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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. Since dry wines have little to no residual sugar, they also have fewer calories, especially when comparing them to Champagne and sparkling 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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  • Maison Champy Mazis Chambertin Grand Cru (1.5 Liter Magnum) 2005  Front Label
    Maison Champy Mazis Chambertin Grand Cru (1.5 Liter Magnum) 2005
    Pinot Noir from Gevrey-Chambertin, Cote de Nuits, Cote d'Or, Burgundy, France
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    • Maybach Family Vineyards Materium 2005 Front Label
      Maybach Family Vineyards Materium 2005
      Cabernet Sauvignon from Oakville, Napa Valley, California
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    • Chateau Montrose (1.5 Liter Magnum) 2005 Front Label
      Chateau Montrose (1.5 Liter Magnum) 2005
      Bordeaux Red Blends from St. Estephe, Bordeaux, France
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    • Philip Togni Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 Front Label
      Philip Togni Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
      Cabernet Sauvignon from Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley, California
      • RP92
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    • Seven Stones Cabernet Sauvignon 2005  Front Label
      Seven Stones Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
      Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, California
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      • WS91
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    • Clarendon Hills Hickinbotham Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 Front Label
      Clarendon Hills Hickinbotham Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
      Cabernet Sauvignon from McLaren Vale, South Australia, Australia
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      • WE92
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    • Chateau Cos d'Estournel  2005 Front Label
      Chateau Cos d'Estournel 2005
      Bordeaux Red Blends from St. Estephe, Bordeaux, France
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      • D93
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    • Hundred Acre Ancient Way Vineyard Summer's Block Shiraz 2005  Front Label
      Hundred Acre Ancient Way Vineyard Summer's Block Shiraz 2005
      Syrah/Shiraz from Barossa Valley, Barossa, South Australia, Australia
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    • Kobalt Wines Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 Front Label
      Kobalt Wines Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
      Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, California
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    • Danielle & Richard Dubois  Cotes de Castillon Arthemis Red 2005  Front Label
      Danielle & Richard Dubois Cotes de Castillon Arthemis Red 2005
      Bordeaux Red Blends from Cotes de Castillon, Bordeaux, France
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      • Hestan Vineyards Stephanie Proprietary Red 2005  Front Label
        Hestan Vineyards Stephanie Proprietary Red 2005
        Bordeaux Red Blends from Napa Valley, California
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        • Dancing Hares Mad Hatter Red 2005  Front Label
          Dancing Hares Mad Hatter Red 2005
          Bordeaux Red Blends from Napa Valley, California
          • RP92
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        • Quilceda Creek Galitzine Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 Front Label
          Quilceda Creek Galitzine Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
          Cabernet Sauvignon from Yakima Valley, Columbia Valley, Washington
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        • Chateau Montrose  2005 Front Label
          Chateau Montrose 2005
          Bordeaux Red Blends from St. Estephe, Bordeaux, France
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          • W&S93
          3.8 19 Ratings
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        • Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 2005  Front Label
          Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
          Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, California
          • RP96
          • WS94
          4.7 15 Ratings
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        • Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 Front Label
          Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
          Cabernet Sauvignon from Columbia Valley, Washington
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          • WS94
          4.2 5 Ratings
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        • Shafer Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon 2005  Front Label
          Shafer Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
          Cabernet Sauvignon from Stags Leap District, Napa Valley, California
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          • W&S94
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          • CG93
          • WS92
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        • Colgin IX Estate Red 2005 Front Label
          Colgin IX Estate Red 2005
          Bordeaux Red Blends from Napa Valley, California
          • RP97
          • WS94
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        • Dominus Estate 2005  Front Label
          Dominus Estate 2005
          Bordeaux Red Blends from Napa Valley, California
          • RP95
          • WE92
          • CG92
          • W&S91
          • JS91
          4.2 8 Ratings
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        • Chateau Leoville Barton  2005 Front Label
          Chateau Leoville Barton 2005
          Bordeaux Red Blends from St-Julien, Bordeaux, France
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          • CG93
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        • Sloan Proprietary Red 2005 Front Label
          Sloan Proprietary Red 2005
          Bordeaux Red Blends from Rutherford, Napa Valley, California
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          • JS92
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        • Sine Qua Non The Naked Truth (chipped wax capulse) 2005  Front Label
          Sine Qua Non The Naked Truth (chipped wax capulse) 2005
          Grenache from Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Barbara, Central Coast, California
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        • Aubert Lucia Abreu Vineyard Red 2005  Front Label
          Aubert Lucia Abreu Vineyard Red 2005
          Bordeaux Red Blends from Howell Mountain, Napa Valley, California
          • WE91
          • RP91
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        • Bond Matriarch 2005 Front Label
          Bond Matriarch 2005
          Bordeaux Red Blends from Napa Valley, California
          • WE98
          • RP93
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        • Domaine des Lambrays Clos Des Lambrays Grand Cru 2005 Front Label
          Domaine des Lambrays Clos Des Lambrays Grand Cru 2005
          Pinot Noir from Morey-St-Denis, Cote de Nuits, Cote d'Or, Burgundy, France
          • WE98
          • WS95
          • BH94
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