Almost all wine grapes have white or clear juice. It is the wine-making process that determines whether the wine is red or white. While the wine-making process also controls sweetness and other taste characteristics, for the most part it is the grape variety that determines the basic characteristics of the wine. So, while it is possible to produce a sweet, white Zinfandel, most wines made from the Zinfandel grape are dark red, dry wines.
When you first begin to drink wine you are most likely to prefer wines to the left on this chart. That seems to be the way most of us start out. As our palates mature, most of our tastes will begin to move to the right, preferring dryer rather than sweeter wines. Once we reach the red wines about two-thirds of the way across the chart we will begin to encounter tannins, a byproduct of how red wines are made. Some of us will never acquire a taste for wines in this category, while others will come to appreciate the complexity of these big, red wines.
Each of these grapes has distinctive taste and aroma characteristics. As with the chart above, the chart below is not a perfect representation, but it should serve to help the casual wine drinker understand the basic differences between these varieties.
|Distinctive black currant flavor with a hint of mint and cedar. Ranges from medium bodied to full bodied; dry and tannic.|
|Zinfandel||Has a unique flavor, intense peppery fruitiness and a vibrant color; deliciously dry.|
|Merlot||Medium- to Full-bodied, less tannic than Cabernet, dry, black cherry, red and ripe summer fruits.|
|Sharp, tangy, gooseberry is the predominant flavor, undertones of grass, nettles, elderflower and asparagus; dry and acidic.|
|Buttery, lemon flavors, sometimes nutty, often with a strong hint of tropical fruit.|
|Delicately fragrant and mildly floral with lightly lemon-citrus flavors. Can be tangy and light or rich, round and full bodied.|
|Aromatic, displaying flowery, almost perfumed, aromas of peach, appricot and/or apples, as well as high acidity.|