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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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  • New Age Red  Front Label
    New Age Red
    Other Red Blends from Mendoza, Argentina
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    • Locations by Dave Phinney IT-7  Front Label
      Locations by Dave Phinney IT-7
      Other Red Blends from Italy
      • JS92
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    • Menage a Trois Sweet Collection Dolce Red Blend  Front Label
      Menage a Trois Sweet Collection Dolce Red Blend
      Other Red Blends from California
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      • Troublemaker Red Blend  Front Label
        Troublemaker Red Blend
        Other Red Blends from Central Coast, California
        • WE90
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      • Bonanza by Chuck Wagner California Cabernet Sauvignon Lot 4  Front Label
        Bonanza by Chuck Wagner California Cabernet Sauvignon Lot 4
        Cabernet Sauvignon from California
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        • Kings of Prohibition Cabernet Sauvignon  Front Label
          Kings of Prohibition Cabernet Sauvignon
          Cabernet Sauvignon from South East Australia, Australia
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          • Roco Gravel Road Pinot Noir  Front Label
            Roco Gravel Road Pinot Noir
            Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley, Oregon
              4.0 27 Ratings
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            • Avaline Red Blend  Front Label
              Avaline Red Blend
              Rhone Red Blends from Vin de France, France
              • TP92
              4.0 185 Ratings
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            • Bear Flag Eureka Red Front Label
              Bear Flag Eureka Red
              Other Red Blends from California
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              • promisQous Red Blend  Front Label
                promisQous Red Blend
                Other Red Blends from California
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                • Kings of Prohibition Red Blend  Front Label
                  Kings of Prohibition Red Blend
                  Other Red Blends from South East Australia, Australia
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                  • Red Schooner by Caymus Voyage 9  Front Label
                    Red Schooner by Caymus Voyage 9
                    Malbec from Argentina
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                    • Cupcake Vineyards Black Forest Decadent Red  Front Label
                      Cupcake Vineyards Black Forest Decadent Red
                      Other Red Blends from California
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                      • Apothic Brew Red Blend  Front Label
                        Apothic Brew Red Blend
                        Other Red Blends from California
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                        • Bodegas Vega Sicilia Unico Reserva Especial Front Label
                          Bodegas Vega Sicilia Unico Reserva Especial
                          Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero, Spain
                          • JS98
                          • V97
                          • W&S96
                          • RP95
                          • WE90
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                        • Elouan Pinot Noir (375ML half-bottle) Front Label
                          Elouan Pinot Noir (375ML half-bottle)
                          Pinot Noir from Oregon
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                          • Two Vines California Cabernet Sauvignon Front Label
                            Two Vines California Cabernet Sauvignon
                            Cabernet Sauvignon from California
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                            • Locations by Dave Phinney F-6 Red Front Label
                              Locations by Dave Phinney F-6 Red
                              Other Red Blends from France
                              • JS92
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                            • Meiomi Pinot Noir (375ML half-bottle)  Front Label
                              Meiomi Pinot Noir (375ML half-bottle)
                              Pinot Noir from California
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                              • Marietta Old Vine Red Lot 72  Front Label
                                Marietta Old Vine Red Lot 72
                                Other Red Blends from Sonoma County, California
                                • JS92
                                2.5 6 Ratings
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                              • Kings of Prohibition Shiraz  Front Label
                                Kings of Prohibition Shiraz
                                Syrah/Shiraz from South East Australia, Australia
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                                • Tutto Mio Vino Rosso Dolce  Front Label
                                  Tutto Mio Vino Rosso Dolce
                                  Other Red Blends from Emilia-Romagna, Italy
                                  • WW88
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                                • Begonia Sangria (1 Liter) Front Label
                                  Begonia Sangria (1 Liter)
                                  Other Red Blends from Spain
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                                  • Sokol Blosser Evolution Red Blend  Front Label
                                    Sokol Blosser Evolution Red Blend
                                    Other Red Blends from Oregon
                                    • WS90
                                    • WE90
                                    3.6 69 Ratings
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                                    17 99
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                                  • Marietta Old Vine Red Lot 71  Front Label
                                    Marietta Old Vine Red Lot 71
                                    Other Red Blends from Sonoma County, California
                                    • RP94
                                    3.9 51 Ratings
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