All wine lovers know red wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Zinfandel and Syrah (Shiraz). And add Sangiovese and Tempranillo to this list, although most people call them Chianti and Rioja, respectively.
Wines from these seven grapes may seem like plenty of variety, but there are many lesser-known red wine grapes that will greatly enhance anyone’s enjoyment and appreciation of wine.
Wines made from lesser-known grapes not only expand horizons but they often are less expensive, thereby providing better value.
An excellent example of a lesser-known, fine-value red is Malbec. It is rapidly growing in popularity in the U.S. as fine, inexpensive bottlings are increasingly available.
But Malbec is just one of many lesser-known red wine grapes, and here are highly attractive wines that provide fine introductions to others:
Wines $10 to $19
Juan Gil 2014 Monastrell, Silver Label, Jumilla, Spain” ($15): Monastrell is better known as Mourvédre, and the Juan Gil features compelling strength, complexity and persona on nose and palate, coupled with a core of medium-soft tannins. An excellent value.
Atalaya 2014 red blend “del Camino, Almansa, Spain” ($16): This blend of Garnacha Tintorera and Monastrell (aka Alicante Bouchet and Mourvédre) is an exceptional value with forward character appealing especially to wine lovers who enjoy powerful wines. Should be available in Arizona beginning next week.
Zenato 2013 red blend “Valpolicella Superiore, Italy” ($16): Very attractive in the glass, this well-priced blend of mostly the Corvina grape is impressive in the glass and strong on the palate, where it features full body, smooth texture, well balanced fruit and an extended finish.
Johanneshof Reinisch 2012 St. Laurent “Thermenregion, Austria” ($19.50): This bottling of St. Laurent provides a tasting experience resembling Pinot Noir thanks to forward, rich, well-balanced fruit and medium-soft tannins. Notable complexity and length. Imported by an Arizona-based company.
Wines $20 to $29
Bernabeleva 2014 Grenache “Navaherreros, San Martin de Valdeiglesias, Spain” ($20): Grenache is easy to love, and this fine example has fruit, strength and complexity on nose and palate. Its strong personality includes tannins that suggest serving with red meat.
Tapiz 2014 Malbec “Alta Collection, Mendoza, Argentina” ($20): This forward but refined Malbec is an excellent buy with its purple-tinged color, strength and complexity on the nose, and beautiful fruit coupled with finely tuned balance and well-integrated tannins.
Weninger 2015 Kékfrankos “Balf, Sopron, Hungary” ($21.50): Impressive across the board, this fine Kékfrankos (aka Blaufränkisch) has ample fruit yet is a bit lean in style with notable balance as well as complexity on both nose and palate. Quite a bargain. Imported by an Arizona-based company.
Georges Dubeouf 2014 Gamay “Chateau des Capitans, Julienas, Beaujolais, France” ($22): Beaujolais is known for its rich, highly pleasing fruit, but there’s much more to this fine example, including luminescent color in the glass and a robust nose. Strength, balance and integration characterize the palate.
Heitz 2014 Grignolino “Napa Valley” ($22): Heitz is renowned for its Cabs, but its Grignolino is little known despite being a tasting experience thanks to an upfront personality that includes being lean and expressive on the palate and featuring great length on the finish.
Pascual Toso 2015 Malbec “Reserva, Barrancas Vineyards, Mendoza, Argentina” ($22): Strong all-around, but with an especially impressive nose. The forward, full-bodied fruit comes across a bit leaner than many Malbecs, but there is terrific balance and a long-lingering finish.
Cline 2015 Carignane “Ancient Vines, Contra Costa County” ($23): Brimming with character yet striking notes familiar to lovers of more common red varietals, this Carignane has great color depth, a complex nose, full body, expressive fruit and an extended length.
VDR 2014 red blend “Hames Valley, Monterey” ($28): This blend of Petit Verdot and Petite Sirah is deeply colored (VDR = Very Dark Red) and expresses parallel strength and power on the nose. Strong, rich, full-bodied fruit leads to beautiful development of complexity and a lingering length.
Wines $30 and higher
Frank Family 2013 Petite Sirah “Napa Valley” ($35): This is the most refined Petite Sirah I’ve had in years! Great color depth and hue, along with an impressively complex nose. Excels on the palate, especially with its wonderfully refined, satiny smooth texture and lengthy finish
Scheid 2014 Tannat “Hames Valley Vineyard, Monterey” ($36): This Tannat experience is a highly polished one. It is strong, fruity and powerfully complex on the nose and full-bodied, excellently balanced, finely integrated and lengthy on the finish. Only available online.
kukkula 2014 red blend “Aatto, Adelaida District” ($40): This blend of Counoise, Mourvédre and Grenache is beautifully textured on the palate thanks to medium-soft tannins interacting with forward fruit, fine balance and impressive refinement. Only available online.
Michelle Chiarlo 2013 “La Court, Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza, Italy” ($50): Barbera is one of the world’s great grapes, especially when grown in the Piedmont region. This terrific example features strength and complexity, full body, excellent balance, unobtrusive tannins and notable integration and refinement.
Murrieta’s Well 2015 red blend “Zarzuela, Small Lot, Livermore Valley” ($60): This blend of Touriga, Tempranillo and Souzao has amazing color depth. I also loved its satiny texture on the attack, followed by development of fruit, power and complexity that linger on the finish.