazDespite being exactly the same, this grape is known as Syrah in France and Shiraz in California and Australia. In France, Syrah grows through the Rhone Valley, and prospers in its northern region. It is a powerful, weighty wine with notes of black pepper and bacon. On the other side of the world, the grape has become synonomous with Australian red wine. Called Shiraz, the grape is just as powerful as the French Syrah, but with more luscious fruit character. Both wines pair very well with barbecued meats.

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Tempranillo flourishes in Spain, famous for the wines of Rioja and Ribera del Duero. It is also a main ingredient in Port, made in Portugal's Douro Valley. Tempranillo’s characteristics can vary from bright fruit and herbs to earth and minerals. Enjoy a spicy Tempranillo-based wine with roasted meats, especially lamb.

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Zinfandel / Primitivo

Zinfandel is home to California, producing full-bodied, jammy red wines, with hints of spice and licorice. These high alcohol wines are best enjoyed when young, probably within 3-5 years of the vintage. Zins are perfect with barbecued steaks and stewed meats.

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