At a dinner party last night, you took a sip of red wine that was packed in one of those fancy bottles. Afterwards, you could not get the flavor of the wine out of your head.
There were so many types of red wines lined across the counter. Merlot, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon.
What is the difference between all these wines? Is it the alcohol content? Is it the grape variety? Does it matter what corner of the world they are made in? You decide that you need a crash course on red wine for beginners.
By your next party visit, hopefully you become someone with more information about red wines than even the most professional wine drinkers.
Table of Contents
What Is Red Wine?
Red wine is essentially a wine made from dark color grape varietals. These can give the wines colors ranging from bodied reds to dark browns. The alcohol content that red wines contain can usually vary depending on several factors.
However, the alcohol can range from anywhere between 12-15%. Depending on different types of wine, one can see a change in color, texture, acidity, taste, etc.
When one thinks of wine, they think of Napa Valley. However, their roots can also be South Australian, or they could hail from Southern France.
If you are extremely keen, you can even do a course on red wine for beginners, which the University of Bordeaux offers. You can even understand the winemaking process in depth for hundreds of different wines.
You must know, it is imperative not to get carried away by the collection of red wines. Therefore, here is a guide for red wines for beginners that will introduce you to different flavors, grapes, words, and wines.
After this, you will be nothing less than a connoisseur in red wine.
What Are the Best Red Wines?
A range of brands exist for beginners, and it is important to know the difference. Some of these wines can be light bodied with a lower alcohol percentage. These wines go wonderfully well at a dinner party with a cheese platter.
Other red wines can also be full-bodied. This means that these wines have a rather dark red color and are enjoyed by wine lovers and those that can enjoy a greater amount of alcohol.
When it comes to red wines for beginners, Cabernet Sauvignon almost always tops the list. For beginners, this is the bottle that most people will recommend. This is because it is made of grapes that are commonly planted.
Some notable regions where this wine is available are the Napa Valley and Bordeaux.
Cabernet Sauvignon is a full-bodied wine; it is higher in viscosity and has high tannins. It is important to mention here that the viscosity describes the liquid’s thickness or texture and the mouthfeel. Thus, it would be fair to say that the Cabernet Sauvignon is the correct beginner’s choice.
Another critical determinant in wines is the tannin. It is these tannins that provide texture, weight, and structure to the wines. Therefore, a tannin is responsible for the drying sensation in your mouth.
A tannin can essentially be silky, plush, or velvety. It can also determine how long a wine bottle sits after the bottles have been opened.
If you love Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot is the next right choice for you. Both these wines are very similar in their body type and fruit. Therefore, they will entice a similar taste in your mouth.
Merlot is generally highly regarded for its fruit flavors of full-bodied black cherry, plum, vanilla, etc. These berry flavors also come in different varietals and can have varying amounts of alcohol.
Merlot wine contains 13.5% alcohol, but sometimes the content can be 14.5% alcohol as well. Depending upon the varietals and types, some alcoholic wines are a lot stronger on the mouth.
All bottles have wine labels which you must understand how to read. Each bottle comes with a range of information, such as what corner of the world the grapes come from and where the wine is sold.
Merlot, for instance, is a wine that is common in Bordeaux and comes with a low tannin level. The grapes grow easily and are coveted by wine drinkers across the world. In fact, this too is a great flavor for beginners to indulge in.
Grenache, commonly known by its Spanish name Garnacha, is an extremely widely planted red grape. It is the key ingredient for wines that are recommended for beginners.
Garnacha is known for its berry flavors and notes of white pepper. The Garnacha grape was birthed in the Northernmost region of Spain for usage in single varietal wines.
This is a kind of wine that is full-bodied and feels strong on the mouth. Garnacha wine can sometimes also have notes of blood orange. For beginners, the flavor of this wine will make a mouth-watering pair with spiced vegetables and roasted meat.
The reds of this wine sometimes arrive from baking spices and are produced in South Australian regions. However, one must be careful because these alcoholic wines need to be consumed in nominal amounts.
Several beginners tend to get confused between the wines Petite Sirah and the California Petite Sirah. However, there is a vast difference between these two, which you will now know.
Petite Sirah comes from grapes that were formerly found in France in the 1800s. It turns out that two reds cross-pollinated with each other, giving genesis to another grape, thus giving us this wine.
The tannin content for the Petite Sirah is extremely high, and so is its acidity. Petite Sirah wine, too, consists of bodied reds. This is a wine that is an amalgamation of different flavors and is an adventure within itself.
Soon enough, this wine reached California, and winemakers there thought it was a striking resemblance of a few reds of their own. Thus, they began calling it the California Petite Sirah.
Petite Sirah wines contain flavors of blueberry, spice, pepper, and chocolate. Every single flavor has distinctive notes that come along with it that linger in your mouth long after.
This, too, is a great option of wine for beginners!
Most people know that the Sauvignon Blanc is an extremely popular white wine rich with citrus flavors. However, what many people do not know about this wine is that it contributes to making the Cabernet Sauvignon.
This wine comes from the best-bodied reds and is a cross between Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc.
While the Sauvignon Blanc is a light-bodied wine, with alcohol under 12.5, it can sometimes also be medium-bodied. However, the body of the wine, as one would guess, is full-bodied. The most common flavors are fruits like plum, cherry, and blackberry.
When talking about tannins, this wine has a high tannin content and is also extremely age worthy. Furthermore, it is also grown in almost every major wine-producing country and region due to its high demand.
These characteristics make this a trendy wine choice for beginners.
Zinfandel is another red wine type that is highly revered. It is also a popular name when it comes to dessert wines. This wine is a light-bodied one and has only 9-10% alcohol. Since the body of this wine is also very light, it is not very acidic.
Furthermore, Zinfandel wines also have a pleasing sweet taste that makes them great wines for beginners.
The Zinfandel consists of flavors such as jam, blueberry, cherry, plum, etc. The adventure here lies in the explosion you will feel when you try Zinfandel for the first time. This wine is moderate in tannin, and the Zinfandel grape is the only one in the world that has a festival solely dedicated to it.
The notes of this wine consist of exotic spices and peppers, making Zinfandel a delight to the senses. While this wine originated from Croatia, it is also widespread in California and Dalmatia. These reasons make Zinfandel a great choice of wine one must try in their lives.
Tread lightly with this wine! Because of the body and acidity content of this wine, it is an extremely famous choice among first timers. The Australian Shiraz wine comes from the prevalent grape Shiraz, which was obviously found in Australia, called Mclaren Vale.
These wines are made of dark-skinned, cherry sauce grapes and taste wonderful.
Furthermore, what is interesting is that the Australian Shiraz has notes that have a range of flavors from bacon, herb to reds and blacks. This gives the wine an edgy feel. These wines are rather elegant, lean, and savory.
What are you waiting for? Try the Shiraz right away!
How can one speak about wines without talking about the Pinot Noir? This is the world’s most popular light-bodied red wine. Pinot Noir wine has an extremely accentuated finish, brought about by flowers, fruits, spices, etc.
Pinot noir wines are made from grapes of the same name and are popular in many regions around the world. Some of these include Oregon and Burgundy, where they are also consumed in large amounts. These wines are a great choice for hardcore wine enthusiasts and even for beginners.
While the name of this wine can be extremely tricky on the tongue, understanding it is not so hard. This is a red wine made from grapes found in the Beaujolais region of France. The way this wine is created involves the grapes being released almost immediately after harvest.
These are rather simple wines, and the term Nouveau means ‘new’ in French. This way, understanding where these wines come from is also easy. Since the Beaujolais Nouveau is lighter, it has lost its popularity. However, it is a great choice for you to try once.
The Mourvedre, Monastrell in native Spain, is a black-skinned wine grown in the Western Mediterranian for years and years. The Monastrell wine is now grown hugely in France, Australia, and California.
It has a very distinctive meaty and herby aroma, making it extremely high in tannin. However, this variety was most popular in the 1800s; it still holds a great amount of prestige due to its history. In Australia and California, it is called Mataro, and the Monastrell here is rather rich in fruit content.
Last but not the least is the Carménère. This wine is produced from a wide variety of grapes originally found in Bordeaux, France. It was historically used to produce deep red wines and seldom also for blending. Some notable regions where the Carménère is produced are Chile, Washington, Italy, and California.
It is a medium-bodied wine, and the berries used here are rather like those found in Merlot. It has a medium tannin level and a medium to high alcohol level. These grapes are harvested in almost 2800 acres due to the demands for them across the world.
They have a striking taste of the raspberry sauce and sour cherries, making it hit you from the first sip.
This, too, is a great option to try along with some food. The end taste could be a bittersweet one, so beginners should be careful.
Summing Up the Best Red Wine for Beginners
Now that you know all about wines, you might go ahead and call yourself a connoisseur. What is surprising, though, is that not every wine is for everyone.
Some of these flavors might seem downright undrinkable to you, while some you may grow accustomed to even after the first try. Similarly, you might also take some time and patience to get used to the others.
Also, keep in mind that not all drinks are for everybody. However, there is a certain charm and fun that comes with sipping wine from a long-stemmed glass.
Now that you know all about the different terms of wines and where they originate from, why not go ahead, and throw yourself a party?
This will give you a chance to bring out all the different varieties and be a great opportunity to increase your beginner-level skills to that of a professional. Go ahead and show off those well-earned skills.