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Real good red wine

Red wine holds the key to many wine lovers’ hearts. Dry and tannic, or bright and fruity, there’s a red for everyone. We scour the planet for adventurous new varietals and familiar favorites to deliver an array of options perfect for everyday moments and special occasions. Read on to learn more about red wine and shop our current selection. 

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How to Understand Red Wine

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Appearance

Looking at your glass of red wine will tell you a lot about the wine. First, it will tell you about the age of your red wine. When red wine ages, the color actually falls out and becomes part of the sediment at the bottom of a bottle. Therefore, over time, it gets lighter in color with hints of brick hues on the edges. Young red wines are purple-to-deep red with opaque intensity. Second, it will tell you about the body, or weight/mouthfeel, of your wine. Tilt your glass and let the wine run down the side. If it runs quickly, you have light-bodied wine. If it runs slowly, you have a fuller-bodied wine. Light-bodied red wines include Pinot Noir and Grenache. Medium-bodied red wines include Nebbiolo and Tempranillo. Full-bodied red wines include Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Fuller-bodied red wines often have a higher alcohol content than white wines.

The average alcohol content for red wine is between 12% and 15%.

 

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Aroma

If you have attended a Traveling Vineyard wine tasting event, whether online or in home, you might have been told about the importance of taking in the aromas, or nose, of a wine. Red wine has so many complex and lovely aromas. Some ways to describe the nose of a red wine include floral, fruity, herbal, and earthy. Floral aromas present in red wine might be rose petals or violet. A fruity nose on red wine can be described as red fruit (raspberry, cherry), black fruit (plum, blackberry). An herbal nose might be that of tobacco, pepper, or cinnamon and other warm spices. An earthy nose can be described as wet earth or woody, even roasted coffee or mushroom. Aromas can be multi-layered and complex.

There is a concentration to many Cabernets that deliver layer after layer of interesting aromas and flavors. Every time you take a sip, another aroma, flavor, or feel emerges. Top Cabernet Sauvignons develop more complexity with age.

 

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Acidity & Sweetness

The taste of red wine depends on the degree of acidity, sugar, and tannin present in the wine. Acid is present in all wine because grapes contain natural acids: malic, citric, and tartaric. Higher acidity is common in wines grown in cooler regions, and present a tangy flavor. Lower acidity is common in wine grown in warmer regions, and present a ripe fruit flavor. Sugar helps balance acidity, and this happens during the winemaking process. Sweetness level refers to whether a wine is “dry” or “sweet” on the tongue. For a sweeter wine, a winemaker must kill off the yeast during fermentation. For a dry wine, the yeast does its job to eat away at the sugars.

Tannic is a word you may hear to describe the taste of wine, but in actuality, you feel them. If you can feel a thickness in the wine or would describe it as “chewy” you might be referring to the tannins in the wine. Tannins give the wine structure act as a natural preservative in wine. Wine that are more tannic are good for cellaring, and will smooth over time, and the tannins will sometimes bind together and become sediment over time. Here’s how Leslie Sbrocco described tannin levels in her book, “Wine for Women: A Guide to Buying, Pairing, and Sharing Wine” (HarperCollins).

How do you detect the level of tannins in a red wine? We don’t taste tannin but feel it. Light tannins are barely noticeable, medium tannins give a hint of drying feel in the mouth but are balance by sweet fruit, and strong tannins create an obvious mouth-puckering sensation on the inside of your cheeks.

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What’s the best serving temperature for red wine?

For lighter-bodied red wines, such as a Pinot Noir or light Chianti, the bottle should be chilled until slightly cool to the touch, between 55 and 65 degrees. Simply chill the bottle in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes prior to serving. Place bigger, bolder red wines in the refrigerator for just a few minutes to bring them to between 62 and 68 degrees, or slightly lower than room temperature.

 

More on Temperature
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Which foods pair well with red wine?

From steak with blue cheese crumbles to dark chocolate, there are many foods that sing when enjoyed with red wine. Merlot was made for macaroni and cheese. Syrah is a perfect pairing for anything slow-simmered like pot roast and mushroom risotto. And any Italian red wine goes great with pizza! With Traveling Vineyard Sommology tools, like our Pair by Wine and our Pair by Food finders, we’ve created a simple science to help you pair your red wine with flair, every time you open a bottle.

 

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Leslie Sbrocco book wine for women

Wine Expert Leslie Sbrocco

Special thanks to Leslie Sbrocco, our Director of Sommology, for sharing her wine wisdom and detailed wine information from her book, “Wine for Women: A Guide to Buying, Pairing, and Sharing Wine” (HarperCollins, 2003).  Shop Leslie’s award-winning book. You can also watch all episodes of her national PBS series, 100 DAYS, DRINKS, DISHES & DESTINATIONS.

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