Wine Talk

Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz

What's your favorite grape(s)

Posted by Gregory Dal Piaz, Nov 4, 2009.

So a question in one of these threads, or perhaps in a comments thread on one of my articles got me thinking about my favorite varietal wines.

First off I will have to group my answer in two parts, noble wines and not noble wines. I am stealing the phrase noble from the wine geek vernacular but as a title it works just fine.

So the noble grapes are those that produce the world's finest, most complex, most ageable wines.

My top three.

1 - Nebbiolo, now that wasn't a surprise

2 - Syrah, maybe that was more of a surprise

3 - Pinot Noir - Ok let's be real, I'm talking primarily about Burgundy

My top three non noble grapes, and the wines I am liable to be drinking most often.

1 - Sangiovese, ok this is a bit of an outlier in the sense that Sangiovese makes some wines that can compete with the worlds best. I drink lots of Chianti, Rosso di Montalcino, and Vino Nobile not because they are the most complex and age worthy wines produced. They're not. What they are are some of the worlds most food friendly wines, at least for the foods I eat!

2 - Zinfandel - Like Sangiovese I don't drink Zin looking for a religious experience, however when I have some spicy foods, a bit of barbeque, plain old burgers or sausages Zin can be the perfect partner. And besides, at the prices I'm paying it's tough to get a more interesting wine in s full throttle fruit forward style. Ok I see an argument coming there!

3 - Barbera - Much like Sangiovese, Barbera just fits the foods I tend to eat. Sangiovese, in all its permutations tends to be much more widely available but I do love the Barbera flavor profile.

A sentimental favorite, actually two, are the wines I grew up with; Teroldego and Schiava, heck I'll even throw in Lagrein. I drink them when I can but there are limited choices here in the states.

So what's your favorites?


Reply by dmcker, Nov 4, 2009.

So Greg, my guess about Zinfandel in that article thread wasn't that far off, was it? I think you listed in order there Nebbiolo, an aged California Cab and Syrah/Sangiovese tied for third, and I guessed Zin for fifth. So what happened to the Cabernet, and where did the Pinot come from in the new list?

My list wouldn't be all that dissimilar, with maybe some reordering, and except that good merlots, chardonnays, rieslings, some dessert wines and even others would make it long before Barbera. As would several Spanish bottles. Hate to think of the wine experience without white Burgundies and Right Bank Bordeauxs and Riojas and Champagnes and Ports and Sherries and Late Harvest Hocks and ...

But that's the wonderful thing about wine in the modern day. We don't have to be stuck with only a few different grapes!

Reply by Mark Angelillo, Nov 4, 2009.

My top choice would be Syrah, especially from the Rhone. I'll allow Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir to fight for my second place, although I have to admit I'm not only talking Burgundy. I'll take Pinot from the US Pac NW or NZ as well. As far as Cabernet goes I do enjoy California and Bordeaux, but I've also had a few great Cabs from South Africa. Love that herbaceous quality, especially when it has some meatiness to it as well.

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Nov 5, 2009.

Hey Dmcker,

One list was wines that I drink, another was grape varieties.

I can't say I am hugely fond of Cabernet on it's own, with the exception of Old Cali Cab.

I certainly no longer buy Cabernet, with very few exceptions, a case or three of 2005 Bordeaux and the occasional bottle or three of Cabernet. It would come in fourth on the list of "noble" grapes for me.

I see you have a similarly difficult time in narrowing down your list!

Such is the beauty of this hobby.

Reply by Girl Drink Drunk, Nov 5, 2009.

First post. Woo hoo!

Nebbiolo is easily my favorite grape as well, with Sangiovese a distant second.

My least favorite grape is Pinot Noir, also easily. Even most of the pricy Burgs do very little for me, and New World PN just seems like a waste of time...


Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Nov 6, 2009.

Woo Hoo!

Welcome tot he board GDD!

You obviously have good tastes. Now we just have to get a few better Burgs in front of you and see if we can't allow them to make a convincing argument for themselves.

Reply by Gantt Hickman, Nov 6, 2009.

I would have to say Pinot and Syrah are my top two in no particular order. Zin is next in line with great Chardonnay falling in the list when it is warm outside.

I don't have much experience with the Nebbiolo grape, but will make an effort this weekend to explore a little bit.

Anything in particular I should be looking for while drinking it?


Reply by dmcker, Nov 6, 2009.

Well you got me going, Greg, so I went back and looked at my wine purchases over the past year.

My online/mailorder purchases were exactly 24 cases. 12 from US producers and 12 from those in the rest of the wine world.

For the US, four from Sonoma, three from Napa, two from the CA central coast, one each from Washington and Oregon, and one from other parts of California. Cabs made up the largest varietal, followed by pinot noir, syrah, chardonnay, zinfandel and 'others', in that order.

For the rest of the world, four from France (one each from Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhone and a mixed case from Alsace and Champagne), two from Italy, two from Spain, two from Australia, one from Germany and one from Portugal. By varietal, cabernet/merlot, pinot noir, chardonnay, syrah, nebbiolo, grenache, riesling, sangiovese, tempranillo and 'others', roughly in that order.

These were just my online purchases, and don't include wine I bought at liquor stores/other markets or at restaurant. Don't have the same records for those, but my volumes of purchase at market by region would be in the order France, Spain, Italy, Australia, Chile, Germany, California then 'others'. By varietal would probably be cab/merlot, sangiovese, chardonnay, tempranillo, pinot, riesling, nebiollo and 'others', again in rough order. At restaurant it would probably be a tie between France and Italy for first, followed by Spain, Australia, Germany, California and 'others' in that order. By varietal it's harder to calculate, but probably chardonnay first followed by a competitive jumble of cabs, sangioveses, pinots, and nebiollos, then another grouping of rieslings, 'other' whites, 'other' reds and dessert wines.

Though I've had years when I was traveling a lot and bought fewer bottles, this year has probably been at the bottom of the medium range for my purchases by volume. Probably should be buying more, since prices (except for those targeted by Parker et al.) are so (relatively) attractive at the moment.

Again, I'm glad we're living at a time when it's possible to taste wines from all over the place. I hope to drink a lot more wines from South America and further east in the Mediterranean (from the Adriatic to the Aegean and maybe a bit north) in the coming year. And maybe give New Zealand and South Africa another chance....

Reply by dmcker, Nov 6, 2009.

Where's that editing function we need! Forgot to include syrah and grenache in the list of varietals from my market purchases. They'd likely go after chardonnay and before tempranillo.

Reply by schellbe, Nov 6, 2009.

For reds: Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon as long as they are ten years old or more. I have some older Barolo I have yet to try, but what I've had in the past I have liked. So add Nebbiolo to the list. And Sangiovese, but some Chaintis seem overly alcoholic.

For whites, Riesling and Gewurz, as long as they have sufficient acidity.

Least favorites: Zinfandel, overoaked Chardonnay, and inexpensive reds (Cabernet, Shiraz) from Australia.

Reply by rar8888, Nov 7, 2009.

For me it goes cabernet sauvignon / cab-merlot, zinfandel, malbec, shiraz, and grenache, tempranillo, and sangiovese are all in the same ball park. I don't have much experience with the Italian wines so it looks like that is what I should explore next. Cheers

Reply by h2w4, Nov 7, 2009.

damn, I thought I had my list pegged, but as I read down all of the posts I found it changing with each new post. I would have to say that toward the bottom of my list is Pinot, my definite fav is Cab Franc, or blends heavy with it, it has such a nice earthiness to it that makes it very versatile for foods. Following the Cab Franc would probably be Zin, Syrah, and Sangiovese. For whites; Albarino, lightly oaked or un-oaked Chard, Reisling, Viogniers.

Of course this list can and does change depending on the season, weather, my mood, food, etc..., but it's a good starting point.

Reply by Jimmy Cocktail, Nov 7, 2009.

I've found that my list breaks down into sipper and eater categories...

For the sippers I like the bigger fruit forward grapes. Zin sits at the top followed by Syrah and the sweeter Reislings. For the eaters I tend towards things that are made dryer and/or have more acidity, they just seems to pair better with the foods I tend to eat a lot. Pinot Noir, Grenache blends, and Alsatian Reislings tend to dominate my purchases here.

I love a good Cabernet Sauvignon as much as the next guy but I seldom purchase them because 1) they can be god awful expensive and 2) they can be just god awful.

Reply by Martingauthier, Nov 7, 2009.

Merlot is definitely my best varietal - Grows in abundance in St-Émillion, which is to me the best region in the world to produce wine

Cabernet Sauvignon is my second - Grows as well in St-Émilion and creates when blended with Merlot great wines.

That's it!

Reply by corskier, Nov 7, 2009.

My top would be Syrah. Not only can it be produced in a huge variety of differing styles, many of those styles can be brilliant wines.

Close second would be Grenache, in both rose and red forms. This varietal can produce such different wines of high quality when picked at different ripeness profiles.

Third is hard to say. Toss up between Cab Franc and Viognier. I love the herbal, meaty characters of Cab Franc, but I also adore the insane tropical fruit you can get from Viognier. Call it a tie.

Reply by cigarman168, Nov 7, 2009.

Australia - Shiraz
Chile - Camenere
Californai - Zin
Germany - Riesling
Burgundy - Pinot Noir
White - Chardonnay

Reply by Eric Guido, Nov 8, 2009.

My spending this year has been very different than most years but more because we went to Napa and got caught up in the vacation. Don't get me wrong, we loved the wines but somehow Cabernet does not make it onto my list.

My list in the order that currently feels right to me...

Pinot Noir

Reply by rhill2990, Nov 8, 2009.

My list goes like this:

Bordeaux blends heavy in Merlot, followed by Cab Sav in the blend

Boiling it all down, these are currently my favorite varieties.

Reply by chadrich, Nov 9, 2009.

For the reds:
1)Syrah (would probably just barely edge-out...)
2)Petite Sirah

I find that my white preferences are much less focused than the reds. But if forced to pick three, I'd have to list:
1)Gruner Veltliner
2)Sauv Blanc
3)Pinot Gris

Reply by zufrieden, Nov 11, 2009.

This is an intersting game to play. While I don't really have strong likes or dislikes regarding most established wine-grape varieties and clones therefrom, like most of you, I have fairly obvious preferences. Those preferences derive from exposure to varietal wines made by the best vineyards, regions, properties and winemasters in the world. Many of the thousands of potentially quality varieties compare unfavorably because they are out of the general purview and made in lesser known (even obscure) regions. Moldova, Romania, Georgia or eastern Turkey might be given as exotic examples. Less exotic examples are Portugal, Greece and the Balkans.

Getting beyond this issue, my experience tells me that one's mood, maturity, education and exposure to different parts of the world will affect appreciation of food products such as wine. Once, wine was, for me, purely an accompaniment of conviviality. Later, as my exposure to the larger story of wine-making grew with its talk of terroir, climat, cepage and other technicalities, I came to understand and recognize sensations that escaped me in the past.

Why this garulous - nay, florid - preamble? Simply to say that my appreciation of Premier Cru Burgundy (the only Pinot Noir that truly satisfies this palate) had to follow upon an understanding of how the wine evolves in the cask, bottle and glass. I also needed to know - from direct experience - how a property 200 meters away from another affected subtety of flavour and scent and how this realisation changes your evaluation and relative pleasure forever - not unlike discovering a once much-admired love interest has depths you no longer wish to plumb.

My love of Pinot Noir, Reisling, Syrah, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Viognier, Nebbiolo, Brunello, Merlot, etc. is therfore highly contingent on the provenance of the wine. These are all fine grape varieties with a wonderful range of flavor.

On a desert island, however, I might content myself with top shelf Burgundy (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir examples), Pomerol (Merlot-based), Barolo, Brunello di Montelcino and Cotes Rotie. I do not apologize for the absence of New World wines in this mix - excellent examples notwithstanding. I exclude the wonderful blends of Left Bank Bordeaux in keeping with the spirit of things.

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