A vast number of grape varieties have several names, depending on where they’re grown. So what is in a name? Are they always interchangeable, or does their place and name hold a clue to their style?
The grape: Syrah
Also known as: Shiraz
You can be forgiven if you think Syrah and Shiraz are different grapes. The wines can taste almost like polar opposites. Their body, expression and texture change with the climate.
Syrah, also known as Shiraz, is a grape variety grown throughout the world.
In the temperate northern Rhône Valley of France, Syrah is the grape behind such storied appellations such as Côte-Rôtie and Hermitage. Further south, it forms the backbone of countless Côtes du Rhône blends and is an essential part of many rustic Languedoc reds.
Known as Shiraz in Australia, its style is most distinct in the hot Barossa and warm McLaren Vale regions, but it also thrives in cooler Canberra. Where Northern Rhône Syrah has firm, drying tannins, Australian Shiraz is like mouth-coating velvet.
French oak accentuates Syrah’s visceral notes of cured meat, yet American oak lends vanilla and chocolate tones to Aussie Shiraz. Both can have heartstopping notes of violet. Then there are the spice flavors, such as white pepper in cooler regions and black pepper in warmer ones.
Where Northern Rhône Syrah has firm, drying tannins, Australian Shiraz is like mouth-coating velvet.
Syrah/Shiraz can also occupy delicious middle ground. In New Zealand’s Hawke’s Bay, it’s luscious with fruit, but suggestive with pepper. In South Africa, it veers toward spicy richness, while in California and Washington, it can be smooth and big, or edgy and taut.
In short? The name is a clue to style. Shiraz is likely big and bold, while Syrah tends to be snappy and more slender.
The grape: Pinot Grigio
Also known as: Pinot Gris, Grauburgunder
Pinot Grigio assumes many aliases across Europe, like Fromenteau, Pinot Beurot, Ruländer and Szürkebarát.
The grape is very much a chameleon. It can produce bottles ranging from easy-drinkers to full-flavored whites. Don’t sneer at Pinot Grigio, especially from Veneto in northern Italy. It has given pleasure to many, with relative simplicity being its chief virtue. This is the result of high yields and neutral winemaking techniques. Further north in Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Alto Adige, Pinot Grigio is cropped at lower levels and produces spicier, elegant whites. In Germany, where it’s known as Grauburgunder, it generally has expressive, rounded pear notes.
Easy-drinking, lighter versions are labeled Pinot Grigio, while rounder wines, often with some residual sweetness, are designated Pinot Gris.
Alsace, located in northeastern France, is where Pinot Gris reaches its zenith. While there are many easy-drinking versions, they tend to be rounder, weightier and spicier, often with a touch of residual sweetness. Grown in the delimited Grand Cru vineyards, Pinot Gris makes full-fruited, rounded whites heavy enough to accompany red meat and suitable for aging.
This Italian-French stylistic divide has become international shorthand. Easy-drinking, lighter versions are labeled Pinot Grigio, while rounder wines, often with some residual sweetness, are designated Pinot Gris.
The grape: Zinfandel (California)
Also known as: Primitivo, Tribidrag or Crljenak Kaštelanski
White Zinfandel is the wine that’s launched thousands of enthusiasts. But the pink stuff barely does justice to this historic grape. It’s known as Tribidrag or Crljenak Kaštelanski in its native Croatia and Montenegro, as Primitivo in Puglia and as Zinfandel in California.
Quality mature Zinfandel is one of the world’s greatest joys.
As a red wine, Zinfandel always boasts full, juicy and plump fruit that covers a spectrum of ripeness, often with elevated alcohol levels. When made well, Zinfandel balances these qualities perfectly. There’s something enticing about the fruit. Grapes in the same bunch can be barely ripe, overripe, or even raisined.
In Puglia, Primitivo is generous, smooth and warming. On an inland elevation, Gioia del Colle produces the freshest versions, while coastal Primitivo di Manduria is strong, dense and powerful. In Croatia and Montenegro, Tribidrag is produced as a fruity local wine.
In California, this oft-rustic red attains true elegance. Some ancient Zinfandel vines in Napa and Sonoma bring forth concentrated, full-bodied wines with warm alcohol and expressive, enticing red fruit aromas. Quality mature Zinfandel is one of the world’s greatest joys.
By Anne Krebiehl MW
March 27, 2018
Source and Complete Article: Winemag.com
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