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Ultimate Guide to Red Wine 

Ultimate Guide to Red Wine 

Red wine is an experience. However, it’s difficult to find the perfect bottle of red wine if you’ve never had red wine. You will probably feel stressed and overwhelmed since thousands of red wines are on the market.

To make matters worse, wine enthusiasts use terms like tannins, sur-lie aging, and maceration to describe a wine leaving you feeling lost and confused. There’s no need to be afraid of wine jargon since I will be breaking down everything you need to know about red wine in this guide.

How is Red Wine Made Step By Step?

Each bottle of red wine reflects how it was created and who crafted it. First, grapes are harvested and then crushed in a pneumatic press.

Second, yeast is added to crushed grapes. The yeast feeds on the natural sugars within the grapes and converts them to alcohol. The fermentation process also releases the by-product carbon dioxide.

Once the fermentation stage is complete, the wine is pressed. In other words, the skins are removed from the grape juice and discarded. Next, the aging process begins.

Red wine can be aged for many years or a few years, depending on the type of wine and the rules for making each type of wine. Furthermore, red wine can be aged in oak, concrete, amphora, or stainless-steel containers.

Before the red wine is bottled, it is usually racked. In short, the wine is transferred from one container to another to remove the sediment that gathers at the bottom of the container.

Next, the wine is bottled, corked, and labeled. The wine may be further aged in a cellar for some time, depending on the rules for making that wine.

What are Tannins in Red Wine?

In short, tannins are bitter organic substances found in wine. During fermentation, the skin, seeds, and grapes macerate with the grape juice producing tannins in wine.

Red wine has the most tannins compared to white and rose wines. Furthermore, different types of grapes have different levels of tannins. For example, wines like Sangiovese, produced in Italy, have the highest levels of tannins.

Tannins give red wine a dry, tart flavor. As I mentioned above, they are naturally occurring compounds. Interestingly enough, tannins are also considered an antioxidant.

Tannins are critical for aging wine since they bind to oxygen molecules and prevent oxidation.

What Does Acid in Wine Mean?

When you taste a glass of wine, you can taste the acidity on the sides of the tongue. The reaction is similar to eating a lime or lemon wedge. Your mouth starts to water immediately.

The acidity of red wine depends on a few things. For example, young grapes are more acidic than ripe grapes. The grapes become sweeter the longer they are attached to the vine.

Wines made in colder provinces have higher acidity since the cultivation season is much shorter. Winemakers in warmer climates use tartaric acid to round out the flavors of grapes that sat on the vine too long. The tartaric acid is added to the grape juice before fermenting.

Acidity is important in winemaking because it gives the wine a deep, complex flavor. Even though the acidity levels will remain constant as wine ages, the wine does taste less acidic over time.

Acidity is also important because it is used in wine pairings. Acid can cut fat or desserts that are too sweet. However, acidic wines also complement acidic foods like tomato sauce.

How Many Red Wine Grapes Are There?

There are hundreds of red wine grapes. However, there are 12 red wine grapes varieties which are the most popular.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon are the creme de la creme of the Bordeaux region and Napa Valley.

Cabernet Sauvignon is cultivated across the world. However, few wines capture the true essence of Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet Sauvignon grapes mature later in the season.

Cabernet Sauvignon has flavors of herbs, cherries, olives, and bell peppers. However, in Bordeaux and Tuscany, the wine is pressed until it’s almost blended to soften the intense bitter tannins. Napa Valley style Cabernet Sauvignon is complex purplish black color with flavors reminiscent of cherries and currants.

Malbec

Malbec has notes of spices and cherries. Malbec grapes are often combined with other varietals in winemaking.

However, Malbec grapes are popular in Argentina and used to make spicy, acidic red wines. When Malbec is aged in new oak barrels, it takes on an irresistible flavor.

Cabernet Franc

Cabernet Franc is often mixed with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes to make a Bordeaux blend that’s made in the US.

As a stand-alone, Cabernet Franc has a flavor akin so its close cousin Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet Franc grapes have fruity blueberry, earthy coffee, and black olive notes.

However, in warmer vineyards outside of Europe, Cabernet Franc has notes of violet and blueberry. The tannins give Cabernet Franc a coffee-like aroma.

Gamay

Gamay, Beaujolais is a wine that is meant to be drunk not long after it’s fermented. Gamay is a bright, fruity wine. It has notes of raspberry, cherry, and strawberry.

Its often produced using a technique called carbonic maceration. In short, fermentation occurs from the inside out. It is used to give medium-to-light-bodied wines and soften the flavor of the tannins.

Gamay has a slightly bubbly texture and an aroma that is akin to bananas.

Beaujolais Nouveau is the most popular type of Gamay wine. It is usually released a short time after the grapes are harvested.

Merlot

Merlot is often said to be the Chardonnay of the red wine world. Although it is a versatile wine, many people love the flavor of Merlot wine. Merlot has fruity flavors of watermelon, plum, strawberry, and cherries. 

Many wine experts believe Merlot does not have any weight when it comes to flavor and aroma.

However, there is one exception: Chateau Pétrus. It is a blended wine, but it’s mostly composed of Merlot.

There used to be another popular Merlot rose blend in the 1990s. However, they were often expensive and watered down.

Mourvèdre

Mourvedre or Matoro is a Mediterranean grape that is common in France and Spain. It is used to produce medium-bodied wines with spicy, cherry, and fruity notes. 

Depending on the vineyard, Matoro wines may also have some minerality. Nevertheless, some Motaro vines can be found in California and Australia. These grapes are used in blended wines such as Grenache or Shiraz.

Grenache

Grenache makes some of the most popular Spanish and Australian wines. Grenache grapes ripen very early. The wine tends to have a high alcohol content and low levels of acidity.

On average, these wines boast a spicy cherry flavor. However, they can also have bold, complex flavors that are less intense than Syrah.

Grenache wines are also used to make other French wines such as Châteauneuf du Pape, Gigondas, and Côtes du Rhône

Pinot Noir

Although consumers love a healthy glass of Pinot Noir, winemakers have a love-hate relationship with this wine. These grapes are extremely delicate and unpredictable. They are predisposed to developing unpleasant flavors.

When done right, Pinot Noir has a complex flavor profile, including plum, cola, cherry, tomato, beetroot, and blackberry. 

Pinot Noir is used to make Champagne as well as other sparkling wines. However, Pinot Noir grapes can also be ripened and used to create dense wines. This practice is common in Oregon, California, and New Zealand.

Zinfandel

Zinfandel used to be the IT grape of California. However, now it is grown worldwide, including Australia, Italy, and the western coast of the US.

Zinfandel grapes are believed to have originated in Croatia. Nevertheless, California Zinfandel remains the standard for making all Zinfandel, no matter where its produced.

Zinfandel wine has fruity flavors of prune, raspberry, cherry, blackberry, and raisin. However, Zinfandel may also have notes of Asian spices, depending on the winemaker.

Typically, California Zinfandels have 15%-16% alcohol content. However, if the grapes are harvested later in the season, the alcohol content can be even higher.

Sangiovese

Sangiovese is the primary grape of Tuscany. It is the major ingredient in Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, and Rosso di Montalcino.

The grapes are light-colored and acidic. Italian Sangiovese wine has strong notes of tobacco, cherry, and anise. However, Sangiovese produced in other regions of the world can have a bland indefinite flavor.

Italian winemakers also use Sangiovese grapes along with Cabernet Sauvignon to create a Tuscan blend. This blend intensifies the flavor of the Sangiovese while rounding out the flavor of the Cabernet Sauvignon.

Nebbiolo

Nebbiolo is one of the primary wines produced in the Piedmont province of Italy. It is used to make Barolo and Gattinara wines.

While winemakers outside Italy have trouble trying to grow wines, Italians Piedmont are experts at cultivating this great grape. Even though Californians have been trying to perfect this wine for decades, they still end up with a light generic version of authentic Nebbiolo wine.

True Nebbiolo wine is bursting with fruity flavors such as raspberries and anise. Its aroma is reminiscent of rose and anise.

Syrah

Syrah is the newest sensation in California and Washington. Syrah is called Shiraz in Australia.

Syrah has flavors of plum, blackberry, cloves, and pepper. However, Australian Shiraz has a fruity, light, yet dense flavor. It is made in the style of sparkling wine and has a rich red color.

What is The Correct Temperature For Red Wine?

Red wine should be kept in a dark, cool place. The ideal storage temperature is 55°F.

If the temperature is above 75°F, the wine will become too hot, and the flavor will change drastically. If the red wine is stored below freezing temperature, the bottle could explode, and your entire freezer will be covered in wine.

When it comes to red wine serving temperature, red wines should be served between 60°F and 65°F. If the red wine is too hot, the wine will have a strong alcoholic taste, and you will not be able to taste its full flavor. In contrast, if the wine is too cold, it will have an astringent flavor because of the tannins.

You can easily store red wine in a wine fridge. However, if you do not have a wine cooler, it is best to store the wine in a cool cabinet or pantry. You can place the wine in the fridge 30 minutes before you intend to drink it, and it will be at the perfect temperature.

Which Wine Glass is the Best For Red Wine?

Oval egg-shaped glasses are the best glasses for red wine. These glasses have a bowl that tapers off slightly at the top, which allows you to smell the aroma of the red wine as you drink it.

The average red wine glass can hold about 10-22 ounces. Typically, 5-6 ounces of red wine is poured into each glass.

The extra room lets you swirl the wine around the glass to release its aromas. Your nostrils will pick up these aromas before sipping the wine.

Nevertheless, there are two styles of red wine. There are taller red wine glasses. These are narrower and often called Bordeaux glasses. Bordeaux glasses are perfect for wines with higher alcohol levels and full-bodied wines.

In contrast, there are also shorter wine glasses with wider mouths. These wine glasses are called Burgundy glasses. Burgundy glasses are best for wines with a lower alcohol profile and light-bodied wines.

Nevertheless, it does not matter which wine glass you choose. Hold the glass by the stem instead of the bowl if you go with stemmed glasses. 

The body’s temperature is warmer than the wine’s temperature, which means it can warm the wine too quickly.

Do You Put Red Wine in a Decanter?

You do not have to put red wine in a decanter, but it does make it better. Most people are intimidated by wine decanters. However, there is nothing about decanting wine to be intimidated by.

Decanters can enhance the flavors of robust wines by softening up the tannins. Decanters are also useful for removing sediments from older wines. The sediment will remain at the bottom of the decanter and won’t end up in your glass.

Decanters are also useful for aerating cheap wines. This trick makes a cheap wine taste like expensive red wine.

To use a decanter, pour the wine into the decanter and let it sit for at least 20 minutes. The decanter will allow the wine’s aroma and flavor to soften up, making it much better.

What Kind of Food Goes With Red Wine?

The tannins in red wine can leave your mouth feeling dry. This is why red wines pair really well with fatty foods. The fat softens up the tannings preventing them from incapacitating your palette. 

For this reason, wine and cheese will always be a classic pairing. Rich fatty foods made with lots of butter or olive oil and avocado pair really well with red wine.

Red wine is also perfect for celebrations. Since the menu is likely to consist of rich, filling foods, the red wine will cleanse your palette and prevent it from being overwhelmed by too many flavors.

Rich meat dishes or spicy dishes pair perfectly with full-bodied red wines. For example, Cabernet Sauvignon pairs perfectly with a ribeye or tomahawk steak.

Malbec works really well with fatty meats like brisket, pork shoulder, or any barbecued meat. Syrah is also a perfect pairing for spicy foods like curry, which are common in Thai cuisine.

Medium and light red wines pair better with lighter meals. For example, these wines pair perfectly with pasta, sauteed vegetables, fish, chicken, duck, cheese, and pizza.

Red wine can also pair with foods made in its region. For example, Italian wines Merlot or Syrah pair perfectly with Italian foods like tomato-based pasta.

How Do Beginners Drink Red Wine?

If you are a new red wine drinker, you may be nervous about having a glass of wine. Simply chill your red wine until it’s the perfect temperature, then open it. Pour the wine into a wine glass until it is half full. Remember, the extra room helps you get the full aroma of the wine, so do not overfill the glass. 

Swirl the red wine around the glass and inhale the aroma. Drink a small sip of the red wine.

Swirl the red wine around your mouth for 5 seconds, so your taste buds can experience the flavors of the wine. Swallow the red wine and pay attention to the residual flavors left in your mouth.

Final Thoughts

Hundreds if not thousands of red wines varieties exist. This guide covers a selected few of the best red wines.

Now that you’ve had your first lesson on red wine, you can use the information in this guide to help you pick the next red wine you drink.

There will be some red wines you love and some that you hate. The most important thing is finding a few red wines you like.

Remember to drink responsibly, use your palette as a guide, and most importantly, enjoy the red wine you are drinking.