Red wine gets it color from the skin of the grape. Grapes are actually white on the inside with pigments in the skin, often referred to as tannins. Tannins give the wine its color when soaked in the skins while in the tanks or barrel.
Research conducted on red wine concludes that tannins contain antioxidants such as polyphenols, saponin, and resveratrol. It is widely thought that these components help the breakdown of cholesterol, fats and provide nutrients when consumed in moderation.
There are many colors of wine. Reds all start off white, and with added skins are transformed into a rose, blush, white zinfandel, reds and port. The difference between a full blown red and a pink or rose wine is the time which skins are soaked in the juice. This can range for a short period that ranges from several hours to days to months.
A notable characteristic of reds vs. whites is the body or weight of the wine in the pallet. Red wines have more texture than white wines as tiny tannins swirl around and create a coating around the tongue and roof of the mouth. The adjective commonly used to describe this texture is velvety or minerality.
There are many red wine varietals however the most popular include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Syrah, Shiraz, Grenache and Zinfandel. They are often blended to produce interesting and unique flavor styles such as Meritage, Chateauneuf du Pape or Claret. Red wines are not only classified by their varietal, but often are also classified by their region too, i.e. Bordeaux or Chianti. Bordeaux is made of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot grapes and comes from the Bordeaux region of France. Chianti is an Italian wine that comes from the Chianti region of Tuscany. To get an in-depth breakdown of each of the key red wine varietals, view our Popular Red Wine Varietals page.
The body of a wine is directly related to the amount of tannins in the wine. Different styles body styles give the wine a different feel in your mouth.
Full-bodied – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Super Tuscans, Bordeaux Blends, Shiraz
Medium-bodied – Barolo, Barbaresco, Merlot, Chianti, Syrah
Light-body – Pinot Noir, Sangiovese
Red wines are often classified by region. For example a Rhone blend could be a blend of Syrah, Mourvedre and Grenache. Super Tuscans are blends of Cabernet, Merlot, Sangiovese. Chianti Classico, which is comprised of Sangiovese, Canaiolo, and Malvasia and required to maintain at least 80% Sangiovese grape levels within.
France, Spain and Italy were the first countries to impose strict laws on how wines can be made and what they can be called. This system of classification is designed to promote uniformity in winemaking, specific to appellation or terroir. The most famous of all is Bordeaux, which has 60 appellations. Production on the left bank is comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and on occasions Malbec. On the left bank, in a small village called St. Emilion, Merlot and Cabernet Franc dominate in red wine production. Pomerol, which produces some of the most expensive, highly sought after wines, is produced using the Merlot varietal.
In the United States, we have hundreds of AVA’s (American Viticultural Areas) where wines can be produced using a multitude of blends, however each area does have a specific terroir that is suitable for a specific red wine or blend of red wines.
The best way to choose a red wine is to buy based on your appetite. Darker wines are best consumed with foods and as such should be selected based on your desired taste profile. Many sommeliers will select their drink based on body, acidity; and whether they are looking for something old world or new world (old world = earthiness, new world = fruit forward)
Red Wine is great out of deep glasses with a heavier more round bowl. The reason being that most red wines, straight out of the bottle do require some breathing time in the glass. Oxygen allows for the fruit to display and the bouquet or nose to present itself to the consumer in a more tasteful, teasing manner.