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Red Wine: A Beginner’s Guide

A glass of red wine can taste different from another glass of red wine. You probably have consumed numerous bottles of red wines, yet you still don’t understand much about it because let’s face it; wine can be intimidating.

You may want so bad to join the bandwagon and be an expert wine drinker. But red wine’s different types and varieties with their food pairings can be too overwhelming for you. Fortunately, with a basic understanding of what red wine is, you will easily find yourself enjoying it more, even hosting your very own wine party!

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

What is Red Wine?

Red wine is made from red grapes, which is also the source of its reddish shades. The stems of grapes are removed. Once destemmed, they are pressed with the skin and seeds, either by stomping feet or machine. Then the juices are fermented with sulfur dioxide. After fermenting, if the winemaker wants oaked red wine, he/she will place it inside an oak barrel. If not, then he will bottle it immediately after fermentation.


You may have heard of this term a lot. Red wines are measured through tannins to determine the boldness and the alcohol level. Full-bodied red wines have high tannins and more alcohol content. Light-bodied red wines have lower tannins and lower alcohol content. The boldness of the wine also depends on the grape used and where it is planted.

Light-bodied red wines are light to the taste and do not leave a sharp pucker in the mouth. These wines are perfect for white wine drinkers who are looking to transition into red wines. Medium-bodied red wines are not too light and not too bold.

Also, this wine is ideal if you do not want lighter varieties but still do not want an intense pucker in the mouth. Full-bodied ones have high tannins and leave an intense pucker in the mouth.

The Common Variety of Red Wine

If you want to know more about red wines, here are some of their common types:

  1. Cabernet Sauvignon

This red wine is the most common and famous red wine in the world. It is widely produced in Bordeaux and Napa Valley that has flavors of black cherry, plum, and dark berries. It can also have traces of herbs, vanilla, mint, cedar, and oak.

The flavor also depends on where it is planted. Those from Tuscany and Bordeaux are always blended and have high tannins. Those from Napa Valley are dense and have hints of black cherries and currants. Those from Washington taste like a combination of Napa and Bordeaux, resulting in hints of herb, olive, and leaf flavors.

It is a full-bodied red wine, which is perfectly paired with heavy and hearty dishes. These include beef tenderloin steaks, ribs, steak, sausage, and heavy cheeses. Cab bottles to try are Beringer Knights Valley, Hogue, and Los Vascos.

  1. Cabernet Franc

It is a less distinctive variety compared to Cabernet Sauvignon. It is commonly used for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to create world-class Bordeaux wines, but it can still stand on its own. It is made from a black grape that has a big grape flavor with strong notes of pepper. It also has wafts of tobacco, bell pepper, and raspberry flavors.

The grapes used are widely planted in Washington state, which produces medium-bodied red wines with bright red fruit flavors and the right amount of acidity. Another place that provides Cab Franc is the Loire Valley in France, where the Cab Franc is lighter.

Its ripe tannins are perfect for pasta with red sauces, like spaghetti and meatballs. Its high tannins and acidity will perfectly complement tomato sauces. Try a bottle of Olivier Cousin, Broc Cellars, or a vintage bottle of Petrus.

  1. Merlot

This wine is one of the most popular varieties of the Bordeaux region, but are also planted in California and Washington. It is considerably softer and plumper than Cabs, with fruit flavors of cherry and sweet fruit.

Merlots from Bordeaux are blended with Cabernet Sauvignon to tone down its tannins. Those from California and Washington tend to be full-bodied and has cherry-like flavors. Washington Merlots are hailed to be the best wine that Washington produces.

Because of the soft and mild flavor of Merlot, it is perfectly paired with beef, pork, turkey, burgers, and vegetables. The bottles to look for are Blackstone, Clos Du Bois, Canoe Ridge, and Forest Glen.

  1. Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir comes next to Cabernet Sauvignon in terms of popularity. The grapes used are widely found in Burgundy, Oregon, California, and many other regions. But the best Pinot Noir is made in Burgundy, France.

It is a silky smooth wine with hints of beetroot, tomato leaf, blackberry, and plum, which makes it versatile and can be paired with salmon, various meats, tuna, and poultry dishes. The bottles to try are Cloudline, Stoneleigh, and Gallo of Sonoma.

How to Serve

Red wines are best served chilled, slightly below room temperature. You can chill the wine in a wine chiller or a bucket with ice. It is best served during dinner time when meats, fishes, or dense cheeses are served on the table.


Red wines are intimidating. Knowing the difference can be difficult, but after reading this article, you now know the different types of red wine. Always remember to serve them chilled with the dishes that they best pair with mentioned above.