My red wine reviews include wines that range in style from a light Pinot Noir to a full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon. Whether you prefer dark fruit aromas in your red wine or more tart cherry notes, there’s a great red wine for you and my wine reviews cover all styles.
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Red wine gets its red colour by leaving the skins in contact with the fermenting juice of red grapes. Conversely, white wine does not and so can be made from either red or white grapes since the skins are removed during fermentation. Red wine cannot be made from white grapes.
Red wine is made using the skins, seeds, stems, juice and flesh of the grape, with the grape skins and flesh imparting the red colour, and the seeds and stems providing red wine tannins. Dark red wines are left in contact with their crushed skins for an extended time, sometimes up to a month, to extract as much colour pigmentation as possible.
Red wines are often blends of several red grapes, the most famous red wine blend being Bordeaux. The red grapes permitted in a Bordeaux wine are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Carménère, the first three grapes being most dominant.
Red wines made on the left bank of the Gironde River of Bordeaux tend to have mostly Cabernet Sauvignon in their blend, while those on the right bank lead with Merlot. A red Bordeaux blend is also known as Claret. But when those red grapes are blended in another wine region of the world, they are known as Meritage.
Red wine blends are very common, especially those of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Many wine laws dictate that there need only be 85% of a grape variety for it to be listed on the label, so often when you buy a Merlot for example, it has 15% Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend. Winemakers do this because Merlot can be sometimes too flabby on its own, while Cabernet can be too tough, but blending them together and you get a delicious red wine.
Red wine is often suggested to be served at room temperature, however that advice comes from medieval times when room temperature referred to chilly castle. Today, room temperature is too warm for red wines. For lighter fruitier red wines like Pinot Noir, serve them between 10º and 15º Celsius (50º to 60º Fahrenheit). For more full-bodied reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, serve them between 15º and 18º (60º to 65º).
Red wine glasses are generally large, with big bowls. You only want to fill a glass to about one-third level, so you can easily swirl the wine in the glass and aerate it to bring out those red wine aromas. More of a bowl shape is good for Pinot Noir, while a deeper glass with a smaller opening is good for Cabernet, as it’s less aromatic and so the aromas are concentrated at the top of the glass, making it easier for you to smell them. Also choose a wine glass with a thin rim and clear glass.
Everyday red wines will not benefit long-term aging, and may lose their freshness and desirability within the first few years. Once opened, the amount of time a red wine will stay fresh in the bottle depends on several factors, such as the amount of sugar in the wine. The higher the sugar content, the longer it will last as sugar is a preservative. So after-dinner wines like Port will last longer than a Sangiovese.
Red wines also last if there’s very little air in the opened bottle, since oxygen ages wine. If you leave the cork or screwcap off the bottle, more oxygen will get to the wine, so keep it on if you are trying to make a wine last. A nitrogen spray also helps protect it.
Another factor in the longevity of red wine is the amount of tannins. A wine with less tannins like a Pinot Noir will go bad faster once opened, while a Shiraz will last longer. Keep the wine in the fridge, as a cooler temperature will slow down the deterioration. Many red wines can last 2-3 days on average, depending on their style and how you’ve sealed the bottle.
Red wine has often been lauded for its health benefits due to a natural phenol known as resveratrol, which is an anti-oxidant found in grape skins. The health benefits of drinking red wine in moderation include lower risk of heart disease, lower cholesterol, and cancer prevention. Studies are still being completed on the long term affects of resveratrol, but the key is that moderation is best.
Resveratrol is found in both red and white wines, but the amount in red wine is much higher due to longer contact with the grape skins. The verdict is still out on which red wine has the highest resveratrol content but Pinot Noir is often touted as such given it grows in cool climates and must defend itself from rot and mildew by producing more anti-oxidants in its skins.
When pairing red wine with your meal, think about weight both the wine and the dish. Think about how the weights of skim milk, 2% milk and cream feel in your mouth. You can equate that to the weight of wine: light, medium and full-bodied. You can also do this with your meal: fish, chicken, or beef, though often food relies on the preparation and sauce to determine its weight.
The higher the fat content o the dish and the richer the sauce, the bigger the red wine can be, which is why full-bodied Cabernet is often paired with beef. It is also for that reason that fattier fishes like salmon can work with the typically light-bodied Pinot Noir, rather than having to stick to a white wine with this fish dish. Researched by Lesley Quinn
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© 2014 by Natalie MacLean. All rights reserved.