Which is the best red grape variety? A question a I wish to ask all my dear readers. I know I bang on about Pinot Noir all the time but after many discussions on Twitter and Facebook I realise I may not be servicing my reader’s needs. So tell me, what do you consider the best red grape variety, regardless of popularity or vocal support on this site.
I will try to give you as many options as possible and, as I am a generous sort, I’ll let you vote for three. A few more common blends I include as varietals as they they they more or less are marketed as coherent entities. Just in case I’ve missed anything out there will be an option to add your own twisted and obscure favourite. But first, some thoughts.
I’ll say a few words about the big three red grapes and then some other thoughts just to pique your interest.
Pinot Noir is certainly my favourite grape variety. At its best it’s sexy and seductive with a brilliant ability to express where it has been grown. It can be thin and acrid with little to redeem it when made by soulless bastards. It is also one of the classier contributors to the type sparkling wine blend, and pure Pinot sparklers can be electric. Some people even make it into still white wine, but I cannot remember the last time I reported on one of those here. It scales the heights of intellectual pleasure, hedonistic ravishment and extreme expense, whilst all too often plunging to the depths of all those categories. This is a biggie to consider.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the real winner in the international popularity stakes, much like lager is to beer, I feel. The best are undoubtedly brilliant, but rarely it shows its best when all alone. It can do elegant and refined or big and buxom and I quite understand if you like it. No, I’m lying, I don’t understand at all, but lots of people do so please let me know if you are one of them.
The final big dog at the red grapes’ table is Syrah or Shiraz to our more modern cousins. It can do elegant, as I had the other night, it can also do heroic and bruising. It is grown the world over, and can also shine in blends, so this is a worthy contender.
Other reds include the powerful and scented Mourvedre of Spain, Chateauneauf and Bandol, capable of such aromatic complexity and incredible ageing capability it commands respect. Nebbiolo also manages these characters but is perhaps more generally accessible, and it is certainly in vogue at the moment. My personal view is that Cabernet Franc is more interesting, both pure and as part of a blend, than its more popular offspring. Vintage Port would be nothing without Touriga Nacional, but where else in the world does it flourish and deliver such quality? Some people have an undying love for Gamay of Beaujolais, but if that gets most votes I may give up writing this site.
There’s loads more to choose from, all the remotely serious ones are listed, in random order, below. Cast your three votes!
Discussions in the comments section, please, and the poll will close in a week (23 March).
We shall come to white grapes when all is done and dusted here.