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One of the oldest grapes used for wine, Pinot Noir has a long history dating back to the first century, when the ancient Romans began enjoying it. Pinot Noir produces a heavily perfumed wine with scents of earth, spice, cherries, strawberries, herbs and raspberries when ripe. It is a light to medium bodied wine, with high acidity that can age well. It’s a versatile wine that can pair well with lots of foods including poultry, pork, barbeque, salmon, and other meaty fishes. Pinot Noir is a classic grape grown and enjoyed all over the world, but we’re here to introduce you to some lesser known alternative varietals that we think you’ll love just as much, if not more!
Trousseau or Trousseau Noir, also known as Bastardo, Merenzao, and Verdejo Negro, is a red wine grape originating in the Jura region of eastern France, which is a narrow valley located in the hills between Burgundy and Switzerland. Today it’s predominantly grown in Portugal, but has also reached vineyards in Australia, Argentina, and the United States. No matter where it’s from or what it’s called, Trousseau’s flavor profile is consistently described as a pale and light-bodied wine with intense, rich alcohol levels. It has a firm tannic grip with depth, yet remains weightless on the palate. It has aromas of deep cherry, violets, strawberry, orange marmalade, and black pepper. It has a chewy and pithy texture with a creamy soft silky finish. Pair with pork sausage, paella, mushrooms and potatoes, and steak tartare.
Frappato is a red Italian grape variety planted primarily in Sicily. It has been found to be a close relative of the Sangiovese grape. Frappato wines can be very fruity and aromatic to the tongue. Roses, violets and crushed red berries constitute the main portion of its aromatic experience. On the palate, the Frappato is a medium tannin and highly acidic grape. Most wines will taste of blueberries and tart cherries with wild strawberry jam and flowery characters. Single varietal Frappato is easy drinking and is an excellent companion for food. A pizza with anchovies and caramelized onions, potato pancakes or even a simple salad dressed with olive oil is a delight.
While Garnacha/Grenache is now one of the most widely planted grapes in the world, it’s origins go back to Europe in the region of what is now eastern Spain / southern France. Today it is grown in Spain, France, Italy, Australia, and the United States. Its signature profile percolates with juicy, ripe red fruits like raspberry, black cherry, and strawberry and is punctuated with spicy notes of cinnamon and a violet-like floral bouquet. Grenache is a great partner for plenty of hearty dishes, including slow-cooked meats such as beef, pork, lamb, game, and even chicken. You can pick up on the spices and peppery notes of the wine with flavorful stews, chili, and meatloaf.
Cinsaut appears to be an ancient variety that may have originated in the Hérault, but could equally have been brought by traders from the eastern Mediterranean. While Cinsault occupies only a minor portion of Chateauneuf du Pape, it is much more popular in other areas of Southern France including Bandol and the Languedoc. Outside of the Rhone Valley, Cinsault is also planted in Algeria, Australia, Corsica, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia and South Africa. In fact, in South Africa, the grape was blended with Pinot Noir to create Pinotage during the early 1900’s. This grape offers strong aromas of fresh bright berries and perfume, while on the palate it brings notes of pomegranate, nectarine, peppercorn, and cardamom. Pairs with a plethora of foods including stew, smoked salmon filets, braised and roasted meat dishes, Moroccan lamb, grilled vegetables, Thai curry, samosas, fried dough, pizza, fresh fruit, Gruyere cheese and many other dishes.
Gamay originated in Burgundy France before heading South to the region of Beaujolais where it is now produced in massive quantities. Beaujolais Nouveau (“New Beaujolais”) is a Gamay wine was the first wine to be released to celebrate harvest each year. It has since made its way to Oregon where it is widely grown and adored. DNA analysis shows that Gamay is a cross between Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc. It’s an easy-drinking wine with abundant red fruit flavors of cherry and raspberry. It expresses aromatic notes of violets and black tea, along with earthy characteristics such as potting soil. The fresh and fruity character of Gamay, along with its high acidity and low tannins, make it a great pairing for many cuisines. The wine’s light body lends itself to being served slightly chilled alongside a charcuterie or cheese platter.