Thursday, March 29, 2012

The ABC’s Of Wine Varietals: R

As you start drinking and learning about wine, it's good to, at some point, to start paying attention to the varietal and its general characteristics. This will help when you taste a winery's Cabernet Sauvignon and compare it to, say, its Zinfandel. Knowing the characteristic of a varietal will also help note differences between the grapes taste and body when compared across wineries, regions, or from a different country.

When looking for wine info, I often turn to the Wine Spectator, both for its broad reporting and its attention to basics. They have some introductory information on Varietal Characteristics, here is one starting with the letter R:

Source: Wikipedia

“RIESLING (White) [REES-ling] -- One of the world's greatest white wine grapes, the Riesling vine's hardy wood makes it extremely resistant to frost. The variety excels in cooler climates, where its tendency to ripen slowly makes it an excellent source for sweet wines made from grapes attacked by the noble rot Botrytis cinerea, which withers the grapes' skin and concentrates their natural sugar levels.

Riesling is best known for producing the wines of Germany's Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Pfalz, Rheinhessen and Rheingau wines, but it also achieves brilliance in Alsace and Austria. While the sweet German Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese wines, along with Alsace's famed Selection de Grains Nobles, are often celebrated for their high sugar levels and ability to age almost endlessly, they are rare and expensive.
More commonly, Riesling produces dry or just off-dry versions. Its high acidity and distinctive floral, citrus, peach and mineral accents have won dry Riesling many fans. The variety pairs well with food and has an uncanny knack for transmitting the elements of its vineyard source (what the French call terroir).

The wines from Germany's Mosel region are perhaps the purest expression of the grape, offering lime, pie crust, apple, slate and honeysuckle characteristics on a light-bodied and racy frame. Germany's Rheinhessen, Rheingau and Pfalz regions produces wines of similar characteristics, but with increasing body and spice.
In Alsace, Riesling is most often made in a dry style, full-bodied, with a distinct petrol aroma. In Austria, Riesling plays second fiddle to Grüner Veltliner in terms of quantity, but when grown on favored sites it offers wines with great focus and clarity allied to the grape's typically racy frame.

In other regions, Riesling struggles to maintain its share of vineyard plantings, but it can be found (often under synonyms such as White Riesling, Rhine Riesling or Johannisberg Riesling) in California, Oregon, Washington, New York's Finger Lakes region, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, South America and Canada.”

Like 50 States Of Wine on Facebook
Follow 50 States Of Wine on Twitter

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Way To Make Wine Book Review



Geared to everyday wine lovers who want to drink well, save money, and impress their friends, this book reveals everything needed to make delicious wines-both reds and whites-from start to finish. A new preface on the new trend and options in home winemaking update this edition. (Source: UC Press)

Of the winemaking books I’ve read, Sheridan Warrick’s The Way To Make Wine: How to Craft Superb Table Wines at Home is by far the most approachable for someone new to the idea of making wine at home. Succinctly written, with clear and simple prose, Warrick keeps it simple, espousing a less is more philosophy to setting up a home winery and handling the wine itself. Really refreshing.

About the Author: Sheridan Warrick is a Northern California winemaker. He is a senior editor at VIA magazine and is the former executive editor of Health magazine. He is managing editor of the New Mayo Clinic Cookbook, winner of a 2005 James Beard Foundation Award.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me for review purposes, courtesy of the University of California Press. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give the book a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from the company website.

Would you like your book or 
wine-related product reviewed?
Contact me at Kovas@50statesofwine.com!

Like 50 States Of Wine on Facebook
Follow 50 States Of Wine on Twitter

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tuesday Tasting: Caves du Fournalet

Caves du Fournalet
Côtes du Rhône 2010
$5.99 (Trader Joe's)


Light-bodied, some fruit on nose and in the taste, this wine also had relatively short finish. Definitely not a bad wine, just not overly exciting and probably towards the lower end of the $6 Trader Joe's offerings. On the positive side, cute bottle reminiscent of Benedictine, but with rounded shoulders.

Like 50 States Of Wine on Facebook
Follow 50 States Of Wine on Twitter

Monday, March 26, 2012

Rock and Roll Wine: Rock and Roll Cellars



Hard to tell if they are still around, but Rock and Roll Cellars had a cool idea, with what appears like decent organization and well-known winemakers. Graphics and website design are pretty good as well.


About Rock and Roll Cellars: So what if we told you we were two former Grammy winning musicians who sold their statues to come up with the money to build Rock and Roll Cellars? And what if we told you our first names were Mick and Keith? Don’t buy it? Ok, how about this..Our band consists of John Watts and Stuart Watts, two brothers from Southern California, both in the insurance industry and both lovers of fine wine and Rock and Roll. Our concept is simple. We make small batch fine wine and tie it to great music via limited edition packaging.Our grapes are sourced only from award winning vineyards and hand crafted by world class winemakers. Kian Tavakoli, formerly of Clos Du Val and Opus One, oversees Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah production, while wine making veteran, Chris Nelson, makes our Pinot Noir. (Source: Rock and Roll Cellars)


Do you know about Rock and Roll Cellars?
Are they still around?

Like 50 States Of Wine on Facebook
Follow 50 States Of Wine on Twitter

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Wine History: The Beer and Wine Revenue Act

Extensive selection of kosher wines at great prices.


Source: Okla-homey

On this day in 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Beer and Wine Revenue Act. This law levies a federal tax on all alcoholic beverages to raise revenue for the federal government and gives individual states the option to further regulate the sale and distribution of beer and wine.

With the passage of the 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act in 1919, temperance advocates in the U.S. finally achieved their long sought-after goal of prohibiting the sale of alcohol or "spirits." Together, the new laws prohibited the manufacture, sale or transportation of liquor and ushered in the era known as "Prohibition," defining an alcoholic beverage as anything containing over 0.5 percent alcohol by volume. President Woodrow Wilson had unsuccessfully tried to veto the Volstead Act, which set harsh punishments for violating the 18th Amendment and endowed the Internal Revenue Service with unprecedented regulatory and enforcement powers. In the end, Prohibition proved difficult and expensive to enforce and actually increased illegal trafficking without cutting down on consumption. In one of his first addresses to Congress as president, FDR announced his intention to modify the Volstead Act with the Beer and Wine Revenue Act.

No fan of temperance himself, FDR had developed a taste for alcohol when he attended New York cocktail parties as a budding politician. (While president, FDR refused to fire his favorite personal valet for repeated drunkenness on the job.) FDR considered the new law "of the highest importance" for its potential to generate much-needed federal funds and included it in a sweeping set of New Deal policies designed to vault the U.S. economy out of the Great Depression.

The Beer and Wine Revenue Act was followed, in December 1933, by the passage of the 21st Amendment, which officially ended Prohibition.

(Source: History.com)

Like 50 States Of Wine on Facebook
Follow 50 States Of Wine on Twitter

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tuesday Tasting on a Wednesday: Cultivate Wine Whites

Cultivate Wines  sources grapes from a variety of countries to make high-quality wines at a less expensive price point. They also support a variety of educational organizations by donating 10 percent of their sales. Creative labels add to the fun.


Dream Walking Chardonnay 2009
$25.99 (Media Sample)

Dream Walking is a California Chardonnay blended from Santa Lucia Highlands and Mendocino County grapes. This is a classic California Chardonnay, with just a slight butteriness and round texture. Some slight citrus aromas with melon or tropical fruit lead to a clean tasting wine. Really well-balanced and a pleasure to drink.


Double Blind Pinot Grigio 2010
$16.99 (Media Sample)

A Pinot Grigio sourced from Veneto, Italy, Double Blind offers light and easy drinking, balanced and totally food-friendly. It has a nice structure, pleasant acidity and crisp, citrusy aroma. Easy-drinking on its own as well as tasty with a variety of foods.

Disclaimer: This wine was sent to me for review purposes, courtesy of Cultivate Wines. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give the wine a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from the company website.

Would you like your wine reviewed?
Contact me at Kovas@50statesofwine.com!

Like 50 States Of Wine on Facebook
Follow 50 States Of Wine on Twitter

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tuesday Tasting: Cultivate Wine Reds

Cultivate Wines  sources grapes from a variety of countries to make high-quality wines at a less expensive price point. They also support a variety of educational organizations by donating 10 percent of their sales. Creative labels add to the fun.


The Feast 2009
$28.99 (Media Sample)

The Feast is a Cabernet-Merlot blend from Napa and Sonoma Valley grapes. It is an intensely dark wine with spicy aromas. Good mouthfeel with a softness on the palate. The first day I wasn’t sure if this was a wine I truly liked, but after a night open on the counter, it had really opened up and was a pleasure to drink. One of my favorite wines this year!


The Gambler Malbec 2010
$18.99 (Media Sample)

An Argentinian Malbec, from grapes grown in Mendoza (entire growing region if upwards of a half-mile above sea-level), this grape is blended with Bonarda to add texture and heft. I enjoyed it with food more than on its own, as it was a tad on the dry side for me personally, but my wife liked it just as much as The Feast. Very drinkable.

Disclaimer: This wine was sent to me for review purposes, courtesy of Cultivate Wines. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give the wine a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from the company website.

Would you like your wine reviewed?
Contact me at Kovas@50statesofwine.com!

Like 50 States Of Wine on Facebook
Follow 50 States Of Wine on Twitter

Monday, March 19, 2012

Cultivate Wines - Wines With a Why



Ali and Charles Banks, along with winemakers Andy Erickson and Nat Gunter are the names behind Cultivate Wines.  This group has been responsible for over 20 90+ rating wines in the last ten years, including Screaming Eagle, one of the most revered and expensive California wines.

What they’re about: Wines with a Why -- their business is wine, their mission is a fuller life for all. It’s about making great wines, giving away 10% of sales, encouraging all to Cultivate Life.

Cultivate Wines are value-priced wines from two highly-respected winemakers. Their goal with Cultivate is to make quality, delicious wine affordable to all. By having an expert team sourcing juice from around the world rather than the expense of owning land/vineyards, a better value can be realized and passed onto consumers.


Two of Cultivate’s 6 wines are packaged in eco-friendly 3-liter boxes. The boxed wines stay fresh for up to 6 weeks after opening when kept in the refrigerator and are totally recyclable. Boxes also cut down significantly on shipping waste due to their light weight and efficiently-packable shape, creating a lighter carbon footprint. When used for by-the-glass programs in restaurants or for events, there is less wine waste, as an unfinished bottle isn’t being thrown out at the end of the night. The boxes can simply be put back in the refrigerator and saved.

Charitable giving - Cultivate has a model that provides giving 10% of sales to non-profits supporting education and basic human needs. For every $1 taken in, Cultivate gives $.10 to charity, regardless of cost of goods or overhead. This ‘off the top’ donation is quite unique and much more generous than most other product programs with charity components. Each bottle sold results in measurable gains for the greater good. Cultivate has a democratic, “crowdsourcing” online platform to decide where the money should go. Non-profits can submit themselves on the website for funding, and then anyone can go on the website and vote. Every month starting in December 2011, a minimum of $25,000 will be given away to charities via the website submissions.



Connect with Cultivate Wines via their website, on Facebook,  or on Twitter.

(Information taken from the Cultivate Media website and Press Pack.)

Like 50 States Of Wine on Facebook
Follow 50 States Of Wine on Twitter

Friday, March 16, 2012

Wine Wit: Margarita Rehydration



I can always count on The Frugal Tasters to find some great alcohol-related humor. As a runner and sometime margarita drinker, this sounded like a great suggestion.

Have a great weekend!

Like 50 States Of Wine on Facebook
Follow 50 States Of Wine on Twitter

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The ABC’s Of Wine Varietals: P

As you start drinking and learning about wine, it's good to, at some point, to start paying attention to the varietal and its general characteristics. This will help when you taste a winery's Cabernet Sauvignon and compare it to, say, its Zinfandel. Knowing the characteristic of a varietal will also help note differences between the grapes taste and body when compared across wineries, regions, or from a different country.

When looking for wine info, I often turn to the Wine Spectator, both for its broad reporting and its attention to basics. They have some introductory information on Varietal Characteristics, here is one starting with the letter P:

Source: Etsy

"PETITE SIRAH (Red) [peh-TEET sih-RAH] - Known for its dark hue and firm tannins, Petite Sirah has often been used as a blending wine to provide color and structure, particularly to Zinfandel. On its own, Petite Sirah can also make intense, peppery, ageworthy wines, but few experts consider it as complex as Syrah itself.

There has been much confusion over the years about Petite Sirah's origins. For a long time, the grape was thought to be completely unrelated to Syrah, despite its name. Petite Sirah was believed to actually be Durif, a minor red grape variety first grown in southern France in the late 1800s. However, recent DNA research shows Petite Sirah and Syrah are related after all. A study done at the University of California at Davis determined not only that 90 percent of the Petite Sirah found in California is indeed Durif, but also that Durif is a cross between Peloursin and Syrah.

Just to make things more confusing, in France, growers refer to different variants of Syrah as Petite and Grosse, which has to do with the yield of the vines.

PINOT BLANC (White) [PEE-no BLAHNK] - Often referred to as a poor man's Chardonnay because of its similar flavor and texture profile, Pinot Blanc is used in Champagne, Burgundy, Alsace, Germany, Italy and California and can make a terrific wine. When well made, it is intense, concentrated and complex, with ripe pear, spice, citrus and honey notes. Can age, but is best early on while its fruit shines through.

PINOT GRIS or PINOT GRIGIO (White) [PEE-no GREE or GREE-zho] - Known as Pinot Grigio in Italy, where it is mainly found in the northeast, producing quite a lot of undistinguished dry white wine and Collio's excellent whites. As Pinot Gris, it used to be grown in Burgundy and the Loire, though it has been supplanted, but it comes into its own in Alsace—where it's known as Tokay. Southern Germany plants it as Ruländer. When good, this varietal is soft, gently perfumed and has more color than most whites.

PINOT NOIR (Red) [PEE-no NWAH] - Pinot Noir, the great grape of Burgundy, is a touchy variety. The best examples offer the classic black cherry, spice, raspberry and currant flavors, and an aroma that can resemble wilted roses, along with earth, tar, herb and cola notes. It can also be rather ordinary, light, simple, herbal, vegetal and occasionally weedy. It can even be downright funky, with pungent barnyard aromas. In fact, Pinot Noir is the most fickle of all grapes to grow: It reacts strongly to environmental changes such as heat and cold spells, and is notoriously fussy to work with once picked, since its thin skins are easily bruised and broken, setting the juice free. Even after fermentation, Pinot Noir can hide its weaknesses and strengths, making it a most difficult wine to evaluate out of barrel. In the bottle, too, it is often a chameleon, showing poorly one day, brilliantly the next.

The emphasis on cooler climates coincides with more rigorous clonal selection, eliminating those clones suited for sparkling wine, which have even thinner skins. These days there is also a greater understanding of and appreciation for different styles of Pinot Noir wine, even if there is less agreement about those styles—should it be rich, concentrated and loaded with flavor, or a wine of elegance, finesse and delicacy? Or can it, in classic Pinot Noir sense, be both? Even varietal character remains subject to debate. Pinot Noir can certainly be tannic, especially when it is fermented with some of its stems, a practice that many vintners around the world believe contributes to the wine's backbone and longevity. Pinot Noir can also be long-lived, but predicting with any precision which wines or vintages will age is often the ultimate challenge in forecasting.

Pinot Noir is the classic grape of Burgundy and also of Champagne, where it is pressed immediately after picking in order to yield white juice. It is just about the only red grown in Alsace. In California, it excelled in the late 1980s and early 1990s and seems poised for further progress. Once producers stopped vinifying it as if it were Cabernet, planted vineyards in cooler climates and paid closer attention to tonnage, quality increased substantially. It's fair to say that California and Oregon have a legitimate claim to producing world-class Pinot Noir."

Like 50 States Of Wine on Facebook
Follow 50 States Of Wine on Twitter

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Flying Fig Restaurant Review


In Cleveland for work last week, I took the opportunity to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and also to visit The Flying Fig restaurant.

The FlyingFig is a farm-to-table restaurant, which is the primary reason I wanted to visit. I believe its critical for restaurants to support and get to know their local food producers. Karen Small is the owner and Executive Chef of the Flying Fig. The restaurant’s mission is to provide a comfortable and friendly guest experience with delicious, locally sourced food, innovative cocktails, and an ever-changing wine list.
The Flying Fig works with Ohio City Farms, Rittman Orchards, Blackberry Farms, Lamppost Family Farms, Miller Farms, Firefly Farms, Cherry Knoll, Covered Bridge, Muddy Fork, Mackenzie Creamery, Plum Creek, Tea Hill, Snake Hill, Rainbow Farms, Killbuck Family Mushrooms, Blissful Acres, Woolf Farms, Salash, Deer Run and Maurice Small/City Fresh, as well as New Creation Farms.

The restaurant could be a romantic place, depending on who you visit with, but it also has the feel of a local hangout. I can imagine bringing my kids here. It’s somewhat on the dark side, at least for dinner. Simple in plan and decoration, the décor takes a back seat to the menu.


For starters, my coworker and I started with a Flatbread as well as the Tempura Battered Green Beans, both very good, though I think the flatbread was the star of the evening, with a good mix of textures and flavors, chewy and crispy at the same time. Entrees were Duck Confit & Crispy Egg (I didn’t try this, being as vegan as possible) and Roasted Vegetables on Couscous. The couscous was cold, which was an interesting counterpoint to the hot veggies, though I’m not sure I’d eat it that way again.

As an aperitif, I tried the Gruet Rosé from New Mexico, followed by an Austrian Grüner Veltliner from Weingut Glatzer. It’s a decent wine list with a variety of wines and varietals, from relatively inexpensive on up.

While well-meaning and extremely friendly, the service was a tad slow. It took approximately an hour and a half from seating to finish, without dessert. While pauses are acceptable between courses, the timing was off, taking too long for the next course to arrive. Not a huge deal, but it detract from the experience.

If you’re in Cleveland, The Flying Fig is worth a detour, especially if you can fit in some time at the Great Lakes Brewing Company, which is across the street.

Flying Fig on Urbanspoon

Like 50 States Of Wine on Facebook
Follow 50 States Of Wine on Twitter

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tuesday Tasting: Gruet Rosé

Sparkling Rosé N/V
Gruet Winery, New Mexico
($6/glass Flying Fig Restaurant)


How often do you get a chance to try a wine from New Mexico? Hardly ever. I was excited to try this Rosé for that fact alone. The bonus was that this is a really tasty sparkler. Quite dry, with flowery aromas, some berry flavors, and a nice refreshing finish.

Like 50 States Of Wine on Facebook
Follow 50 States Of Wine on Twitter

Monday, March 12, 2012

Rutherford Dust Society Video

"The secret to good winemaking is to be smart enough to have a great vineyard." Some nice history and appreciation of Rutherford cabernets in this video:


The Rutherford Dust Society is being very proactive in getting the word out about the wines and wineries produced there. Cool stuff,

Like 50 States Of Wine on Facebook
Follow 50 States Of Wine on Twitter

Friday, March 9, 2012

J. Christopher: Rock and Roll Wine

"If You Make a Wine that Everyone Loves,
You've Done Something Wrong."

When I find a wine with rock and roll connections, it always excites me, combining two of my favorite passions. I had heard good things about J. Christopher wines, but recently found out that the winemaker, Jay Somers, is an avid guitarist. Good enough for me.

(Images and text below from JChristopherWine.com)


J. Christopher Wines is a small winery located on Chehalem Mountain in Oregon's Northern Willamette Valley. Our wines are handcrafted, following biodynamic principles, in small lots and are sourced from some of the best vineyards in Oregon.


Jay Christopher Somers wanted to be a rock star. One of his earliest memories was the day his mother came home with the new Creedence Clearwater Revival album, Cosmos Factory. As the 4-year-old Jay listened over and over to John Fogarty’s wailing guitar solo in “Heard it Through the Grapevine,” he knew that’s what he wanted to do. And yet, rooted somewhere in that song, another message planted itself in his subconscious. Something about grapevines.

Today, in addition to making wine, Jay plays lead guitar for the Portland band Poncho Luxurio. Fans of both his music and his wines tell him he’s a rock star. So all in all, he feels, things have turned out very well.

Like 50 States Of Wine on Facebook
Follow 50 States Of Wine on Twitter

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Vin-Aire Product Review

Vin-Aire ($49.95) aerates wine instantly as you pour, improves flavor and bouquet (softens tannins resulting in a more pleasant finish any bitterness or bad aftertaste is reduced or eliminated), removes the need for a decanter, is made from FDA approved materials, and has an award winning design that after pouring a glass fits into top of your bottle to allow you to catch all drops and eliminate dripping.

Prepare, Pour, then Store -- It's that easy!

Does this product work? Absolutely! My wife and I blindtasted wine by pouring each other 2 glasses of the same bottle, one straight from the bottle and one through the Vin-Aire. Each time, it was clear that the two glasses were markedly different. We could tell which glass had been poured through the Vin-Aire. To me, it felt that the wine felt smoother in the mouth. Each person has to decide if the flavor or aroma are improved, of course, as that is personal taste.


Disclaimer: This wine accessory was sent to me for review purposes, at a media discount, courtesy of Vin-Aire.  I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give the book a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from the company website.

Would you like your
wine-related product reviewed?

Like 50 States Of Wine on Facebook
Follow 50 States Of Wine on Twitter

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The ABC’s Of Wine Varietals: N

As you start drinking and learning about wine, it's good to, at some point, to start paying attention to the varietal and its general characteristics. This will help when you taste a winery's Cabernet Sauvignon and compare it to, say, its Zinfandel. Knowing the characteristic of a varietal will also help note differences between the grapes taste and body when compared across wineries, regions, or from a different country.

When looking for wine info, I often turn to the Wine Spectator, both for its broad reporting and its attention to basics. They have some introductory information on Varietal Characteristics, here is one starting with the letter N:

Source: http://www.theitalianwineconnection.com/

"NEBBIOLO (Red) [NEH-bee-oh-low] - The great grape of Northern Italy, which excels there in Barolo and Barbaresco, strong, ageable wines. Mainly unsuccessful elsewhere, Nebbiolo also now has a small foothold in California. So far the wines are light and uncomplicated, bearing no resemblance to the Italian types."

Like 50 States Of Wine on Facebook
Follow 50 States Of Wine on Twitter

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tuesday Tasting: Three Wishes

Three Wishes
Cabernet Sauvignon, NV, California
($2.97 Whole Foods)


At $3. we had to try the Three Wishes Wine from Whole Foods Market. It comes in three varietals: Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot made from California grapes in environmentally friendly glass. We tried the Cabernet Sauvignon and it wasn't bad. At $3, we didn't expect much and it worked fine with dinner. We drink 2 Buck Chuck a lot, so this seems similar. Much like Charles Shaw, I would bet the quality depends on the bottle and which particular batch it comes from.

Eco-Glass™ is an innovative, lightweight wine bottle that was designed with one thing in mind: sustaining our environment. It is made with 25% less glass than your average wine bottle and because it weighs significantly less, it also requires much less fuel to transport and produces less carbon dioxide. (Source: http://www.eco-glass.org/home.html)

Would you like your wine reviewed?
Contact me at Kovas@50statesofwine.com!

Like 50 States Of Wine on Facebook
Follow 50 States Of Wine on Twitter

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The ABC’s Of Wine Varietals: M




As you start drinking and learning about wine, it's good to, at some point, to start paying attention to the varietal and its general characteristics. This will help when you taste a winery's Cabernet Sauvignon and compare it to, say, its Zinfandel. Knowing the characteristic of a varietal will also help note differences between the grapes taste and body when compared across wineries, regions, or from a different country.

When looking for wine info, I often turn to the Wine Spectator, both for its broad reporting and its attention to basics. They have some introductory information on Varietal Characteristics, here are some starting with the letter M:


MALBEC (Red) [MAHL-beck] - Once important in Bordeaux and the Loire in various blends, this not-very-hardy grape has been steadily replaced by Merlot and the two Cabernets. However, Argentina is markedly successful with this varietal. In the United States Malbec is a blending grape only, and an insignificant one at that, but a few wineries use it, the most obvious reason being that it's considered part of the Bordeaux-blend recipe.

MARSANNE (White) [mahr-SANN] - Popular in the Rhône (along with Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Viognier). Australia, especially in Victoria, has some of the world's oldest vineyards. At its best, Marsanne can be a full-bodied, moderately intense wine with spice, pear and citrus notes.

MERLOT (Red) [mur-LO] - Merlot is the red-wine success of the 1990s: its popularity has soared along with its acreage, and it seems wine lovers can't drink enough of it. It dominates Bordeaux, except for the Médoc and Graves. Though it is mainly used for the Bordeaux blend, it can stand alone. In St.-Emilion and Pomerol, especially, it produces noteworthy wines, culminating in Château Pétrus. In Italy it's everywhere, though most of the Merlot is light, unremarkable stuff. But Ornellaia and Fattoria de Ama are strong exceptions to that rule. Despite its popularity, its quality ranges only from good to very good most of the time, though there are a few stellar producers found around the world.

  • Several styles have emerged. One is a Cabernet-style Merlot, which includes a high percentage (up to 25 percent) of Cabernet, similar currant and cherry flavors and firm tannins. A second style is less reliant on Cabernet, softer, more supple, medium-weight, less tannic and features more herb, cherry and chocolate flavors. A third style is a very light and simple wine; this type's sales are fueling Merlot's overall growth.
  • Like Cabernet, Merlot can benefit from some blending, as Cabernet can give it backbone, color and tannic strength. It also marries well with oak. Merlot is relatively new in California, dating to the early 1970s, and is a difficult grape to grow, as it sets and ripens unevenly. Many critics believe Washington state has a slight quality edge with this wine. By the year 2000, vintners should have a better idea of which areas are best suited to this grape variety. As a wine, Merlot's aging potential is fair to good. It may be softer with age, but often the fruit flavors fade and the herbal flavors dominate.
  • There is also an unrelated Merlot Blanc.
MOURVÈDRE (Red) [more-VAY-druh] - As long as the weather is warm, Mourvèdre likes a wide variety of soils. It's popular across the south of France, especially in Provence and the Côtes-du-Rhône, and is often used in Châteauneuf-du-Pape; Languedoc makes it as a varietal. Spain uses it in many areas, including Valencia. In the United States it's a minor factor now, pursued by a few wineries that specialize in Rhône-style wines. The wine can be pleasing, with medium-weight, spicy cherry and berry flavors and moderate tannins. It ages well.

MUSCAT (White) [MUSS-kat] - Known as Muscat, Muscat Blanc and Muscat Canelli, it is marked by strong spice and floral notes and can be used in blending, its primary function in California. Moscato in Italy, Moscatel in Iberia: This grape can turn into anything from the low-alcohol, sweet and frothy Asti Spumante and Muscat de Canelli to bone-dry wines like Muscat d'Alsace. It also produces fortified wine such as Beaumes de Venise.