Basic, general question about reds - Printable Version

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- dan_karam - 03-28-2004 11:00 AM

To be brief, I've mainly been drinking Zinfindel and Pinot Grigio for years. I would like to get into reds, but am uneducated on the basic differences between Merlots, Chiantis, and Cabernet Sauvignons.

I would truly appreciate it if someone could give me a quick and basic comparison of these three wines (food independent).

Also, I'm looking for the best bottles under $20.

Again, any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

- wineguruchgo - 03-28-2004 11:11 AM

If you are going to jump over to the "dark side" I would take baby steps.

Start with Pinot Noir. This is a lighter style wine that will taste like fresh cherries and have very low tannins.

Next up is Merlot. This wine will taste like dark fruits and sometimes chocolate. The tannins will be a little more pronounced.

Red Zinfandel is next. This one is very jammy with a little more tannin.

Lastly there is Cabernet Sauvignon which will be probably less fruity tasting (more of the really dark fruit like cassis & black currant) and will give hints of tar and leather. This one will have the most pronounced tannin of all of them.

I would try them with food because food really does make a difference. Even if it's cheese and crackers.

- Innkeeper - 03-28-2004 11:33 AM

Hi Dan, and welcome to the Wine Board. There is nothing wrong with the wines you have been drinking, though there are good and bad examples of both. Your comment about "food independent" has a profound affect on my answer. Chianti is made primarily from the sangiovese grape. It is very high in acid. Acidity is usually great with food, and not so hot in a quaffer. The basic difference between merlot and cabernet sauvignon is complexity and approachablility.

Merlot is softer and simpler. In its first or even second tier bottlings it gives you plums and whatever dose of oak it has been subjected to. Very careful shopping can give you a few good choices under $20. Not knowing where you are from, makes it difficult viz-a-viz availability. We like Bortoluzzi Collio Merlot from the most norteast region of Italy. Their Pinot Grigio is tops as well. You might also look for first tier Bordeaux from the East side of the Garonne. These are the wines from St Emillion and Pomerol that, though blends, are primarily merlot. The adjacent region of Lalande-de-Pomerol offers values under $20.

Cabernet sauvignon has many offerings under $20 from Washington State, California, Australia, Argentina, and, of course, Bordeaux (West bank). Among many starters you might try Columbia Crest Grand Estates, or some readily available Aussies such as Jacob's Creek, and in the second tier Rosemount Hill of Gold. There is also a ton of Bordeaux at the entry level (under $20). Look for those from the 2000 vintage.

[This message has been edited by Innkeeper (edited 03-28-2004).]

- dan_karam - 03-28-2004 01:21 PM

Thank you both for your excellent replies.

I'll probably have more questions as my "journey" continues!

- winenovice25 - 03-29-2004 11:56 PM

Hello everyone. I am truly a wine novice, but I thought I would venture on this site to ask some knowledgable people. Plus I was reading the other messages, and everyone is so nice! Anyway,I want to buy my boss a bottle of red, but he is allergic to sulfites. He said that he had no trouble drinking the wine in Italy, but most reds that he has tried in the United States cause him to break out in a rash. I can't afford to spend buckets of money, but it is a special gift, so it doesn't have to be dirt cheap. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

- wineguruchgo - 03-30-2004 02:12 AM

Hello winenovice25,

Welcome to the board!

I'm not really sure of the sulfite count in any wine. But...if your boss had wine in Italy why not buy him a bottle of Italian Wine?

I know that many will jump in and help with this request. In the meantime, I would take advantage of the board and look below for Italian Wines.

There are beautiful Chianti's made by Antinori, Fabulous Brunello's made by Tenuta Caparzo (they also make a baby brunello called Rosso di Montalcino. Vino Nobile is a beautiful wine.

If he likes a leaner wine (these tend to get pricey) there are the Barolos and Barbarescos.

If you aren't sure of his tastes, then I would stick with nice Chianti. You can't go wrong.

PS - please don't be afraid of posting your own requests. By tagging onto someone elses post you might not get an answer as quickly as you would like. JMHO

- Kcwhippet - 03-30-2004 06:31 AM

I have to tell you - your boss IS NOT allergic to sulfites. He would have trouble breathing, not get a rash. His problem is something entirely different. Also, there is no trurh to the rumor that wines from Europe have less sulfites than the same wines sent here. The only difference is the little label that says there's sulfites that's required by our gov't because we are such an overly litiginous society.

- Tastevin - 03-30-2004 08:38 AM

Hello Winenovice25. Firstly I must say, hopefully without appearing patronising, safest to ignore medical diagnosis given by laypersons. I am sure if your boss says he is alergic to sulfite, then he most probably is. Of course you are correct in seeking a sulfite-free wine. After all, who in their right mind would want to gamble with their boss's health? I don't know what sulfite-free wines are available in the States, but an American friend tells me they can be found in some wine stores. One red he mentioned is Notre Terre 2002 from Organic wine Works in Santa Cruz, and costs about £20 he thinks. I can't vouch for its quality, but someone on here may/may not. Anyway, I'll be suprised if someone doesn't come up with suggestions for you. Happy hunting. T

- Drew - 03-30-2004 10:14 AM

There is no such thing as sulfite free wines as wine yeast produce sulfur dioxide (SO2) during the fermentation process. There are, however, wines that are made with no additional sulfites added.


- Innkeeper - 03-30-2004 11:38 AM

Here is one of many good threads you can find on this board regarding sulfites in wine:

- Kcwhippet - 03-30-2004 12:46 PM

T, My post comes not so much as a layperson advising a medical opinion as much as one who has done a fair amount of research into the subject. Approximately 10% of the population is asthmatic and about 5% of that fraction are sensitive to sulfites. The senitivity is manifest by respiratory problems, not by a rash. To be truly certain that it may be sulfites that are causing the boss' rash would indeed take a medical professional. However, it's simply not true that wines made and consumed in Europe have less sulfites than those same wines exported to the U.S. Also, I find it dificult to believe that there's some mysterious ingredient added to red wines made in the U.S. that's linked to his rash. I have to believe there's another lifestyle factor not yet explored that's causing the rash.

- lipwig - 03-30-2004 09:05 PM

I found this interesting (hopefully someone else does too), especially the fact that the human body produces sulfites.


- Thomas - 03-31-2004 12:19 AM

Just another tired old myth that won't go away--in Europe and in the U.S.

There is NO EVIDENCE--REPEAT, NO EVIDENCE that supports the ridiculous notion that sulfites cause the myriad problems that evreyone thinks they do.

Cheese, bread, beer, yogurt--anything fermented, including your digested lunch--contain sulfites.

I am soooo tired of having to restate this FACT.

As KC said--asthmatics, and not all of them--may have a reaction to high doses of sulfites, and wine generally does not contain enough dosage even for them.


[This message has been edited by foodie (edited 03-30-2004).]

- winoweenie - 03-31-2004 09:06 AM

Temper, temper there Foodster.You know high blood pressure makes sulfites. WW [img][/img]

- Thomas - 03-31-2004 09:16 AM

Actually, sulfites cause high blood pressure too...aachoo!, excuse me; it must be the sulfites.

- Tastevin - 03-31-2004 04:39 PM

Well Winenovice25, except for Wineguruchgo and yours truly, members seem more interested in showing how knowledgeable they are, or rather, think they are, than help you with your problem. What with Drew wittering on about sulfite being produced during fermentation, Kcwhippet thinking that because he has done a 'fair amount of research into the subject' he is an expert on how allergies to sulfite manifest themselves. As for Foodie what can one say, except that his rant reminds me of those people who some years ago shouted that there was NO EVIDENCE --REPEAT, NO EVIDENCE that supports the ridiculous notion that smoking can damage health. So Winenovice25, if I may I suggest you go to a reputable wine store and ask them to suggest a good red wine that is sulfite free. If you are unlucky and get an assistant who wants to show off saying there is no such thing because sulfur dioxide is produced during fermentation, stick to your guns, say you are aware of his piece of (unhelpful) information (because sulfite produced during fermentation is at only trace levels the amount remaining in finished wine is miniscule and is termed ‘sulfite free’). So, get him/her to look out wine that has had no sulfite added, and says that on the bottle. If that store can't help, go elsewhere. You know what? I can't help feeling it may be best to buy him something else instead. Again, happy hunting. T.

- Tastevin - 03-31-2004 04:41 PM

Kcwhippet, who said that wines made and consumed in Europe have less sulfites than those same wines exported to the U.S.please? I would welcome the opportunity of discussing that statement with him/her. T

- Thomas - 03-31-2004 06:49 PM

Sorry you feel that way Tastevin.

The best advice for people who fabricate that sulfites cause their medical problems is to go see a reputable doctor, not a wine retailer. The man says he is allergic to sulfites but I'll bet he got that information through the myth mill.

And, for the record, we do study these things, those of us in the present-day wine industry.

There is a doctor on this board who has posted numerous studies. Only once was there mention of a minute possibility, unproven, that a minute group of people could have gotten headache from sulfites--but that remains so open it is laughable.

Also, we can rant any time we want , and we can disagree with whomever. But we should be civil about it too--meaning no direct attacks on individuals, especially when you haven't got all the facts at your command.

Incidentally, there is no such thing as a sulfite free wine--only a wine that had not had sulfites added to it. The reason some wines in the U.S. do not include the words Contain Sulfites on labels is because the level of sulfites in the wine is lower than the government minimum for the label regulation.

And further, sulfur dioxide is an organic compound--carbon based. So, making a wine organically does not necessarily preclude using SO2.

[This message has been edited by foodie (edited 03-31-2004).]

[This message has been edited by foodie (edited 03-31-2004).]

- Kcwhippet - 03-31-2004 10:23 PM

As much as I'd like to properly, and in greater length, respond to your query, I must make it short because I'm a bit tired at the moment. We had 672 cases of wine unloaded at the shop and I've spent the past six hours dealing with them. However, I wish I had read your post before I went to the shop. A woman came in shortly before closing and she was positive she needed to buy organic, no sulfite wines because she's absolutely sure she's allergic to sulfites. She said it was really too bad, because she would have liked to be able to drink the wines she had during her two weeks vacation in France last fall. Unfortunately, she said she couldn't because they add sulfites to the wines they export to the U.S., and she knew this was a fact because they don't put warning labels on the wine bottles in France. I bit my tongue and steered her to the Badger Mountain NSA wines. She bought a few bottles of the Merlot and a case of the Chardonnay, which she wants to lay down for a few years like they do in France. Oh well. Sorry, T, had I read your post before now, I would have taken her name so you could discuss her beliefs. I'll remember, though, for the next one like her that comes in, and that's a promise.

- Thomas - 04-01-2004 01:56 AM

It occurs to me that a few moths ago we had a similar argument on this board between Tastevin and me. I remember then that ,T, you had confused the issue of spraying sulphur on vines with adding SO2 to wine during the winemaking process. Are you doing that again? If so, you are quite ill-informed on the subject and I am quite willing to once again explain the difference to you--if you are willing to listen.