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Red Wine

Learn about red wine — the range of styles, how it’s made and more ...

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What are the types and styles of red wine?

There are hundreds of types of red wine varieties in commercial use, from light and finessed to bold and structured, however, only about 35 varieties contribute to the majority of red wine production. The most grown grape varieties are:

How is red wine made?

To make red wine, the pressed grape juice is left in contact with its skins—a process called maceration—to draw out color, tannins and phenols (compounds responsible for the complex aromas and flavors in wine). With fermentation complete, the wine is aged in tank or barrel. Short aging results in a fresh, fruity red. To allow time for flavors to integrate, more complex wines need to age longer, often in oak barrels, which may impart notes of toast, vanilla or coconut.

What gives red wine its color?

Grape juice is almost colorless. Color comes from maceration, when the juice is left in contact with grape skins. Longer macerations result in deeper red tones, but grape variety hues vary. For example, wines made from Nebbiolo are pale garnet, Merlot is bright ruby and Syrah opaque purple.

How do you serve red wine?

Temperature is key. Aim for 55° F to 60° F for lighter reds and 60° F to 65° F for fuller ones. A wine served too cold will be muted. Serve it warm and it will taste too alcoholic. If you have a wine fridge or cellar, you’re set. If not, place the bottle in your refrigerator for 20-30 minutes prior to serving. Next, some reds benefit from a few minutes or more of aeration in a decanter. This exposes the wine to oxygen, which helps release the compounds responsible for aroma and taste. As for drinking red wines, the best glasses have a stem and a bowl large enough to allow proper swirling to allow release of aromas. Fill your glass no more than halfway.

How long does red wine last?

Opened and re-corked, a bottle will stay fresh in your fridge for one to two days, a bit longer for more tannic reds. (We have ideas for what to do with leftover red wine if you don’t get back to it quickly). Unopened, red wines stay good for one year to several decades. Optimal storage means bottles lay on their sides in a moderately humid environment at 57° F, but assessing how long to age a bottle is complicated. Seek a wine professional for advice if you are unsure.

Pairing red wine with food

These guidelines will help you make the most of red wine pairing options.

  • If a sauce is involved, focus more on that than the protein. For example, considering Coq Au Vin, play off the pancetta, mushrooms and wine with an earthy Pinot Noir.
  • Match intensity levels, i.e. a bold red with a bold dish, lighter with lighter. Spice-rubbed lamb kabobs go perfectly with a bold Syrah from Columbia Valley, Washington.
  • A highly tannic red pairs well with fatty foods. Dolcetto is amazing with a cheese and charcuterie plate.
  • High acid foods call for high acid wines. Ever wonder Barbera and Sangiovese are so ubiquitous in Italy? As high acid wines, both are perfect matches to anything involving tomato sauce.
  • Beware of dry red with dessert! Your wine should be sweeter than the treat. Try Tawny Port with dark chocolate for a match made in heaven.

While every U.S. state produces wine, the most famous and popular regions remain those on the west coast:

  • Napa Valley. First commercial winery 1861. Cabernet.
  • Sonoma County. Since mid-1800’s. Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Cabernet.
  • Paso Robles. 1880’s. Cabernet, Zinfandel and Rhone varieties.
  • Santa Rita Hills. 1971. Pinot Noir.
  • Willamette Valley, Oregon. 1965. Pinot Noir.
  • Columbia Valley, Washington (and part of northern Oregon). 1860’s. Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet.

Worldwide, wine destinations abound, with the most venerated in Europe. The last four are popular New World regions.

  • Bordeaux, France. As early as 60 BC. Based on Merlot and Cabernet.
  • Burgundy, France. From 2nd century AD. Pinot Noir.
  • Tuscany, Italy. From 8th century BC. Based on Sangiovese, plus “Super Tuscans” made with other reds.
  • Rioja, Spain. From 11th century BC. Based on Tempranillo.
  • Stellenbosch, South Africa. 1680’s. Cabernet, Merlot, Shiraz, Pinotage.
  • Mendoza, Argentina. Late 1800’s. Malbec and others.
  • Colchagua Valley, Chile. 1870’s. Cabernet, Merlot and Carmenere.
  • Barossa Valley, Australia. 1842. Shiraz and others.

Sweet red wine

Whether light and effervescent (e.g., Lambrusco and Brachetto d’Acqui) or bold and fortified (Port and Bual Madeira), sweet red wines can be terrific on their own or with a range of desserts.

Dry red wine

A dry red occurs when fermentation continues until most or all grape sugars have been converted to alcohol. Most common red wines on the shelf – Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, etc.—are dry wines.

Smoothest red wine

Red wines are perceived as smooth when their tannins are either naturally low, have been carefully managed by the winemaker or have partially fallen out of suspension due to aging. Red varieties with lower tannins include Pinot Noir, Grenache, Gamay, Barbera and Corvina.

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  • Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2017  Front Label
    Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
    Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California
    • WW93
    4.4 38 Ratings
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  • Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon 2018  Front Label
    Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
    Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, California
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    • WS91
    • JD90
    4.4 261 Ratings
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  • Caymus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (1 Liter Bottle) 2019  Front Label
    Caymus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (1 Liter Bottle) 2019
    Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, California
    • WW93
    • WS92
    4.6 92 Ratings
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  • Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 2017  Front Label
    Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
    Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, California
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    • Bodegas Vega Sicilia Unico Tinto 2010  Front Label
      Bodegas Vega Sicilia Unico Tinto 2010
      Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero, Spain
      • JS99
      • D98
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      • WS96
      • W&S93
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    • Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon 2018  Front Label
      Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
      Cabernet Sauvignon from St. Helena, Napa Valley, California
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      • JS94
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    • Belle Glos Las Alturas Vineyard Pinot Noir 2019  Front Label
      Belle Glos Las Alturas Vineyard Pinot Noir 2019
      Pinot Noir from Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey, Central Coast, California
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      • WW91
      4.4 54 Ratings
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    • Duckhorn Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2018  Front Label
      Duckhorn Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
      Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, California
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      4.4 64 Ratings
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    • Faust Cabernet Sauvignon 2018  Front Label
      Faust Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
      Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, California
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      4.4 212 Ratings
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    • Chateau de Panigon  2016  Front Label
      Chateau de Panigon 2016
      Bordeaux Red Blends from Medoc, Bordeaux, France
      • D95
      • WE90
      4.0 293 Ratings
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    • Continuum  2018  Front Label
      Continuum 2018
      Bordeaux Red Blends from Napa Valley, California
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      • JS100
      4.7 39 Ratings
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    • Joseph Phelps Cabernet Sauvignon 2018  Front Label
      Joseph Phelps Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
      Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, California
      • JS96
      • V93
      • WS93
      • WW92
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      • RP92
      • CG90
      4.3 91 Ratings
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    • Shafer One Point Five Cabernet Sauvignon 2018  Front Label
      Shafer One Point Five Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
      Cabernet Sauvignon from Stags Leap District, Napa Valley, California
      • WE97
      • JD95
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      • D91
      4.1 26 Ratings
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    • Decoy California Cabernet Sauvignon 2019  Front Label
      Decoy California Cabernet Sauvignon 2019
      Cabernet Sauvignon from California
      • WW89
      4.0 120 Ratings
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    • The Prisoner Wine Company The Prisoner 2019  Front Label
      The Prisoner Wine Company The Prisoner 2019
      Other Red Blends from California
      • WW93
      4.5 366 Ratings
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    • Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2018  Front Label
      Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
      Cabernet Sauvignon from Maipo Valley, Chile
      • JS100
      • TA98
      • W&S96
      • V96
      • WS95
      4.2 43 Ratings
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    • DAOU Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2019  Front Label
      DAOU Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2019
      Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles, Central Coast, California
      • RP92
      • WE92
      • JD90
      4.1 262 Ratings
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    • Joseph Phelps Insignia 2018  Front Label
      Joseph Phelps Insignia 2018
      Bordeaux Red Blends from Napa Valley, California
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      • RP97
      • JD97
      • WS94
      4.3 9 Ratings
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    • Lemelson Thea's Select Pinot Noir 2018  Front Label
      Lemelson Thea's Select Pinot Noir 2018
      Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley, Oregon
      • JS93
      3.7 27 Ratings
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    • Hess Allomi Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 Front Label
      Hess Allomi Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
      Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, California
      • JS92
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      4.2 224 Ratings
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    • CADE Howell Mountain Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2017  Front Label
      CADE Howell Mountain Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
      Cabernet Sauvignon from Howell Mountain, Napa Valley, California
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      • RP94
      • WW93
      • WS93
      4.6 93 Ratings
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    • Tenuta di Nozzole Chianti Classico Riserva 2017  Front Label
      Tenuta di Nozzole Chianti Classico Riserva 2017
      Sangiovese from Chianti Classico, Chianti, Tuscany, Italy
      • JS95
      • RP91
      4.0 578 Ratings
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    • Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2018  Front Label
      Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
      Cabernet Sauvignon from Columbia Valley, Washington
      • D100
      • RP98
      • JD98
      • JS98
      • WE98
      4.6 10 Ratings
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    • Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon 2017  Front Label
      Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
      Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California
      • WW92
      4.2 6 Ratings
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    • Martin Ray Synthesis Cabernet Sauvignon 2019  Front Label
      Martin Ray Synthesis Cabernet Sauvignon 2019
      Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, California
      • JS93
      • WW92
      4.3 78 Ratings
      Price per bottle
      Currently Unavailable $34.99
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