Well the Miami International Wine Fair is over and I am mapping out a strategy for moving our new-to-market Portuguese wines into the USA market. While all visitors gave our wine high marks, we have a relatively high price. However, we have a unique marketing technique that should allow us to reach the level of sales we seek.

Portuguese wines are the “new wave” in Europe essentially because they offer a different taste and are good. The different taste comes from the fact that these wines use domestic grapes such as Alicante Bouschet, Aragonez and Trincadeira. And the grape is the main determinant in the taste of a wine.

I always tell people to choose their wine by checking the grape used. And while there are hundreds of grape varieties, I recommend a few as being reliable producers of good wine.

Tempranillo. This is the grape used to make most good Spanish wine and it gives these wines the distinct “Spanish” taste. Tempranillo is fairly easy to use and thus most wine made from it is good.

San Giovese. This is the grape used to make Chianti and other Italian wines. While it is not the grape used to make the prestigious wines from the Piedmonte region, it is again a reliable producer of good wine. Other wines made from it are the Montepulciano de Abruzzo and the Montepulciano de Toscana with the latter considered to be the better of these two wines.

Malbec. This is the grape that has led Argentinian wines to capturing a good position in the US market. I have said for the last ten years that the Malbec wine from Mendoza, Argentina offers the best price to quality ratio in the market. Wine guru Robert Parker wrote the same comment about two years ago.

Cabernet Sauvignon. This is probably the most reliable grape used to make wine. Almost anyone can make a good wine with this solid performer. I especially recommend the California wines made with this grape.

Zinfandel. While on the subject of California wines, this grape is used almost exclusively there. It yields a distinct taste that has many fans but almost as many who give it a pass. I like it but find wines made from it vary widely.

Cabernet Franc. Used mainly in French blends, one of the best wines I have ever tasted was made just from this grape. If you see a wine made from this grape, try it.

Sauvignon Blanc. My favorite white wine. Lots of good ones fom New Zealand. Also from Italy and France. Mondavi’s Woodbridge Sauvignon Blanc is a very good wine at a modest price, maybe 1.5 liters for $10.

Merlot. I don’t care for merlot but the grape is widely used and does normally produce a good wine. Try Italian merlots.

Pinot Noir. I really don’t like this grape. It produces more losers than winners since it is hard to work with. However, I did import at one time a “champagne” from Switzerland made with this grape. In fact, almost all Swiss wines are made from this grape, since it can grow in cooler climates than most grapes.

Pinot Grigio. Wildly popular in the USA but I consider it to be too bland. Better a bottle of San Pelegrino water.

Syrah. A very strong grape that produces a rather heavy wine. This makes it a great choice for blends since it can balance less difinative grapes.

Chardonney. The American choice for white wine. But it is the oak of the barrel that makes it popular with the public, somewhat akin to the retsina wine of Greece. Once, while touring a winery in Napa, I asked the hostess is they were throwing acorns in the Chardonney to give it more “oak” taste. She said no, they were using oak wood chips.

There are literally thousands of grapes that are used to make wine. These are some of the more well known and my favorites. The grape used is a good guide to what to choose.