Okay this is a difficult one as, in some ways, I am looking for something most of us might normally avoid, and that is wines with little or no ‘terroir’ influence that are made from a single grape variety rather than blended, and that should therefore represent as closely as possible the flavour of just that grape with minimal influence from the geography/geology/environment.
So I’m looking for recommendations on wines which isolate, if you like, the taste of Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon/Pinot Noir/Granache/etc… Explicitly ‘simple’ rather than ‘complex’ wines.
@szaki1974 is right about the Society range being the best place to start. Its aim is to provide good, typical examples. However, it’s a bit of a judgement call as to whether, for example, the Limari Chardonnay, Aussie Chardonnay, or White Burgundy is the more definitive ‘typical’ example of the grape.
For cabernet and merlot, you can’t really go wrong with these:
You are going to run into problems with grapes like chardonnay, as already alluded to by @Bargainbob. The character of the wines from it range so dramatically - it can be a real chameleon of a grape.
Actually, you can get a sense of the general underlying direction it is heading from something like an unoaked chardy from the south of France. A sort of vulgar fruit-salad. I often think that the great successful chardonnays achieve greatness through suppressing the grape’s typicity in various ways. Harsh, but there is a point to the comment.
I’ve only twittered on about chardonnay because I think the same point about variable styles of wine can be extended to other grapes, to a greater or lesser extent. Where that extent is greater, I can’t see much option but to try several different wines, because otherwise you’ll be only tasting one manifestation of what that grape can do.
Ultimately I guess several different cheap, single variety, non-specific-region wines probably need to be tried. The likes of Tesco’s Merlot, Sainsbury’s Cabernet Sauvignon etc. Sadly probably more of an informative than enjoyable project!
TWS seem to do some but not all like this. They tend more towards being single varieties but also single location even if that is just something like Chilean Merlot.
All the replies make sense, but I ask how much , cough, do you drink, if a week end drinker it is going to take you an awful long time with one variety to achieve a cross section of value and you will have probably lost touch, taste wise, with your earlier tastings.
This is one of those cases where a tasting group with a single varietal theme would be the way to go, or a group of like-minded friends who could put such a thing together.
Not quite for me. Unless I’m completely missing the point of your question.
I don’t equate single varietal with simple - unless, like @peterm mentions, you go for the ‘house’ type, so a basic expression of a grape - which in most cases I guess will mean a bulk-produced wine. If we’re not talking bulk wine, then I am unsure how possible it is to separate the grape from its growing environment, climate, geology etc…?
Single-varietals can be the most complex and enjoyable wines - especially where whites are concerned. Or at least that’s my experience.
But I might have got your question totally wrong…?
I think you’ve highlighted the problem with what I’m looking for. I want to remove as much of that complexity as possible. I agree that simply being a single varietal will not inevitably do that by any means; hence the difficulty. What I want to do is try and isolate the flavour of a particular grape which, theoretically, then allows you to separate out the components provided by other factors such as terroir etc. Which is why generic, faceless sort of wines are where I figure I need to look. Hence my original comment that I’m sort of looking for something we would normally… how should I say? turn our noses up at possibly
It’s definitely a bit of a dilemma. Bulk single varietal wine will bore you senseless, and won’t tell you much either (or that’s my hunch, at least). But I suspect that there are ‘good’ examples of single varietals which will allow you to appreciating the ‘themes’, if you like, of the grape’s flavour profile.
I found the Wine Folly basic visuals about what you could expect to find in a specific varietal really instructive. Even if some of it sounded far-fetched, it definitely helped me to home-in on the flavours I was recognising but lacking confidence in naming.
As other people mentioned - going to tastings can help with that too, as you slowly build a memory of the flavours and start recognising the grape’s basic notes. But, as you say, not always easy if you live somewhere remote.
I’d go with what most people suggested - and try the Society’s label, as I guess that is the label’s ultimate aim, without turning into an offering from Gallo & Gallo
Don’t be too downcast @MikeFranklin - I’m sure something is possible. I think that @Inbar is right, in that no wine will give you a sort of undiluted “extract of the variety”. But maybe then the thing to do is to start with some examples that are not wildly atypical at least, even bearing in mind they had to come from somewhere. Here’s some thoughts for starters -
-how about a dry Clare Valley, or Great Southern example, such as this one?
I haven’t tried that one, but generally Clare Valley examples are following a dry, no oxygen route which shows the young grape to advantage. Expect it to be very dry. From there the next step would probably be to look at how the taste is affected by sweetness, as in the varying types of Germanic rieslings. This is reliable wine in my experience -
A bit pricier but reliably riesling-typical.
What none of this will show you is how mature rieslings, aged say 10+ years in bottle, will show. Potential there for all those beautiful, beautiful refinery-effluent flavours! Then there are the markedly botrytis-affected examples, e.g. auslesen upwards. But hopefully by this point the foundational character will have imprinted itself.
Not my favourite as a single variety (though a great blending grape). The society’s Chilean Merlot shows the main points and is good value.
To be honest, with this grape you have to decide if you want more of the same, or if you want to see what it brings to blends. For the former, a good choice might be the Society’s Exhibition Napa Merlot (currently o/s). For the latter, Ch. Pey La Tour may be a good one to go to as it is so Merlot-dominated.