grape varities and the foods they suit

grape varieties

and the foods they suit

Serving finer wine by the glass is what we’re all about at ely. We want our customers to be able to appreciate our extensive wine list, experience new and different grape varieties, and become more confident about their wines. This short guide gives an insight into a number of different grape varieties you will find at ely.

A deep-coloured, wild-fruit flavoured wine with refreshing acidity, ideal for cutting through rich, meaty dishes and Italian cuisine. In Its simplest form, gutsy and thirst-quenching, in its more serious guise, aged in barrique (a small, oak barrel), smooth and sophisticated.
cabernet sauvignon
The noble Bordelais grape has travelled far. Every wine-growing region has its own style of cabernet sauvignon, with its blackcurrant and cedar characteristics. Renowned for its longevity, many of the greatest wines in the world, and many of the simpler ones are likely to have this structured, sturdy, elegant grape variety as at least part of the blend. It demands  red meats and strong hard cheeses.
cabernet franc
Although best known when blended with merlot on the Right-Bank of Bordeaux, the cabernet franc grape – often described as ‘austere’ – can reach untold heights in the Loire Valley and some other wine regions. Raspberries and pencil shavings are the give-away aromas which work well with lamb, pork, game and charcuterie.
A rare old Bordeaux variety. It yields small quantities of exceptionally deep-coloured, full-bodied spicy wines and has now become synonymous with Chile. Hearty steak and game dishes can take this extrovert variety with ease.
Known as ‘The little sweet one’, this grape is normally very dry! Deep limpid red, this vivacious grape is full of ripe berries but with a refreshing bitter twist in the tail, it is made to accompany rich country dishes from Piedmont, warm for winter, cool for summer.
The Beaujolais grape is paler and bluer than most red grapes, with relatively high acidity and a simple, but vivacious aroma of freshly picked red fruits. Shows best drunk cool, and recommended with cold meats, flowery-rind cheeses such as Brie and Camembert and pastas and pizzas as well as many chicken dishes.
A Mediterranean grape which, although quite pale in colour, packs a vinous punch of pepper and warmth. Although it is often blended with other southern varieties such as syrah, carefully made grenache, from old vines, can be a classic grape varieties in its own right, particularly in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the Roussillon and Rioja. Great winter wine with game, powerful red meats and rich casseroles.
Once popular in Bordeaux but now more readily associated with Cahors in South West France and more so with Argentina, where the varietal produces lush wines with gamey concentration and ageing potential. Perfect with barbecued or seared dishes.
This blue-black fleshy grape, which imparts softness and roundness to red wines, is Bordeaux’s most planted vine by far. Nowadays it also enjoys popularity almost everywhere and, on its own. makes good dark-fruited wines in northern Italy, South Africa, California, Chile. Argentina and lately, New Zealand. Goes well with roasts, steaks and hard cheeses.
A vigorous vine planted over much of central Italy, but most widely in the Abruzzi where it is responsible for the often excellent Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, and in the Marches, where it is the principal ingredient in such reds as Rosso Conero and Rosso Piceno Try it with Italian dishes or, indeed, because of lowish acidity, it can complement some spicy Asian cuisine.
Mourvèdre is becoming more and more fashionable in Mediterranean climes. Dense, sturdy and yet with a cool elegance, it is almost always reminiscent of good, smooth, dark chocolate. Game, roast beef and big tomato-based sauces, along with roasted vegetables.
The king of Italian grape varieties, the deeply layered ‘tar and roses’ bouquet and complexity on the palate cry out for powerful meaty dishes, especially beef and veal to draw out the flavours Preferably open a few hours before use, or at least decant if possible. It is the ultimate foil for both white and black truffles.
pinot noir
Pinot noir is arguably the greatest of fine wine grapes and makes the fabulous red wines of Burgundy with scent, flavour, texture and body unmatched anywhere. A particularly old variety, the vine is difficult, only moderately prolific and often less than happy in some of the newer parts of the winemaking world. However, New Zealand, the South of France and some New World regions are getting to grips with it and producing some very different, fruity but worthwhile wines. Roasts, game and washed-rind cheese shine with this grape.
pinot meunier
Pinot meunier is treasured in Champagne as a fruity dependable constituent in the making of their fine wines. In the three-variety champagne blend, meunier contributes youthful fruitiness to complement pinot noir’s weight and chardonnay’s finesse.pinotage
South Africa claims this variety as its own. A cross between pinot noir and cinsault it is capable of making fruity, easy-drinking wines alongside some serious and very stylish wines. Great for outdoor dining and winter stews and roasts.
Sangiovese, and its synonyms, are Italy’s most planted variety. It is the principal variety for the fine red wines of Tuscany, such as Chianti, Vino Nobile and Brunello. Wines made from this grape have noticeable tannins and acidity but a character that varies from somewhat earthy to plummy according to quality and ripeness. Great with lamb, pork, bacon and hard cheeses such as pecorino or parmesan. And of course, pastas and pizzas.

Syrah is the great grape of the northern Rhone; the deep, dark, dense qualities of the wine are characteristically strange and satisfying. Scented with black pepper, capsicums and sometimes violets, the grapes flourish in warmer climes such as California, Australia and South Africa, where it is known as shiraz.

Tempranillo is Spain’s answer to cabernet sauvignon, the vine variety that puts the spine into a high proportion of Spain’s most respected red wines. Its grapes are thick-skinned and capable of making deep-coloured, long-lasting wines that are not, unusually for Spain, notably high in alcohol. Lamb, chunky vegetable dishes and manchego cheese are perfect partners.

Originating most likely in the Adriatic, this exotic black-skinned grape, grown predominantly in California, can make dark, brooding wines for barbecued steak or bizarrely, sweetish, lighthearted quaffing rosés called ‘blush’.

Native to the north-west of Spain and Portugal (Rías Baixas and Vinho Verde) this satiny, round variety gives a very refreshing match to the wonderful seafood of the area.
The winemaker’s ‘artist’s palette’, chardonnay can take on many styles, depending on its provenance and the winemaker’s intentions. From cool, classic Chablis, through creamy, fruity unoaked Mediterranean offerings to huge, oaky, tropical, fruit-filled New World giants, it can be all things to all men, and, according to Bridget Jones, women! Match the style to the dish, oysters and seafood for the austere Chablis, Pacific Rim dishes for the whopping Australian styles.

chenin blanc
Probably the world’s most versatile grape variety, it is usually found in light and fruity New World wines, particularly from South Africa where it is known as steen. It also produces some of the finest longest-living sparkling, dry, medium and sweet white wines in the Loire Valley and Limoux. Perfect with river fish, goat’s cheeses, chicken and fish dishes with creamy sauces and fruit, honey and nut desserts.

From a pink-skinned grape variety, it is an exotic, distinctively aromatic and somewhat spicy full-bodied white wine, usually from Alsace or Germany, but increasingly elsewhere, including Spain. Excellent with foie gras, ham and pork dishes and Asian cuisine.
grüner veltliner
The classic white of Austria, this is a hidden gem, The wine is capable of beating top chardonnays in blind tastings, yet is little known here. Somewhat spicy and unusual in style, it is full-bodied and very savoury, and suits a wide variety of quite strongly flavoured dishes.

marsanne and roussanne
The twin grapes of the northern and southern Rhône and the Languedoc, this pair make a sturdy, very full-bodied, bone-dry and spicy wine that will withstand most dishes, especially those with strong flavours such as truffles.
The ‘grapiest’ of all varieties, muscat comes in every style from bone-dry, through low-alcohol and lightly frizzante, to full Spumante, and even sweet and sticky. It is the base of many good Vin Doux Naturels such as Muscat de Beaumes de Venise or Muscat de Rivesaltes.

The muscadet grape (or Melon de Bourgogne) is almost solely grown for producing the dry, crisp white wines from the Nantes region of the Loire. The perfect foil for shellfish such as crab, lobster or prawns.
pinot bianco/pinot blanc
Although its base is Burgundian, it is more common in Alsace where plantings have increased. It is also to be found in Italy where it yields simple but popular fresh, fruity wines. A good wine to match many varied dishes.

pinot gris/pinot grigio
This grape tends to give flavourful, almost oily wines, rather high in alcohol and slightly low in acidity. More spicy in France than Italy or Argentina, It is full-bodied enough to accompany red meats if red wine is not used.
Cultivated all over North Eastern Veneto, especially Valdobbiadene. It renders a sparkling wine with delicate aromas of apples. Widely used as an aperitif or simply to quaff and watch the world go by.

A great white wine grape associated most obviously, but not exclusively, with Germany and Alsace. It varies in style from the light alcohol wines of the Mosel in Germany through full-bodied classic wines of Alsace to the stony, lemon and lime ripeness of Australian Riesling and wildly aromatic New Zealand styles. The grape can show hints of green apples, lemon or white peach when young, with the typical kerosene bouquet developing with age. Ideal match to ham and pork dishes, strong cheeses, onion tarts and quiches.

sauvignon blanc
An exceptionally fine white grape, distinctively aromatic, it is responsible for some of the world’s most popular white wines. Sancerre, Pouilly Fumé and Menetou-Salon, for example, in France and a host of Sauvignons and Fumé Blancs from elsewhere. New Zealand Sauvignon is now considered a classic style. The perfect thirst quencher, it works with so many dishes.
Blended with its traditional partner, sauvignon blanc, this golden-berried vine variety is the key ingredient in both the great dry and the sweet white wines of Bordeaux. Sémillon usually predominates and inspires rich, golden, honeyed viscous wines. It can also be used on its own or blended with chardonnay, mainly in hotter countries. Well-matched with rich fish dishes like monkfish or turbot, or poultry with cream sauces.

A very low-yielding variety with a particular perfume of peaches and blossom. A relatively drought-resistant variety, it is now thriving in the south of France and is also grown in the New World. Blended with chardonnay at times, it is an intriguing mix. Drink as an aperitif, or with some lightly spiced dishes.

This article has beinig taken from the ely cookbook, which is available for purchase from any of the three ely restaurants or can be purchased online.

Want to know more about wines. Checkout ely’s Big Wine Tasting 2012

ely’s BIG tasting is a fantastic opportunity to taste over 80 wines from across the globe. We open up wines from across the globe and have experts on hand to guide you through the tasting. Whether you want to explore the great wines of the world or simply enjoy the wines you love, our BIG tasting is great way to taste your way through as many or as few wines as you like.

Date: Friday 17th February
Tickets: €20
Time: 6pm or 8pm
Venue: ely bar & brasserie, IFSC

Book your place online

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Open your mind, your nose and mouth to wine at the ely wine club. We run ely wine tastings, wine appreciation courses, wine nights, all in that friendly, no nonsense ely way.

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