Being a red wine enthusiast is not as simple as taking a sip of different kinds of wine, picking the sweetest tasting one and calling it a day. A real wine expert knows the difference between the taste and the flavor of a wine, how to detect faults in a wine, and identifying the fruit flavors in it. In this article, you will learn the basics that you need to get started into the business of drinking wine.
But before we get to that, here are the most common terms that you will encounter in your journey and what they mean.
Acidity – The crispness in the wine that activates the salivary glands
Aeration – The addition of oxygen that softens a wine
Aging – Holding wine in barrels and bottles to get them to a more desirable state
Body – Light body, medium body, or full body – the difference in the way the wine feels in your mouth, and is affected mainly by alcohol content
Dry – This means that the wine has no added or residual sugars, and is a taste sensation attributed to tannins
Fermentation – The process of converting grape sugars to alcohol with the use of yeast
Mouth-feel – How the wine feels on the palate – rough, smooth, or velvety
Oaky – The taste that refers to the smells and flavors of vanilla, spices, coconut, and mocha
Tannins – The compound in wine that makes it bitter, dry, or puckery in the mouth
Vintage – Refers to the year the wine is bottled
Now that we have gone over the most common wine terms, let us review the different kinds of red wine:
- Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most popular kinds of red wine. It is produced around the world, and its grapes are grown in Bordeaux, France, and Napa Valley, California. Cabernet is usually a full-bodied wine with a heavy flavor of berries. It is high in alcohol and often come with hints of coffee, toffee, and vanilla.
This red wine is usually classified as a dry wine. It pairs well with steak, ribs, and roasted potatoes.
- Pinot Noir
Another popular red wine, Pinot Noir is grown in France, California, Oregon, and Washington. It usually has flavors of vanilla and has oaky overtones. It is classified as a medium-light bodied wine. It is also considered as a moderately dry wine.
Pinot Noir is best paired with salmon, mushrooms, and pork roast.
Malbec is one of France’s most popular wines. It is a rich, full bodied wine that has a dark and berry flavor. It is considered by many as a dry wine that is a perfect partner to grilled meat, pizza, and tomato sauce-based pasta.
Ranked second to Cabernet Sauvignon as the most popular type of red wine, it is produced around the world and its grapes are fifth most planted. It tastes fresh and fruity, with notes of vanilla and mocha. It is a dry and full bodied wine.
Merlot complements chicken and fish dishes well.
When produced in France, shiraz is known as syrah or sirah. It is a medium-full bodied wine. It has a smooth mouth-feel and flavors of black cherry, blackberry, licorice, and dark chocolate. It is the perfect drink to complement grilled vegetables, lamb, and sausage.
How to Taste Wine
Not everyone has the ability to differentiate the tastes of wine, but one can improve their wine palate by following these 4 simple steps.
- Look – The first step is to simply look at the wine. A wine’s quality is often revealed in its appearance. Check out its color, opacity, and its viscosity.
- Smell – When smelling wine, don’t try to find specific notes the first time. Look for the smell of fruits first. Are there citrus fruits? Tropical fruits? Berries?
- Taste – After using your eyes and your nose, now is the time to use your tongue. Taste the wine and look for saltiness, sweetness, or bitterness in there. Then, feel the texture of the wine. A wine can be smooth, velvety, or rough, and that is determined by the tannins and its alcohol content. Then, determine how long it takes for the flavor of the wine to disappear.
- Conclude – This is where you determine whether the wine is balanced or not. Is it too acidic? Too alcoholic? Did you like it? Is is unique in taste?
Red Wine for Beginners to Try
When you’re just getting started, it is understandable that you might not like dry wine. Here are a few options for the best sweet red wine for beginners.
Yalumba Museum Reserve Antique Tawny Non-Vintage Wine
Yalumba Museum Reserve is an old dessert wine with an aroma of wood aged rancio, elegant brandy spirit, and hints of dried fruits and spices. It has a firm rich texture and flavors of chocolate and caramel, and is great for beginners in wine drinking as it is sweet and balanced.
Cockburns Fine Ruby Port
This red wine has a medium-sweet taste and is perfect for special occasions. It has 20% alcohol volume and is best served at room temperature.
Paul Masson Madeira
Paul Masson Madeira is an affordable non-vintage option for a sweet red wine. Madeira are fortified Portuguese wines made with red and white grapes, and is best as a dessert drink. It has a tawny color and fruity aroma.
Carlo Pellegrino Marsala Superiore Dolce Garibaldi
Marsala is a fortified Italian wine made with red and white grapes. It is ruby red in color and it can be sweet to very sweet in taste. Carlo Pellegrino Marsala is rich and dark, and has a hint of wood and caramel. It is best paired with chocolate and chocolate-based desserts.
Lombardo Marsala Fine IP Ambra Sweet
Another Marsala wine, Lombardo offers this amber-colored wine aged in a barrel for at least a whole year. It is intensely sweet and is best paired with desserts. It is also best served refrigerated.