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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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  • Chateau Haut Peyruguet  2018  Front Label
    Chateau Haut Peyruguet 2018
    Bordeaux Red Blends from Bordeaux, France
    • JS91
    4.0 121 Ratings
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  • Chateau de Panigon  2016  Front Label
    Chateau de Panigon 2016
    Bordeaux Red Blends from Medoc, Bordeaux, France
    • D95
    • WE90
    4.1 296 Ratings
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  • Chateau Haut-Colombier  2018  Front Label
    Chateau Haut-Colombier 2018
    Bordeaux Red Blends from Bordeaux, France
    • JS91
    • WE91
    4.1 126 Ratings
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  • Sur de los Andes Malbec Cabernet Sauvignon Premium Blend 2017  Front Label
    Sur de los Andes Malbec Cabernet Sauvignon Premium Blend 2017
    Bordeaux Red Blends from Mendoza, Argentina
    • WE92
    • JS91
    3.9 258 Ratings
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  • Feudo Maccari Nero d'Avola 2018  Front Label
    Feudo Maccari Nero d'Avola 2018
    Nero d'Avola from Sicily, Italy
    • V90
    3.9 57 Ratings
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  • Chateau La Perriere Lussac St.-Emilion 2016  Front Label
    Chateau La Perriere Lussac St.-Emilion 2016
    Bordeaux Red Blends from Bordeaux, France
    • WE91
    5.0 14 Ratings
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  • High Valley Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2019  Front Label
    High Valley Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2019
    Cabernet Sauvignon from High Valley, Lake County, North Coast, California
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    • Sur de los Andes Reserva Malbec 2016  Front Label
      Sur de los Andes Reserva Malbec 2016
      Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina
      • JS91
      4.1 197 Ratings
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    • Chateau de Ribebon Bordeaux Superieur 2016  Front Label
      Chateau de Ribebon Bordeaux Superieur 2016
      Bordeaux Red Blends from Bordeaux, France
      • JS91
      3.8 441 Ratings
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    • Chateau Hyot  2015 Front Label
      Chateau Hyot 2015
      Bordeaux Red Blends from Cotes de Castillon, Bordeaux, France
      • JS90
      3.7 158 Ratings
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    • Chateau German  2018  Front Label
      Chateau German 2018
      Bordeaux Red Blends from Cotes de Castillon, Bordeaux, France
      • JS90
      3.7 102 Ratings
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    • Scott Family Estate Arroyo Seco Pinot Noir 2017  Front Label
      Scott Family Estate Arroyo Seco Pinot Noir 2017
      Pinot Noir from Arroyo Seco, Monterey, Central Coast, California
      • WE91
      3.5 20 Ratings
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    • Merf Cabernet Sauvignon 2017  Front Label
      Merf Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
      Cabernet Sauvignon from Columbia Valley, Washington
        4.1 9 Ratings
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      • Chateau Coutet St. Emilion  2017 Front Label
        Chateau Coutet St. Emilion 2017
        Bordeaux Red Blends from St. Emilion, Bordeaux, France
        • WE90
        4.8 17 Ratings
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      • Shannon Ridge High Elevation Cabernet Sauvignon 2019  Front Label
        Shannon Ridge High Elevation Cabernet Sauvignon 2019
        Cabernet Sauvignon from Lake County, North Coast, California
          3.9 40 Ratings
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        • Foley Johnson Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2018  Front Label
          Foley Johnson Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
          Cabernet Sauvignon from Rutherford, Napa Valley, California
          • W&S92
          • WS90
          • WE90
          3.5 21 Ratings
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        • Adriano Marco e Vittorio Basarin Barbaresco 2017  Front Label
          Adriano Marco e Vittorio Basarin Barbaresco 2017
          Nebbiolo from Barbaresco, Piedmont, Italy
          • WE93
          4.0 108 Ratings
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        • Eguren Ugarte Cosecha 2019  Front Label
          Eguren Ugarte Cosecha 2019
          Tempranillo from Rioja, Spain
            4.1 56 Ratings
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          • Purple Heart Red Wine 2016  Front Label
            Purple Heart Red Wine 2016
            Bordeaux Red Blends from Sonoma County, California
              3.5 25 Ratings
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            • Lincourt Rancho Santa Rosa Pinot Noir 2017  Front Label
              Lincourt Rancho Santa Rosa Pinot Noir 2017
              Pinot Noir from Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Barbara, Central Coast, California
              • WE94
              3.5 45 Ratings
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            • Steele Cabernet Franc 2018  Front Label
              Steele Cabernet Franc 2018
              Cabernet Franc from Lake County, North Coast, California
                3.4 10 Ratings
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              • Parducci True Grit Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2017  Front Label
                Parducci True Grit Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
                Cabernet Sauvignon from Mendocino, California
                • WW90
                3.8 287 Ratings
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              • Schug Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2019  Front Label
                Schug Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2019
                Pinot Noir from Sonoma Coast, Sonoma County, California
                • TP92
                • WW91
                • JS91
                3.8 313 Ratings
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              • Parducci True Grit Reserve Petite Sirah 2019  Front Label
                Parducci True Grit Reserve Petite Sirah 2019
                Petite Sirah from Mendocino, California
                • WE92
                3.9 55 Ratings
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              • Seven Hills Winery Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2016  Front Label
                Seven Hills Winery Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
                Cabernet Sauvignon from Columbia Valley, Washington
                  4.4 9 Ratings
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