For decades the renowned grape of Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, produced the most popular red wine in the world ... or at least in this country. When Napa Valley — and subsequently California — burst forth in the mid-1970s as world-class wine country, Cabernet led the pack. The wines made from this grape were mouth-filling, bold, rich, tannic and needed a few years in the bottle before becoming tame enough for most wine drinkers of the time.
WINE OF THE MONTH
THE CRUSHER CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2015
The wine: Medium-bodied, dry red table wine
The grapes: 88 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, seven percent Petite Sirah, nine percent Merlot, one percent Tempranillo.
The source: California
The verdict: This wine reflects the changes in Cabernet production I address below. It comes from grapes selected from a variety of areas in California and shows good cohesion throughout. It is not highly complex, nor is it highly tannic. It’s simply good and well-balanced. You will notice the tannins, but they are soft. Dark fruit flavors with hints of black coffee dominate. This is a rich, supple wine that provides great taste sensations … and a great value. Mates well with red meat or red-sauced dishes. It is one of many products from the Napa pioneer Sebastiani family, and continues the Sebastiani tradition of well-made, drinkable wines
The price: About $15
Over time tastes changed and Cabernet fell slightly out of favor primarily because it was so big and did require some time to mature and mellow. As a result, in the 1990s along came another Bordeaux grape — Merlot — to throw down the challenge to its more muscular cousin. And for many wine lovers, Merlot took over their hearts ... and palates. It became the most popular red wine in the U.S. for more than a decade.
But many producers of Cabernet Sauvignon changed their style; made the wine less challenging, and more accessible in a shorter period of time. (See Wine of the Month.)
But forget all that. I told you that tale to tell you this tale. There are tons of red wines streaming in from all around the world that need to be tried and evaluated. Good quality reds come from Georgia, Virginia, Italy, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Spain and elsewhere.
Today, let me tell you about four reds — from France, California and Spain. These are quite different one from another in style, flavor, aroma and body. And there’s not a Cabernet in the bunch.
Here are some tips for serving red wine. Serve it lightly chilled ... 15-20 minutes in the fridge. You’ve all heard that reds should be served at room temperature. But that’s European room temperature of 62-66 degrees Farenheit, not American room temperature of 72-75. Older wines — more than 10 years old — should be decanted. Younger reds benefit from using an aerator ... aerators really are effective at enhancing flavor and aroma.
Let’s take a look at this quartet of vastly different red wines.
Georges DuBoeuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2017 — Each year on the third Thursday of November France gives birth to this wine, Beaujolais Nouveau. It’s overhyped, overrated and, frequently, overpriced. Lots of hoopla accompanies it, and it can be fun to drink. It’s a light-bodied, dark-colored early release of the red wine from the Beaujolais region, in the far southern tip of Burgundy. Made from the Gamay grape it’s fruity, short-lived and fine with fruits and cheeses ... or just as a sipper. DuBoeuf is known as The King of Beaujolais. The 2017 vintage was quite small, devastated by hailstorms in July. Nouveau is meant to be consumed quickly — within 4-6 months — and served much colder than most reds – 1-2 hours in the fridge. About $12.
Chateau St. Jean Pinot Noir 2016 — Pinot Noir is the great red wine grape of Burgundy and produces some of the most exquisite (and expensive) wines on the planet. This California lovely, from an old and respected Sonoma County winery, shows some of the fruity/earthy character of red Burgundy without the need for a second mortgage. Lots of fruit flavors — cherries, strawberries — fly around in this one. There’s a touch of vanilla in the finish. .. from exposure to oak. You will notice the flavors linger long in the mouth. It’s lighter than a Cabernet and does not go well with big, hearty, spicy red meat dishes. It’s great with veal, chicken and even salmon. About $15.
McManis Family Vineyards Petite Sirah 2015 — I’ve mentioned this wine previously and highly recommend it. There really is a McManis family involved in this respected winery and they pay special attention to their wines. This is a full-throttle red, loaded with bold fruit flavors and mild tannins. It’s one of those wines that’s simply pleasing. I pick up splashes of coffee and black raspberry. I love this wine with my world-famous (at least in my household) hamburgers. It is my bride’s favorite red wine. About $14.
Maximo Tempranillo Edicion Limitada 2010 — Here’s the big boy of the bunch. Tempranillo, in my opinion, is Spain’s finest red wine grape. And this wine has backbone. Notice the vintage — 2010. It has some age on it. Yet it’s showing exceptionally well, with good, solid tannins, with notes of caramel and coffee in the mouth. Unlike the St. Jean, this one has a short finish ... flavors disappear quickly. But it’s well-structured and is the wine I would choose in a bustling churrascaria overflowing with hefty meat selections. About $15.
So remember: Looking for a good red? You don’t have to take a Cab.
Randall Murray is a Gainesville-area resident. Have a question about wine? He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on the first Wednesday of the month and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.