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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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  • Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour Private Reserve 1980
    Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, California
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    • Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1980 Front Label
      Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1980
      Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, California
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      • Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 1980 Front Label
        Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 1980
        Cabernet Sauvignon from Calistoga, Napa Valley, California
        • RP91
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        149 97
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      • Kenwood Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon 1980 Front Label
        Kenwood Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon 1980
        Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma County, California
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        • Inglenook Rubicon 1980
          Bordeaux Red Blends from Napa Valley, California
          • WS92
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          89 99
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        • R. Lopez de Heredia Rioja Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva 1980 Front Label
          R. Lopez de Heredia Rioja Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva 1980
          Tempranillo from Rioja, Spain
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            Currently Unavailable $244.99
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          • Bertani Amarone Classico 1980 Front Label
            Bertani Amarone Classico 1980
            Other Red Blends from Veneto, Italy
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            • Opus One (corroded capsules) 1980 Front Label
              Opus One (corroded capsules) 1980
              Bordeaux Red Blends from Oakville, Napa Valley, California
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              • Opus One  1980 Front Label
                Opus One 1980
                Bordeaux Red Blends from Oakville, Napa Valley, California
                • D100
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                459 97
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              • Silver Oak Napa Valley Bonny's Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 1980 Front Label
                Silver Oak Napa Valley Bonny's Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 1980
                Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, California
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                  149
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                • Chateau Pavie  1980 Front Label
                  Chateau Pavie 1980
                  Bordeaux Red Blends from St. Emilion, Bordeaux, France
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                    Currently Unavailable $129.00
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                    129
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                  • Duckhorn Napa Valley Merlot 1980  Front Label
                    Duckhorn Napa Valley Merlot 1980
                    Merlot from Napa Valley, California
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                      Currently Unavailable $48.99
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                    • Clos Du Val Cabernet Sauvignon 1980  Front Label
                      Clos Du Val Cabernet Sauvignon 1980
                      Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, California
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                        Currently Unavailable $99.99
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                      • Mas Amiel Millesime 1980 Front Label
                        Mas Amiel Millesime 1980
                        Grenache from Languedoc, South of France, France
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                          58 99
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                        • Caves Sao Joao Porta dos Cavaleiros Tinto 1980 Front Label
                          Caves Sao Joao Porta dos Cavaleiros Tinto 1980
                          Other Red Blends from Dao, Portugal
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                            Currently Unavailable $36.99
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                          • Gaja Barbaresco 1980  Front Label
                            Gaja Barbaresco 1980
                            Nebbiolo from Barbaresco, Piedmont, Italy
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                              Currently Unavailable $133.99
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                            • Pio Cesare Barbaresco 1980  Front Label
                              Pio Cesare Barbaresco 1980
                              Nebbiolo from Barbaresco, Piedmont, Italy
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                                Currently Unavailable $65.99
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                                65 99
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                              • Ridge York Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 1980  Front Label
                                Ridge York Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 1980
                                Cabernet Sauvignon from Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley, California
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                                  Currently Unavailable $191.99
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                                • Antinori Tignanello 1980
                                  Tuscan Blends from Tuscany, Italy
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                                    Currently Unavailable $181.99
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                                    181 99
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                                  • Heitz Cellar Martha's Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 1980  Front Label
                                    Heitz Cellar Martha's Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 1980
                                    Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, California
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                                      Currently Unavailable $323.99
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                                      323 99
                                      323 99
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                                    • Bodegas Muga Gran Reserva 1980 Front Label
                                      Bodegas Muga Gran Reserva 1980
                                      Tempranillo from Rioja, Spain
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                                        Currently Unavailable $128.99
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                                        128 99
                                        128 99
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                                      • CVNE Imperial Gran Reserva 1980  Front Label
                                        CVNE Imperial Gran Reserva 1980
                                        Tempranillo from Rioja, Spain
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                                          Currently Unavailable $70.99
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                                        • Pio Cesare Barolo 1980  Front Label
                                          Pio Cesare Barolo 1980
                                          Nebbiolo from Barolo, Piedmont, Italy
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                                            Currently Unavailable $62.99
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                                            62 99
                                            62 99
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                                          • Borgogno Barolo 1980  Front Label
                                            Borgogno Barolo 1980
                                            Nebbiolo from Barolo, Piedmont, Italy
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                                              Currently Unavailable $101.99
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                                              101 99
                                              101 99
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                                            • Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon 1980
                                              Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California
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                                                Currently Unavailable $109.97
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                                                109 97
                                                109 97
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