The Hill of Hermitage and vineyards steeply overlooking the Rhône provide the home of Syrah and one of the most famous place names associated with this great grape variety.
Hermitage, Cornas and Côte Rôtie are full-bodied red wines, while Crozes Hermitage and St Jopeph are generally a touch lighter. Syrah is a hardy grape, growing well in poor soil, such as the granite-based hills and slopes of the Northern Rhône, and able to adapt to a number of climates. In their infacy, Syrah-based wines smell of blackberry and ground pepper, sometimes mixed with aromas of smoke and toasty oak. In the Northern Rhône, Syrah is the only permitted black grape, while in the south it is used as a blending material and can be just one of several grape varieties making up the final Cuvée. Grenache is more widely grown and used in the south.
Often requiring time to develop, due to the tannic nature of young Syrah, the wines soften with agem taking on smoky, leathery characteristics. In Australia, a range of styles exist, from light to medium-bodied fruity reds, to the massively fruity, rich, powerhouse wines of the Barossa Valley, Australian Shiraz, which has captured the imagination of wine lovers throughout the world, ranges from the moderate to very expresive, such as Penfond's legendary Grange.
The grape is known as Syrah in the French growing areas of the Rhône and the south of the countru but as Shiraz in its other locations: Australia, Tuscany in Italy, South Africa, and California
One of the word's most popular black grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon's deep colour, blackcurrant aroma and flavour is the backbone of many is the backbone of many full-bodid red wines.
A member of the Bordeaux family, Merlot, in constrast to Cabernet Sauvignon, is soft, fruity, fleshy, and less tannic. It's the principal grape variety in the wines of St Emilion and Pomerol, and is often blended with Cabernet Franc.
A difficult 'customer' described by one well-known winemaker as a 'moving target of a grape variety', on top form Pinot Noir can make the most complex and hedonistic of red wines. Pinot Noir has fewer colouring pigments than other dark-skinned varieties, so it can appear to be lighter or more aged, when compared to wines such and almost inky on occasions.
An extremely versatile variety of grapes, Chenin Blanc is capable of making dry and crisp white wines that are great as an aperitif, through to medium, unctuous and sweet styles. Due to the keeen and vibrant acidity often found in Chenin Blanc grape, they make brilliant food wines and can stay in good shape for many years after the vitange.