The sale of red wine grape varieties


BOBAL

bobal

This grape is typical of the Levante region and is very abundant in Utiel and Requena. The colour is intense, with brilliant tones due to its great acidity, but the alchoholic content is not high. The aroma is fresh but not too intense, which favours the production of good rosé wines. Recently, greater knowledge of winemaking in less productive varieties is promoting full-bodied red wines, rich in tannins, with excellent ageing possibilities.


BRANCELLAO

This grape is characterized by small to medium-sized bunches, and a rather colourless pulp. This contributes structure. Together with Merenzao, it is grown in Ribeira Sacra, but is less extended than Mencia.


CABERNET FRANC

cabernet-franc

This grape originates in Bordeaux, like Cabernet Sauvignon, but produces smoother and fruitier wines. It is abundant in Galicia and Castilla. Its cultivation is very widespread, but is found mainly in Cataluña.

It is the cousin of Cabernet Sauvignon. It is grown in Bordeaux for the production of various red wines, but is still in a minority when blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The exception are the wines of Saint-Émilion, because some of them, such as Cheval-Blanc and Ausone, contain 50% or more of Cabernet Franc. This red variety predominates, on the other hand, in certain regions of the Loire. Some wines, such as Saumur, Bourgeil and Chinon, are made almost exclusively from Carbernet Franc. Unlike Cabernet Sauvignon, it has not been exported frequently and its reputation rests on its participation in classical Bordeaux blends. Some examples of Cabernet Franc are to be found in California, but outside France it is mainly popular in the North-East of Italy, in Venice.


CABERNET SAUVIGNON

cabernet

Cabernet Sauvignon is the red variety that has had the greatest success all over the world. This variety was developed in Bordeaux and began to be well-known towards the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th.

Given that it has a low output, Cabernet Sauvignon is only grown where a high-quality wine is to be produced. The fruit is very dark and small, with a thick skin. It produces an austere wine, rich in colour and tannins, which is often mixed with other varieties, such as Cabernet Franc and Merlot.

It possesses an intense colour, vigorous tannins and a penetrating aroma of violets and berries, which makes it ideal for table wines. In Spain it has acclimatized perfectly in zones such as Penedés, Navarra and Ribera del Duero, but it is difficult to find in red wine producing areas which have not grown this star variety in recent years.

Cabernet Sauvignon ripens slowly, which limits its cultivation to temperate zones with mild autumns. In very warm climates and in fertile soils it can sometimes produce a sugary wine lacking in acidity. In cooler climates, on the other hand, it can produce wines with a grassy aroma.

Wine tasters identify it through its dark red colour, with a violet tinge in its first youth that turns to a brick red over time. The aroma recalls blackcurrants in young wines and cedar wood in more mature ones. The taste of young Cabernet Sauvignon wines is quite rough, because of its high tannin content. It adapts perfectly to ageing for two years in oak barrels. Wine tasters look for the woody tones, and appreciate the harmony between the fruity aromas, the concentration of tannins and the flavour of the wood. This variety confers a special virtue to wines for ageing. A great Claret from a good vintage, for example, will keep improving over decades.

Apart from Clarets, Cabernet Sauvignon is found in other French wines of the South-West, such as in Bergerac, the wines of the Midi, and the Loire, where it coexists with Cabernet Franc. In the rest of Europe, Spain and the Centre and North of Italy it is a recent introduction, although some vineyards, Rioja, Douro or Chianti, are a century old.

In Eastern Europe, Bulgaria possesses 18,000 hectares of Cabernet Sauvignon, almost as much as Bordeaux, and their exports to the United Kingdom and Scandinavia are developing fast. This variety is also present in Rumania, Moldavia, Russia, Georgia, Greece, Turkey and Lebanon.

In the United States, California produces several high-quality wines and in Chile they have been harvesting Cabernet Sauvignon for more than a century, with excellent results. This variety has adapted very well to Australian soils, from Canberra in the South to Hunter Valley in New South Wales, or in other isolated vineyards in cooler climates.


CAIÑO

White and red. It is the first grape to be authorized in Rias Baixas, and the second in Ribeiro.


CALLET

This is a native variety from Mallorca, more specifically from the district of Benissalem. For many years it was considered to be second-rate, giving lightly coloured juices and high output. However, young winemakers from the area of Felanitx have revived it recently thanks to selective work with old low-output varieties, from which a wine with good colour and alcoholic content has been obtained. It can be mixed with Cabernet, Manto Negro or Tempranillo for the wines to endure the two-year ageing process and gain in complexity. The skin needs a long ripening because it is always characterized by a slightly grassy taste. This grape is elegant and velvety on the palate.


CARIÑENA

This grape is one of the oldest varieties cultivated in Spain, especially in El Campo de Carineña, whence it received its name. It is also called Mazuela, or Mazuelo, because it was already cultivated in Nájera in 1562. History locates it mainly in the zone of Aragón, Tarragona, El Priorato and La Rioja, although at the moment the largest vineyards are found in Tarragona and Gerona.

This variety travelled to France, spreading over the Eastern Pyrenees and the Aude, where it settled under the name of Carignan, or Carignane, until it became the most typical of the vines of the Midi, alongside Cinsaut and Garnacha.

In California it is known by the nickname of ‘the viticulturist’s grape’, because of its great vigour and high output. It is common in Argentina, Chile and Mexico, and appears in smaller quantities in South Africa and even in China. It was grown in Algeria, Tunis and Morocco, and became the main variety in Israel, but was replaced by the arrival of noble varieties with lower output and stronger resistance to mildew.

The most typical wines, with the greatest character, made with this grape in Spain are found on the slate soils of El Priorato, and they are usually mixed with Garnacha. They are young red table wines that can easily reach 13% of alcohol content. When only Cariñena is used, the wines offer a light aroma and abundant tannins, which makes them ideal to reinforce other red wines.


GARNACHA

garnacha

All the evidence suggests that Spain was the origin of red Garnacha. This vigorous variety is the second in planted area, with 14%, as well as 4% of global cultivation, which places it at the top of the list of red wine varieties.

It is reckoned to have originated in Aragón, specifically the province of Zaragoza, whence it spread gradually to neighbouring regions and then to almost all of Spain. Then it crossed the Pyrenees to settle in the South of France, and is now found in most winemaking countries in the world.

This is a very vigorous variety, which is resistant to drought, but prone to mildew and botrytis and with a late sprouting and ripening. Garnacha can produce wines with good alcoholic content, a golden red colour and moderate acidity.

Nonetheless, these wines age quickly and are prone to oxidation. Rosés from Navarra, fresh and fruity, are typical, but the main use of this grape is concentrated on blending for the creation of many well-known red wines.


GARNACHA TINTORERA

The main characteristic of this grape is that it has a coloured pulp, which has made it a popular ingredient for adding colour to bulk wines. Traditionally, it has been identified with Buschet, a hybrid from Alicante, but there are authors that claim it is an independent variety from the zone of Alicante, Toledo and Cuidad Real. Recent monovarietal production in the Almansa Denomination of Origin has shown the profile of a very fruity grape with a great aromatic potential, which also gives structure and body in the mouth.


GRACIANO

This is a classic Rioja variety, which is grown in the least suitable soils of the region, and therefore participates in very small proportions. It is used simply to strengthen the fruity aroma of Tempranillo. However, as soon as winemakers started to grow it in warmer areas of La Rioja they discovered elements rich in fruity taste and colour, and started to grow monovarietal wines with this grape. It possesses a greater aromatic precision, reminiscent of blackcurrants, than Tempranillo grown in warm areas, as well as a stronger freshness and body. Most is produced in La Rioja and also in the warmer zones of Valencia and Extremadura.


HONDARRIBI BELTZA

This is a red variety of Txakolí. It is only grown in the Basque Country, where it originated. It is characterized by high acidity, as well as strong, fruity, wild aromas. It is both used as a monovarietal wine and blended in rosés together with its white homonym, which has a violet cherry colour. In these combinations it enjoys a good balance between fruitiness and acidity.


JUAN GARCÍA

This grape is native to the Zamorra district of Fermoselle, where it predominates. It can give rise to interesting young wines with moderate alcohol content. However, the fine skin makes it a fragile grape when ripening late or in zones with high humidity.


LISTÁN NEGRA

This variety is grown in the Canaries, and gives brilliant reds with a distinct, balsamic nose and slight reminiscences of eucalyptus and very fresh and juicy red fruits. The tannins are weak, so it is more suited to the production of young wines.


MANTO NEGRO

This variety is native to the Balearic Islands, and is especially abundant in the Mallorca Denomination of Origin Binissalem, but is also found in Pla and Llevant. It contributes characteristic aromas of woody fruit and a touch of caramel. On the palate it feels quite balanced, but it is usually blended with local Callet or other international varieties.


MENCIA

The cultivation of this grape is limited to the North-east of the Spain, and is especially abundant in the provinces of León and Zamorral, and the region of Galicia. The similarity to Cabernet Franc is notable, and it produces fruity wines with great colour and acidity when it is grown in cool zones with enough water. Recently, rounder and darker reds have appeared, as a result of more careful elaboration and lower yields.


MERLOT

merlot

This grape has a French origin, and possesses a dark-bluish colour and very thick skin. It is the most accepted foreign red grape in Spain because its tannins are less dry than Cabernet Sauvignon and it gives a sweeter, fruitier flavour. Although it is earlier than Cabernet it performs well in warm zones. It is grown mainly in Somontano and Cataluña, and somewhat less in Alicante and Murcia.

Merlot is for the Bordeaux vineyards on the right bank what Cabernet Sauvignon is for the Médoc on the left bank. It is the key to the great red wines of Saint-Émilion and Pomerol. Its fundamental role in the production of certain famous wines, such as Pétrus, has encouraged Californian viticulturists to try it in the hope of creating their own great wines.

At a more modest level, Merlot is cultivated extensively in the South of France where it appears more and more frequently on the labels of French wines, and in the North of Italy. Many small Bordeaux denominations contain more Merlot than Cabernet. It is also present in the Médoc, because it ripens earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon. However, this exposes it to spring frosts. On the other hand, it also suffers alterations in colour and other inconveniences, to the extent that in some years Merlot vines produce almost nothing.


MONASTRELL

Monastrell is characterized by its excellent adaptation to soils, low rainfall and high temperatures. It is cultivated almost exclusively in the calcareous soils of Alicante, Murcia and Albacete. It possesses a great fruitiness, slightly sugary when ripe, with sweet but rather weak tannins. This grape tends to oxidize and so it is ideal for rancid or sweet wines. It needs at least 13.5 alcohol content and ageing under ten months to obtain its full fruit expression. In those three above-mentioned provinces Monastrell is fermented alone, but it is also blended in Cataluña, a cooler zone.


MORISTEL

This grape is cultivated in the Somontano DO, and gives red wines with great blackberry and blackcurrant flavours, and a slightly wild touch, which makes it ideal for young wines. It shares the same geographic distribution as Parraleta, but from a sensorial point of view suggests a certain sweetness and rusticity, with tinges of sugar and red fruit jam.


NEGRAMOLL

This is a grape grown in the Canaries, especially on the island of La Palma. It is less characteristic than Listán, but possesses a certain tannic structure. If the harvest is late it sometimes provides a delicious taste of very ripe black fruit.


PARRALETA

This is a native variety of Somontano that lacks synonyms, whose cultivation is unknown in other zones. Its main virtue is an agreeable rusticity. The balsamic character may arise from the hints of wild fruits, such as strawberry, raspberry and other berries, and its own typical spiciness.


PETIT VERDOT

This grape is from Bordeaux, but now is rarely found in the region. It is relatively recent in Spain, where it is associated more with the dedication of certain winemakers such as Griñon or Abadía Retuerta than specific geographic areas, although the best results have been found in areas with more sunlight, such as Jumilla, Alicante, Toledo and Ronda. The examples that exist in Spain today give aromatic sensations in the nose and mouth of ripe fresh fruit, with good intensity. Owing to its late ripening this grape can reach high alcohol contents.


PINOT NOIR

This is a classic of Bourgogne and Champagne. The fruit is small and colouring, with dark, violet skin. However, in wine the colour fades faster than other grapes, acquiring an orangey tone. In warmer climates it loses its complexity and elegance, and is generally grown in Cataluña.


PRIETO PICUDO

This grape is grown in an área from Benavente to Astorga, and from this city as far as the boundary of the province León with Palencia. It has adapted to live in extreme conditions and produces a wine with a dark cherry colour and an aroma of red fruit similar to that of Mencía, but with an agreeable wild tone and a greater tannic structure owing to the thickness of the skin. It tastes like Graciano, but with more tannins.


RUFETE

This grape is exclusive to the mountains of Salamanca, and so is the main attraction of the winemaking district Arribes del Duero. It generally produces light wines with little colour. Since it tends to oxidize, more care must be taken in the elaboration of wines, but the best examples keep their original values or aroma and palate, suggesting spices, grasses and sloes.


SUMOLL

Various Catalan districts dispute its ‘indigenous’ character, but Conca de Barberá is the most likely candidate. It is an easily-grown grape which was used extensively at the end of the 19th century for table wines in Cataluña, an area which led the production of red wines in Spain.


SYRAH

syrah

This is the variety of the Rhone and Australia par excellence. Recently it has become fashionable in Spain because it is ideal for growing in warm areas. The grapes are ovoid and small with a very pleasant taste. The wines possess a characteristic aroma of violets and very ripe black fruits. Nowadays it is presented as a grape with a great future, to combine with Monastrell.

Australians has taken Syrah to their heart, especially because it was one of the first varieties to be planted there. They call it Shyraz. The climate in the Rhone valley, the homeland of Syrah, shares many points in common with that of many Australian vineyards.

For a long time it was believed that Syrah originated from the city of Shiraz in present-day Iran, and that Greek sailors introduced it into Europe in ancient times. However, historical research has shown that it may come from the Dauphiné, and descended from wild forest lianas that grew beside lakes and rivers and were later domesticated.

Syrah offers a regular and very abundant harvest but is a challenge for winemakers, especially if it is used alone. For common wines it is preferable to use it as an added variety, because it can contribute spicy nuances and an increase in interesting factors to an characterless blend. Its cultivation in the Midi has been stimulated by numerous subsidies, so its typical concentrated, smoky tones appear in many wines throughout the country, from Provence to the Aude.


TEMPRANILLO

tempranillo

This is a high-quality variety found all over Spain, owing to 2 factors: its adaptability to the climate and its tannic structure, which allows it to age longer in the barrel. The general characteristics are a fruity aroma and taste with very smooth tannins. It is excellent in climates with a strong contrast in temperature and a lot of sunshine. It is cultivated in almost all continental Spain and hardly exists near the coasts or in zones with Atlantic rainfall.

Tempranillo is the key variety for most of the important red wines, such as Ribera del Duero, Manchego wines, and good red Catalans. For the wine enthusiast, it may recall the aromas and taste of Pinot Noir from Bourgogne. The theory that this variety crossed into the North of Spain from France with pilgrims is surely based on flavour, and has not been confirmed historically. Whatever the origin, Tempranillo has become the main variety for Spanish reds and has adopted various names throughout the peninsula, including Tinta Roriz in Portugal. It is grown on the banks of the Duero, both for the production of port and table wines.

Rioja wines are the most famous examples of all the Tempranillo wines. The variety is not normally used alone, but is often predominant in the composition of the best Rioja wines. This vine grows especially well in regions with moderate rainfall such as Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa. Its early ripening is favoured by areas at higher altitudes with generally cool climates and calcareous soils, such as Rioja and Ribera del Duero.

Tempranillo is a coloured wine with a relatively low acidity, from which good results can be obtained when it is aged in oak barrels. It is not very rich in tannins, but compensates for this when it is mixed with varieties such as Mazuelo, Graziano or Cabernet Sauvignon.


TINTA DE TORO

This is a historical clone of Tempranillo which achieves the same acidity in a warm zone like Toro as in Ribera del Duero, but with a higher alcoholic content. The best red grapes come from stony and sandy soils, and this one resembles more the character of the Portuguese Tinta Roriz, with its wild undertone, than a Ribera del Duero. It possesses the same fruity potential as Garnacha, but with a drier nuance. The taste is generally one of very ripe fruit, but with abundant dry tannins that compensate the sweet flavour.


TREPAT

This is an early-sprouting, late-harvesting variety. It is vigorous, with large, thick-skinned grapes and compact bunches. It produces light-bodied, rosé-based wines with little colour, moderate alcohol content and balanced acidity. It is present in the DO Costera del Segre and Conca de Barberá, where it is indigenous and a monovarietal rosé elaborated from light maceration has been traditional.