Great wine begins with great grapes. Capitalizing on the state’s diverse geography and climates, California wine-grape growers can grow a wide range of grape varieties and styles. The Golden State boasts more than 100 different varieties of wine grapes, thanks to its diverse topography, soils, climates and growers.

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With respect for tradition and a propensity for innovation, California’s wine-grape growers are able to produce some of the best grapes, and wines, in the world. Here’s a look at some of California’s most notable wine grapes:


Merlot (Red)

For a long time, merlot grapes were known for their ability to blend well with cabernet sauvignon, but the grape has also carved out its own niche as a popular single variety. Merlot grapes have a redder hue than cabernet sauvignon grapes and thinner skin; the grapes also have fewer tannins, which can make the wines soft and smooth.

Taste: Merlots can be sleek, elegant and rich in plum and berry fruitiness. The wines are medium-bodied with moderate acidity and soft tannins. Long-lasting flavors make them good all-purpose wines.

Perfect Food Matches: The expensive versions pair well with moderately rich meats, such as grilled steak or lamb chops, and roast lamb or duck; less expensive wines are great with tomato-sauced pasta, burgers, and barbequed chicken.

Varietal grape photos: Copyright © The Regents of the University of California.


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